• Can ‘game theory’ be applied to sales?
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Can ‘game theory’ be applied to sales?

You may have come across people talking about ‘game theory’ before – it’s a set of ideas that have been around since at least the 1940s. The basic concept is this: that is possible to determine the outcomes of certain situations and interactions simply by looking at the mathematical models that underpin them.

Plan your moves

As sales professionals, we’re in the business of personal interactions – it is the bread and butter of pretty much everything we do. The positions that we take at different stages of the interactions we’re having with potential customers, the ways that we analyse the motives of the person we’re dealing with, and our ability to predict final outcomes – these are all areas where some of the ideas behind game theory might just have a practical application for us in sales. A key principle is this: just as in many more traditional ‘games’ between people, the two players will usually work within a fairly small number of opening moves. In a sales situation, this could perhaps be the way that you welcome your customer as they walk in, and the way that your potential customer then reacts. Understanding the relatively limited number of options your ‘opponent’ has in this situation is hugely useful, because it allows you to then shape your next move, and the subsequent moves ahead.

Imagine your way to a sale

Just as you would in a game of chess, hypothesise about what a customer’s ‘opening moves’ might be, and analyse a number of potential ‘opening moves’ that you could also make to counteract – and ultimately defeat – these manoeuvres on the part of your ‘opponent’. Look carefully at each hypothetical interaction, and work out a path to victory (a successful sale, in this case) that takes in as many wins as possible along the way. So, before you enter into your next sales conversation, carefully consider your opening move - it could determine the outcome of the whole process.