Playing The Mental Chess Game In Sales

Playing The Mental Chess Game In Sales

Making sales is more than just giving an offer to others and waiting for them to take it. To be a successful closer, you need to learn how to read between the lines of what your customer is saying or showing you. That is why a necessary skill to have is learning how to do mental chess. In today’s show, Sam Wakefield helps us maneuver into this mental chess game with our buyers. He taps into the importance of integrity, follow-ups, taking things at face value, and understanding more than just asking. Dive deep into this great episode to know why people are buying or are not buying from you and how to get them off the fence that holds them back.

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Mental Chess

In this episode, we’re talking about something interesting. We’re talking about mental chess. Do you play chess? Have you ever seen chess? It’s a strategy game. We’ve been talking in the last several episodes about in order to be a stone-cold closer, to be a high performer, and to be someone who is an achiever in any industry and sales, you have to be more than an order taker. It’s not enough anymore to go into a house and ensure everybody knows you’re supposed to express concern. You’re supposed to ask questions and listen to the answers. As we talk on here a lot, listening between the lines as well.

We have to be able to listen between the lines and hear the things that they’re not telling us, which is a skill. I hope that you’ve learned from this show a lot better ways to do that, things to look for, and things to notice. One of the things I want to talk about has to do with integrity. It has to do with taking things at face value and it’s this mental chess match that goes on. We have to become almost a psychologist when it comes to sales. It’s more than finding out and figuring out what the house problems are and suggesting solutions because the house does not write your check. They didn’t sign the dotted line. The people that live in the house sign the dotted line.

Two Important Things To Figure Out From Your Buyers

There are two things we’ve got to figure out. We have to listen, ask enough questions, and understand their reasons to buy. That’s the first thing we’ve got to find out, what are their drivers to buy? Why now? Why did you call us what’s going on? What are your concerns? The other side of the same coin is we have to figure out their reasons not to buy. What is preventing them from choosing you and your solution as the correct answer to their problem? A shout-out to everybody all around the world who read our blog. Thank you. I’ve had so much fun in building this show and growing these.

I love hearing back from you with where in the world you are. What is it that you sell? What do you do? What is your industry? When I originally started this, the focus is on residential heating, air conditioning, and heating sales. However, I’ve come to realize the philosophy is the same. Whatever you do, if you’re a plumber, or electrician, selling cars, selling home security systems, this could apply. If you sell California Closets, windows, roofing, siding, gutters, gardening, and landscape, the philosophy is the same. Figure out why people are buying and why people are not buying from you. What is holding them back?

Sometimes the appropriate question is when you’ve got a client that’s been back and forth for a while, I love to ask the obvious question, “What’s holding you back from making this investment?” Don’t say purchase or anything, say investment, and make that the only question. Let them tell you what is holding them back because if you’ve built enough rapport and you’ve done a great job on the front end, normally they’ll tell you. It may be a smokescreen a little bit, but they’ll give you some indication of what is holding it back. It could be that you need to clarify how you handle the situation. It might be, “You need a different way to finance this.” They’ll usually tell you what’s going on, but we’re going to talk about integrity. This has a lot to do on the backend, the follow-up, or how to get people to respond.

If you’ve left the proposal, left the quote, left the estimate, or sent it to them, you’ve been interacting with people. Another quick pop-out is no longer do we expect to always close in the house every time. Our society is moving a little bit away from that. There are times to Close It Now in the house, but some of the questions upfront like, “What does your timeline look like?” Don’t assume that because somebody doesn’t buy from you on the spot that they don’t plan to make the purchase. A good example of this is me and my wife. We started the process to buy a house. We started into applying for financing, for a mortgage. In the middle of the process, we realized that now is not the right time for us.

We told the mortgage people and realtor, “We’re going to hit the brakes because it’s not a good time.” We will revisit this in the future. Do we plan on buying a house? Yes, but it is not the right time for it. Sometimes that happens, but 30% of them go with someone else. That’s an easy answer. Maybe another 30% buy from you right then. Hopefully, it’s more than that, but the industry’s average is 30%. Don’t assume that because somebody didn’t buy from you meant they went and purchased from someone else. There’s a huge percentage of the people that you see that don’t do anything at all.

That’s okay, especially the people that when you show up, and they give you like, “We’re just seeing numbers now, but we’re planning for the future.” There’s a lot of frustration that comes around with that because I get questions all the time. How to increase urgency in the offseason? How do we get people off the fence to buy? The answer is to show up, do your best, give them your dead-level best presentation. Start some of the closing processes, but if they are not doing anything, then it’s okay. What you’ve done is you’ve built a pipeline. I know a lot of other people I’ve talked to who may have been there a lot longer.

