3 Awesome Sales Tips from the Greatest Chess Player Ever

The average sales rep does only one of these sales tips; the sales expert does all three. Follow these tips to improve your sales results.

A casual chess player looks at the board and makes what they think to be their best move. Skilled players may predict two or three moves in advance – their move, their opponent’s move, then their next move.

Gary Kasparov, Russian chess Grandmaster, once said that he could envision or project out 14 moves in advance. He understood the “if/then” concept with exceptional clarity. He could actually see where he was going to take his opponent. Checkmate.

Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov – Chess Grandmaster

Likewise, casual salespeople ask a prospect a question without giving much thought to the next steps the sales conversation should take. But, in order to forge a path where they want it to go, successful sales reps who know how to anticipate the buyer responses and are ready to make their next move.

Here are three sales tips to take the sales conversation where you want it to go. Value.

1. Develop your questions in advance. Knowing the right question to ask in a given situation becomes much easier when you have a list of them to choose from.

Start with what you need to learn as a result of your next sales appointment–challenges they face, goals to achieve, deadlines, people involved. Write those down. Then write a question for each item. When you find a question that works well for you, make note of it for future use.

2. Ask multiple, follow-up questions. Once you ask the buyer your questions. Don’t stop with their answer. The best answers come from follow-up questions like:

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  • “Why is that?” 
  • “How does that impact your business?” 
  • “When did that happen?” 
  • “What else?” 
  • “How much does that increase your variable costs?” 

Once you get into the habit of asking good follow-up questions, your sales will respond.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, in his article “The Morals of Chess” (1750), wrote:

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; 

for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it.

3. Listen to their answers with discernment. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Clear your mind of interference and just listen. Remember, you’ve got your list of questions in front of you. You can always get back on track if you forget a question.

As the buyer responds, apply your framework of knowledge and experience to understand what the buyer is saying on multiple levels. You came to the meeting with objectives – well, your buyer has objectives, too, and how he or she responds to questions will help you to understand what those are.

For this third of the sales tips, if the buyer responds to your question with their own question about price, this could lead you in one of many possible directions. Perhaps it’s an indication that the buyer is qualified, ready to make a deal. Maybe they are testing you to see what kind of salesperson you are.

Maybe every other rep has provided a price, leading your buyer to think that they can learn what they want to know in three minutes rather than the 30 you have scheduled so that you can learn what you need to know.

This is not always a straightforward process, because it calls upon your experience as a salesperson, and no two people’s experiences are ever identical. Again, it’s based on “if/then”. Fourteen moves is probably more than you need to plan. By developing questions in advance, asking, and planning what to do with the responses, you can become the Gary Kasparov of the sales call.

For your customer, that’s Value. For your competition: Checkmate.

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