5 Pieces of Good Advice for Sales People – from a gambler!

Yesterday I heard the song “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers on the radio (yes, we still have one).

In the years that I managed a sales team, I often used to quote from this song as it is such good advice for sales people. We often hang onto prospects because we have invested time and energy in them, and just believe that the product or solution we are offering is “so right” for the customer. Persistence and tenacity are fine qualities for a sales person, but sometimes we just don’t know that we should let go.

The refrain of the song goes (and it is advice to a poker player): “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money, when you’re sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.”

Let’s unpack this and see how it relates to selling.

  1. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em – These are the qualified prospects who are ready to buy. They have the budget and you are talking to the right people at the right time.  They are worth “holding” and putting the highest percentage of your effort into because the odds are high that you will close the deal.
  2. Know when to fold ‘em  – These are the “no, not now” prospects. They are not ready to buy yet, but will be at some time in the future. Put them on a “maintenance plan”, where you contact them regularly by sharing useful information, sending greetings for special occasions, and  calling them on an agreed to schedule to find out whether the situation has changed.
  3. Know when to walk away – These people are not going to buy from you in the foreseeable future – if ever!  Remember, these are usually nice people who don’t like saying “no”. Just don’t waste any of your time on them. You have to accept it and give up, although you can keep them on some a CRM system, that automatically stays in touch.
  4. Know when to run – As with those you walk away from, these people are not going to buy from you, but they are very good at wasting your time. They often want things for free and ask for favours. They are potentially damaging because they turn nasty when you stop agreeing to their one-sided requests. So they’ll waste your time, and drain your emotional energy, but always dangle the “one-day” carrot in front of you. Learn to run from these guys as soon and as fast as you can.
  5. You never count your money, when you’re sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done. – This last bit of advice is for when you are sitting in front of the prospect. You should be asking the right questions and listening to what they are saying to get a clear understanding of their needs. The you get agreement on the way forward. You should not be sitting there  figuring out what deal to offer to realize the highest commission. There will be time to do so when you have left the meeting and considered the solution that best meets your prospects needs.

I think this song and it’s application as advice for a sales person resonates with me because it is easy to remember,  if you know the song. If you don’t know the song, find it on YouTube and listen to it several times (it’s quite catchy so you’ll pick it up quickly). You might also want to learn a little about the game of poker if you have never played.

Think about the prospects you are working on. I’ll bet you will find  people who fit into the above categories. If you only have “Hold ’em” prospects, then you are very good at your job! Every time you start working a new prospect, decide whether you should hold, fold, walk away or run.  You’ll get a better return on your time, and have an odds-on chance of making your numbers.

Happy selling!


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