At this point in my career, I get every single month somewhere between 2 and 5 projects come in from people that I’ve seen 1 to 4 years prior that finally call back and say, “I’ve got the money. I’m ready to do it. We made the decision when we got all of our bids before we chose who we wanted to go with. It’s you. It’s a matter of picking out what we want to do. We realized that you gave the best presentation. You were the most educated and you educated us the best. You were the most confident in what you were presenting. We’re not even going to shop around. It’s a matter of our timing is right as well.”

Mental Chess Game: To be a stone-cold closer, to be a high performer, and to be someone who is an achiever in any industry and sales, you have to be more than an order taker.

The Follow-Up Process

Understand that and embrace that fact. Don’t get away from the fear-based thinking that if you don’t close it in the house on the spot or within a week or so of the original proposal, that you’re not going to get it, that it’s going to somebody else. If you are an expert at what you do, you have the confidence and the posture of that, they will come back to you. It’s like the old adage with love. If you love something, let it go and it will come back to you. That’s true and that’s what’s going on. Let’s talk about the follow-up process. You may have people who drop off the radar and give you crickets. It’s nothing but they ghost you and you can’t get the response back.

I did an episode early on that was about using a no answer. The no answer is reaching out and asking, “Have you given up on this project?” That’s all you ask. With that, usually, they respond with, “Yes, I went with somebody else,” or “No, I haven’t given up. I’ve had to deal with this,” but it gets some answer back to you. Try that if you’re having people ghost you and they’re not responding to call, text, and email, hit them up and say, “Have you given up on this project?” That’s the first way to go about it, but the overarching philosophy is what I want to talk about. We’re going to step up a level in philosophy and generalize the conversation.

When we go into a house, people expect us to take them exactly at their word and what’s going on, but then they know full well at the same time that most people aren’t going to or they’re going to tell you something, but then they have no intention in following through either. A good example of this is if you went and saw somebody on a Monday and no matter what you did, you didn’t close it on the spot. We all have those. Even the best closers in any industry, you have those appointments. They’re no matter what you do, they’re not closing right then. They’re not going to sign the dotted line the day you’re there. That happens. Over time, you would go through the follow-up process.

For example, on that Monday, you had to establish the time on Thursday at 3:00 PM to get back in contact. Thursday at 3:00 PM rolled around, you called, texted, and emailed, but no response. What’s going on there is they expect us to take them at their word. We walk in a 100% face value at what they tell us. They’ve ghosted us and they don’t plan on being back in touch. However, we reached back out exactly when you say you’re going to and you have to do that to uphold your side of the integrity. That gives you the permission to start responding with concern. If we’re playing mental chess, you’ve got your queen that’s been hidden along. It’s time to slide that sucker out and start to take some serious moves in this mental chess match. When they miss an appointment that you’ve preset with them, that gives you the right to reach out with something like, “We had a great visit and it seemed like things were going well. We set up this time to get back in touch. Are you okay? It didn’t seem like you to miss our appointment. Is everything okay? Are you all right?”

I’ve even gone as far sometimes that we’re talking about that in our meeting with my team, especially if you’ve got somebody special case or whatever, reach back out to them and say, “Do I need to send a well check for you? Are you okay? I hope everything’s fine. Is your health okay?” Start asking those concerned questions and you will get a response. People will respond back because they know, “They caught me.” When you take them at face value in what they say, they’re going to get back with us and when they don’t get back with us, that’s when we can reach out with that concern. People appreciate that. They love it because they know there’s more to us than every other contractor. They come around, leave, go away, and don’t ever follow up. They don’t ever reach back.

To some degree, people want to be pursued a little bit. It’s a dating scenario. When you went on your first date, in no way did they expect you to propose marriage on the first date. That can happen through constant contact and doing a great service. We’re going to close some deals on the site, but many times, people want to be pursued a little bit. With that is following up and we’ll get to break down some follow-up as well, the philosophy of how to properly follow up. Mainly, take people at their word when they say, “Let’s get back together on Thursday at 3:00,” and they miss it, reach out and say, “Are you okay? Is everything all right? It didn’t seem like you to miss our appointment because I know you’re a person of integrity or the person who was telling me the truth. I want to make sure that you’re fine.”

Try that. Use that and see how that doesn’t work for you because it’s going to unlock some of those responses. Sometimes you’re going to get people to answer back to you with, “We ended up choosing somebody else.” Sometimes, it will open the conversation back up into, “We were busy for the week. Sorry, I didn’t get back to you. Here are a couple more questions about your project.” Sometimes, they’ll get back and say, “It’s not our time now.” That’s when you can ask them, “No problem. I get that. As we come across promotions and have specials coming up in the future, would it be okay to reach back out to you?” They’re going to answer yes.

