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The Importance Of Playing Poker

Building Trust While Being Coy

I think it’s a reality that's taken me and taken my team many years to come to realize that what management does on the business end and sales end is not the equivalent of a sleazy used car salesman. I think in mobile app development and technology, there's always a natural inclination for the techies to think sales is easy, business is easy, and the real talent is in writing lines of code. I think that this has been an argument debated by many, and I think this has been the cause for many breakups in partnerships and even open discussions from historical references like Apple. Was Steve Jobs talented or was he just a really good salesman? Just because Wozniak was the hacker and Steve Jobs was the product guy, or the business guy, why should that matter?

The truth is that mastering the craft of business development, sales, and negotiating good deals is talent. There is an art to negotiating, and most importantly to playing poker. Now, I'm not talking about lying. I'm not talking about overselling. I'm not talking about not being transparent. I'm simply talking about playing poker.

In this particular day and age, in the perception of most who are looking to hire developers or designers, they are regarded as a commodity. Now, is this good? Is this bad? It doesn't really matter because that's what the perception is. The key is to not let them know you know what they're thinking, but also understand that the other side always has ulterior motives or their own intentions. That's not being paranoid. It's not being neurotic. It's being realistic. Nine times out of ten, most people who do business with you will try to exploit you. Why? Because you are a service. You are a commodity. It's pure capitalism. It would be silly not to try to exploit you and your talents. You are no different than an actor playing a role. The producer is going to want him on set 30 minutes before his call time to get every last second of footage because he can. He has that control.

When you are working with clients, it is extremely important you are conscious of this. Pay attention to how they conduct themselves. Do they like to talk a lot? Are they too transparent with you? Literally getting into details about their marriage life, their kids, et cetera? Because that is a technique. That is a technique of them playing poker in order to get your guard down. Do not be fooled by that technique. Do they seem extremely passionate, sympathetic, wanting to help you, wanting to help your business, wanting to help your family, just caring? I'm not saying that all clients are bad people, but it is very good to understand people's motives. If you weren't the talent, would they still treat you that way? Would they be so willing and motivated to want to help you in your endeavors?

Be really careful to not allow them to hit those nerves or points that can potentially have you exposing too much. For example, they may want to learn about your business because they really care about your profits and wanting to help you, when in reality they just want to understand your cost structure so they can garner a really good deal for themselves. They may want to know about your availability. They may want to know about your personal life and all these other things.

Again, I'm not suggesting lying. If you're bad at lying, don't do it. But there's a difference between lying and being coy. Being coy is just being clever and not showing your hand or revealing too much. At the end of the day, you're doing business. You're not looking to make new friends. If you are, then this is the wrong blog post for you and potentially the wrong setting for you.  You should probably be going to meet-ups or using apps like Tinder for that.

How do you play good poker?

Hold back your emotions. This is something I personally struggled with for years. I'm a very emotional and passionate person, and if I click with somebody or an idea or project, it's very hard for me to control myself. You need to control your emotions. Go to theater class, go to improv, do whatever you have to do to learn to develop the skill of controlling your emotions. Don't ever drink and write e-mails or reply to e-mails or really even get drunk with a potential client. If their insistent on ordering drinks, have a beer.

Don't talk too much. Listen.

Pay attention to what they say. Are they talking just to hear themselves talk? Are they talking with purpose? Are they talking with the intention of hoping to try to get something out of you? Listening to what the other person says will dictate how you should reply. For example, let's say a potential client starts to talk about his desire and love and passion for fast cars and women. That he loves to take out women. The question might come to, "So, do you like fast cars? Do you like women? Do you like going out?" Now these may seem like harmless questions, but in fact, he's qualifying you. He's wanting to know if you're responsible, if you can be trusted, if you can be accountable and responsible with somebody else's money and not go off the deep end. How would you respond to that while playing poker and being coy? Simple. "Yeah, I love cars. I've never really had the experience to race fast cars, but it's always been a dream. It's definitely on the bucket list." "Yeah, I like to go out, but I'm more of a homebody these days. I prefer to watch movies with my dog." Maybe you don't even have a dog. "I like different types of music. It really depends on the setting and where I'm at."             

What you've just done is pretty much blocked any potential qualifying question or questions that could have gotten you in trouble if you didn't know how to respond accordingly. Now it doesn't matter whether you have a dog or not or whether you really like to rave on the weekends with your friends. The client doesn't need to know that and shouldn't know that. “Act as if” - a famous line from an infamous movie known as The Boiler Room. But lots of lessons to be learned there from Mr. Ben Affleck. Acting as if, or playing to a persona, is very important.

Can they trust you?

End of the day, it's the trust factor that a client will be investing in. Can they trust you over the other guy? What makes you a better candidate than anyone else? So playing the role and playing the persona that is to be expected of the client's interests or wants or needs is what will make you successful.  You’re not adversary but negotiator, and you get the deal that you want because you don't play games. You're here to do business. You're not here to waste time. You're not there to waste his time. You're not there to waste your own time. You're there to do good business.

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