May 3, 2019

A Sales Lesson from Record-Breaking Jeopardy Champion James Holzhauer 

I’ve been speaking a lot about “owning your sales process” lately and how we (sellers) can do a much better job sticking to our guns.

So many salespeople end up getting relegated to what I call “The Procurement Pit” and perceived by prospects and clients simply as vendors and commodity sellers. This often happens because sellers are all too quick to acquiesce to the buyer/prospect’s stated process instead of pushing back, changing the game, and pursuing the path that provides them a better opportunity to differentiate themselves and a better chance of winning the deal.

Last weekend I read this NY Times interview/profile of James Holzhauer, the current Jeopardy! game show champion. Effectively, Holzhauer has changed the game with with uber-aggressive approach. He has not only smashed opponents but also smashed records for winnings.

I’m not much of a Jeopardy! fan due to my insufficient history and trivia knowledge, but I have become fascinated by this professional gambler’s approach. The thing Holzhauer said in the article that truly struck me was how his comfort zone is very different than that of the typical contestant. Because he is used to playing for high stakes, it’s very natural for him to push the envelope with his clue choices and also by how much he’s willing to wager on Double Jeopardy! Said differently, he has redefined the game and forced others to play by his rules. By doing so, he has put himself in an even stronger competitive position.

I see top salespeople taking the same approach. They are so confident – in their knowledge of the client’s business, in their ability to create and deliver the solution providing the most value and best outcome to the client, and in their willingness to get close to the business people who will be most impacted by (and benefit from) this purchase decision, that these top sellers are much more willing to push back against the prospect/client’s process or procurement people. The most effective salespeople choose not to play the same game that the prospect/client asks all potential suppliers (competitors) to play. Similar to Holzhauer, they play a different game – one that offers them a better chance to win.

In Chapter 13 of my new book, #SalesTruth: Debunk the Myths. Apply Powerful Principles. Win More New Sales., I share stories about how several of my smaller company clients and I have chosen to play a different game – to stop defaulting to the prospect’s stated process… to not just rolling over and acquiescing to procurement people attempting to dictate terms. I tell true stories of how we have increased our win-rates, our fun, our margins, and our quality of life by choosing to push back instead of acting like a powerless pushover.

I’ll write more about this topic in the near future because I’m tired of seeing salespeople falling into the “Procurement Pit” and I know firsthand that, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to James Holzhauer for challenging the status quo and inspiring this post!


In other news…

The 2019 OutBound Conference was an incredible experience. Over 1000 salespeople and leaders attended, and we had a blast. Thanks to everyone for making this conference what it has become. Jeb Blount, Mark Hunter, Anthony Iannarino, and I were blown away by the turnout and the excitement in Atlanta last week. For me, the highlight of the conference was getting to talk with so many people whose sales results and careers had been impacted by my content. It was overwhelming and humbling. Thank you for the very kind words and motivation to keep doing what I am doing!

My new book #SalesTruth is almost here, and it’s already off to a flying start! I’ll be back to you very soon with a standalone invitation to join the Launch Team (that comes with goodies, inside scoop, and special bonuses for helping us crush the launch), but for now I just want thank you for the incredible response. I was in awe seeing the book sitting as the #1 Hot New Release in this category six weeks prior to the release date!