Your follow-up cadence looks like this. You go out day one, day two, you’re texting and you’re emailing. I recommend getting to text people as quickly as possible because that is a relationship-based level of communication that the sooner that you can take somebody to text, the sooner you are building that better rapport with them. People text with friends, that’s what’s going on. You can share information that way as well as via email and call them but seldom. How many times have you seen or heard people talking about memes flying around on the internet of, “What happens when somebody tries to call before they’ve text messaged?” People freak out in our society when you pick up the phone and call them. They feel trapped when you do that.

It’s okay to move to text and email and get on the phone when you need to. On days 2 and 3, you’re texting and emailing them. Maybe reach out again in day 4 to 5, reach out again a week later, maybe reach out again 1.5 to 2 weeks later. If they’re not ghosting you at this point and the conversation is still going on, that is an awesome sign. If you are in constant contact and communication and questions bouncing back and forth over the next two weeks, that means there’s a huge likelihood that they’re waiting on a bonus to come in. Maybe they’re waiting for you to answer all of their questions to pull the trigger and move forward with your project.

That’s where questions come in and say, “What’s holding you back from this project?” Ask them that at that point, if that’s how it’s progressed. If they started ghosting you, ask them, “Are you okay? Is everything all right?” They’ll get back to you. In the future on how to follow up, after about the first two weeks, every single time that you reach out to them, have something more that you can share. Always come up with, “It’s the last week of the month, we’re having a flash sale. I can do an extra discount on this.” Maybe a month or two later, “We’ve got a special promotion. We’re giving away for free,” maybe some products or accessories that you sell. Something that’s low cost to you, but high value to them, especially if it’s something that they’re concerned about to start with. Say, “I heard that we’re doing a free air filter promotion or a free UV light,” whatever it is or maybe a part of their project that you could easily discount. You can say, “We’re running a special in this part of your project.”

Mental Chess Game: How do we get people off the fence to buy? The answer is to show up, do your best, and give them your dead level best presentation.

When you reach out with that, you can say, “I’ve got this special coming up. It’s going to be from now until the end,” whatever time period you set for everyone that moves forward with their project. “It’s an extra discount for something that we can do and if we go ahead and get it, we can get you on the calendar.” That way, every single time you reach out, they are giving you permission when you have specials and promotions to reach back out. When you do truly have some special promotion, each time you reach out, you fall within the permission that you asked to reach back out. You still are within that. Don’t think that you’re bugging people when you reach back out like that.

People want to know about sales and promotions. They want to know about what’s going on if it’s something they’re truly still interested in. Every probably two months or so, I’ll reach back out. I’ll go back usually six months to a year to everybody who is in my pending list and shoot them a quick message that says, “We’ve got some great promotions coming up. Would you like to hear about them?” That gets a response too. Don’t tell them what the promotion is every single time if they’ve been in your pending list for a while. When you reach back out, you can say, “I’ve got a huge sale coming up. I didn’t want you to miss out. Would you like to hear what the new discounts are?” “We’ve got a new product that’s going to better solve the problem we talked about before. Would you like to hear about it?”

You’re asking them, “Would you like to hear about the promotion? Would you like to hear about the new product? Would you like to hear about the new model?” Wait for them to answer because when they answer after you’ve asked a question, they’ve re-engaged into your conversation and their interest in what you can do for them. If they’re silent or they come back with, “No, I’m not interested.” “No problem. I’ll keep following up when we have more promotions and specials.” They’ll always say, “Yes.” You still have that permission to keep going. Don’t think that you’re bugging people or you’re being a pest by following up when you’re offering them something new. It is a fantastic way to do the follow-up.

Every single month, all the way through the first month, follow up every week. After that, extend out a little bit, make it six weeks, and then maybe a couple of months, but have some way to track your leads and your appointments to keep them in the calendar. I can guarantee you, this is the difference between super high-end producers, top producers, and top performers in any industry versus the people who are average or a little above average. When your sales are purely based on 100% incoming volume and you’re not spending a lot of time on the pipeline and the follow-up, you’re missing an enormous portion of your sales. I have a good example. I did a huge push into reaching into my pipeline to make special offers to people who I knew were super interested to start with. Even back several months and was closing deals the whole time, my numbers for the month ended up being usually about $75,000 to $100,000 higher than some of my teammates because I was focused on the pipeline.

Given that I’ve got a huge pipeline, but you’ve always heard, “The fortune is in the follow-up,” and I can guarantee you that that is true. You’ve got to keep following up, but when you do it with integrity in, “Here’s what we’ve got going on, let’s schedule this and reach back out. You gave me permission. I asked you if we could let you know about promotions, sales, and offers,” and then when you do, you stay in the good graces of your client. You keep after it. Is it tedious? Yes. Does the thought of follow-up gross you out? Maybe, but I can promise you. Have you ever signed up for an email newsletter and you get emails all the time and every single one has specials or promotions in it? It’s because it works. It’s enough visibility and exposure. Maybe it’s the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th you’ve reached back out to them and finally, they’ll be like, “We’re ready. Let’s do this project. Let’s go ahead and revisit the numbers.”

