Stacking The Deck!


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I’ve got a terrible confession to make. I cheat. I don’t want to play fair and square. I don’t like to play on a level playing field. I do everything I can to tilt deals to my favor. I do everything I can to stack the deck.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Our inclination as sales people is to do this. We want our customers to prioritize the things that we do well and that our competitors do poorly. Likewise, we want our customer to de-prioritize the things our competitors do well and we do poorly. We do everything we can to shift the criteria and customer’s attitudes in our favor.

Unfortunately, in the new world of buying, it’s becoming more and more difficult to stack the deck. Customers are determining their needs, requirements and priorities without us. By the time they’ve developed a short list, their requirements are already locked in concrete. The vendors on the shortlist—our competitors and us, are there because we all meet their minimum needs. The customers have leveled the playing field for those they have invited to play. Now we’re in an elimination match.

If we want to stack the deck, we have to change our approach. We can’t wait for the customer to have a need, we have to be premptive. We have to get in early–before the customer has a need, before they recognize they have a problem. To stack the deck, we need to get them excited about a new opportunity for their company–a way to grow, a way to improve. We want to create a sense of urgency around what that will do for them, and how we can help them do this.

If we want to stack the deck, we have to invest in them. We have to earn the right to have them listen to our ideas about changing their business. We have to have credibility and their trust.

We have to create value–both in the ideas and interactions, and in the solutions we offer. If we don’t we’re helping our competitors stack the deck for themselves. We have to offer more than a product pitch, we have to do more than answer their questions, handle their objections and ask for the order. Everyone else is doing that, we have to be different.

Some might say, “Dave that’s unrealistic, while we try to do that, the customer wants to create a level playing field.” I’m not sure I agree. I’m not sure that customers want to create a level playing field. I think customers want to stack the decks in their favor—in favor of helping them achieve their goals, and produce results. If we do our job right–we can align ourselves with the customer, stacking the deck to allow each of us achieve our objectives.

What are you doing to stack the deck?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave,

    Nice post.

    I agree with you, it is certainly harder now to “Stack the deck” in your favour as a sales person – for all the reasons you listed.

    The ‘Show up & Throw Up” approach to sales has certainly gone the way of the dinosaurs. One only needs to consider this when it comes to purchasing something from a personal perspective i.e. what sales experiences have delivered such a positive impact that resulted in the vendor closing a deal with you?

    A recent example for me was a dealing I had with a financial advisor who was switched on enough to have harnessed the social intelligence that is now readily available to anyone with an Internet connection.

    During the course of the first 10 minutes of him and me meeting, he had quickly grabbed my attention. This was achieved by his ability to demonstrate some ‘insight’ into who I was and where I had worked, without my having provided any information in advance. From these insights he had gathered, he was able to see that I was someone who had worked across multiple geographies and as a result most likely had a jumbled financial portfolio (which was spot on) – this lead to our discussing some ideas he had for me to consider based on experiences of other similar clients he works with. From there we started collaborating via a client tool he used which resulted in him minimizing the time I needed to meet face-to-face with him, with most of our interactions occurring via mobile devices, thus delivering both of us the agility to interact while on the move.

    The net result here was that he had quickly established credibility as someone interested in me and thus ‘Staked the Deck’ in his favour as a result of the positive impact he delivered and subsequently built on with every interaction that followed.

    As you said in your post, a sale is ultimately about trust and trust is something that has to be earned.

  2. Thanks for the great story Nicholas. It’s amazing how easy it can be to stack the deck. As you point out, the sales person spent a few minutes preparing and had a great impact.

    When it’s so easy to do this, it’s amazing how few sales people take advantage of it. Thanks for the great story!

  3. Thanks for posting David! I like to think of your advice as: “To stack the deck, lose the (ppt) deck!”



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