I’ve even had clients that when I was there, initially, their life situation was, “We can’t afford much now. What’s the basic thing that you can do for us?” They ended up not doing the project. I’ve had people reach back out to me years later and say, “Our situation’s changed. We liked the top-end offer that you had and we can now afford it. Let’s go for that,” which is awesome. That also says that you did a great job on the upfront end of doing a rock star presentation. Just because they said, “We can’t afford it and we’re planning for the future,” you still present to them as if you were a rock star and it doesn’t change anything in your presentation, you impress their socks off. When it’s time to pull the trigger on the project, you’re the only person they reach back to like, “Let’s update our numbers. We know they’ve probably changed over a couple of years. We’re ready now. Let’s do it.”

Take People At Their Word

I hope this is helpful to you because it’s a philosophy that’s important to understand. Take people at their word and you have to follow through. When they don’t follow through on their end as far as getting back to you or showing up for the appointments that you set for, not answering the calls that you prescheduled, they’ve given you permission to reach out and say, “Are you okay? It’s not like you to miss your appointment.” “Is everything going all right?” You can also go by the house, knock on the door, drop off a card, drop off a door hanger, and say, “I wanted to touch base with you and see how things are going.” It’s okay to do that. There is no such thing as off-limits. For too long, people were scared to do follow-ups like that, but people appreciated it. The general population wants to be pursued especially when you’ve got a big-ticket item.

The things that we do with heating and air, “I sent out a follow-up email.” That would sound like, “I’m touching base. Have you made a decision on your project? What other questions can I answer? I hope everything’s okay. I haven’t heard from you on the day that we set it back up, the day we scheduled.” It wasn’t an hour later, I got a call back said, “We have made a decision. Let’s go ahead and do that $30,000 project that we were talking about while you were at the house. How soon can we get it scheduled?” It works. Try this philosophy. The words don’t have to be the same. Make it sound like you, but don’t be scared to reach out with the integrity of, “I took you at your word.” Ask them concerning questions like, “Are you okay? Are you all right? Have you given up on this project? What other questions can I answer? Have you made a decision?” When you do that, you’re going to find that your close rate is going to skyrocket because you’re following up in a way that nobody else in your area is doing.

This is next-level sales. This is what makes a top performer. This is what makes a closer. This is what earns you the right to drink the coffee for closers. This earns you the right to be able to drink the coffee. I hope this was helpful. If you want to continue this conversation, let me know, shoot me an email at Join the Facebook group. Let’s keep this going because it’s powerful. The other thing is the coaching program. If you don’t know already, I have a high-performance coaching program for those of you who are ready to take yourselves to the next level. If you’ve gotten value from the show and from the content that I’ve put out, then reach out to me.

Let’s talk about if you’re a good fit for the program. There are limited numbers or spots available, but every single person who has enrolled in this program has multiplied their numbers in a short amount of time. I’m talking about people who maybe have never sold anything above single-stage equipment and week one going out and selling the top-end modulating equipment systems. Their average sales before we started coaching together was $5,500. Their average sales after we’ve coached them for a couple of months is more like $8,000, $9,000 or $10,000. They’re making $17,000, $18,000 or $19,000 sales when the biggest sale that’s ever been made was $8,000 before.

Mental Chess Game: The general population wants to be pursued, especially when you’ve got a big-ticket item.

They are doubling their numbers and close rate in a short amount of time. The thing is I don’t want clients who coach forever. If that’s the case, you’re not achieving the things that you want to achieve. Our coaching program comes with a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not getting the value that you think you need, that you think you should be receiving. I don’t want to keep your money. I want to see you succeed so reach out, let’s see if it’s a good fit for you. My guarantee is you’re going to dramatically increase your numbers or your money back. Reach out at You can read more about the coaching program and shoot me an email at and we can set up a call to visit about that to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Otherwise, keep going out there. Change the world because you have the ability to make an impact on people’s lives. You can change someone’s world dramatically that down the road, when they see one, they’ll start referring their friends because you’ve made such an impact on them. When you see them down the road, you see them years later, they’re shaking your hand and giving you a high five in the grocery store or at the coffee shop because they’re still happy with the project you did for them. They love it. They’ve had nothing but good experience because you do the work that changes lives. That is the mental chess match conversation. I hope this was helpful to you. Let me know what your biggest takeaway is. Shoot me a message with the biggest nugget you got from this. Until next time, go out and change the world one heatstroke at a time. Go change the world one frostbite at a time. I will talk to you soon.

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