Play the man, not the odds

play the man

If you ever played poker, you’ve probably heard the term “play the man, not the odds”. Well, that saying also works in business. Let me explain…

Would you rather use logic or emotions to win a deal? Logic, right? To some extent you are right, but logic won’t get you the best deal. If you want to come on top in a deal, you need to use both logic and emotions.

Over the last 10 years, I went from being able to close four-figure deals to being able to close seven-figure deals. It took me a long time because no one taught me to play the man (using emotions) instead of playing the odds (using logic).

Download this 8 steps cheat sheet to learn how to use both emotion and logic to win the deal.

Here is a step by step approach that will help you to play the man and not the odds:

Step #1: Make them nervous

When someone gets nervous, it throws them off guard and makes them unsure of what to do. Do you know what the best way to do this is? It’s to show that you are the alpha male of the group (AMOG). While some people may claim to hate AMOGs, people are still drawn to them as they want to be associated with them.

So, how can you establish yourself as the AMOG with a potential customer or partner?

  • Be direct – people are used to others cutting to the chase. It shows that you don’t care.
  • Be assertive – don’t be passive with your tone of voice. People want to do business with people who have confidence.
  • Cut people off – this may sound rude, but if people ramble, cut them off. It shows that you are controlling the conversation.

It doesn’t take much more than that to be the AMOG. Just practice with friends and family first. Of course, let them know what you are doing because it takes some finesse for it to start working well.

Step #2: Show your value

Now that people know you are the AMOG, you have to show your value. Make clear what you can bring to the table because people don’t make deals just based on emotions. They also use logic. So, this is where you use both.

Prove your points as quickly and efficiently as possible, while answering any questions the other party may have. It’s also important that during this step, you explain what you are going to do for the other party.

Step #3: Get an amount

Not every business deal is a cash transaction, but there is usually a financial transaction involved. Whether it is figuring out terms of a partnership or getting equity in a company, there is something that tends to be traded.

Once you both have a clear understanding what each party is looking for (e.g, cash or equity for work), you need to ask what your counterpart feels a reasonable deal is.

In most cases, they will tell you they are unsure. When they do this, make sure you don’t throw out an amount as that is the worst thing you can do in a negotiation.

Instead, give them an extreme example, such as:

Well, we know it wouldn’t be a dollar as that amount wouldn’t be worth it to me, and we know it wouldn’t be a million dollars as that amount just isn’t worth it to you. There must be an amount in between that will work for both of us. If you don’t know of the amount, give me a rough range where you think the amount should fall within.

By saying that, you will typically get a range from a potential customer. This will give you a ballpark of where you have to be.

Step #4: Swing for the fences

Whether you want money, equity or whatever else, you have to explain why you want it and why the amount you are asking for is reasonable.

The easiest way to do this is to explain to them that you are going to make them more money. Once you explain it, show them. You can do so by showing them case studies and examples or through walking them through the steps you are going to take with their business to achieve those results.

If you can’t make a pitch based on how much money you are going to make them, talk about how much you are going to save them. Only talk about savings if you can’t make a solid case for making them more money.

Step #5: Ask them what they think

It’s not all about you! You need to get a good understanding of what the other party thinks. You can do so by simply asking:

What do you think?

If you did the previous steps above, your prospects will typically want to work with you. If you didn’t, they will either say no or let you know that they will have to think about it.

Step #6: Cut it short

After you get their feedback and hear their tentative agreement to working with you, don’t keep on rambling by continuing the conversation. Try to wrap things up by transitioning the conversation to a closure.

When wrapping it up, make sure you let them know that you will follow up with them in 3 or 4 days to let them know if you want to work together or not.

Keeping things short shows that you are busy and in high demand. Plus, by saying that you are going to “think about working together”, you’ve just turned the tables psychologically. Now, they will want to work with you.

Step #7: Follow up

In 3 to 4 days, follow up by email and request either a phone call or an in-person meeting. You don’t want to tell people that you want to work together over email as it’s hard to read a person over email. Emotions don’t come across the same way in an email as they do over the phone or in person.

Step #8: Close the deal

Wrap things up and let them know when you will start. Dictate the terms and get the documents signed. They may have questions at this point, but the deal should be good to go.

If they are hesitant to proceed, you need to go back and repeat the process as you probably messed up in step #1, which is the most difficult. If you don’t show that you are the AMOG, you will have a tough time closing the deal for the price you want.


By playing the man and not the odds, you are taking emotions into account when closing. Remember, people don’t just purely make decisions based on logic. Emotions also go into decision-making.

A good example of this is the movie Pursuit of Happiness, in which the main character Chris goes for a job interview at a finance company. Even though he isn’t dressed appropriately for the interview,  he gets the job through the use of emotions.

If you can learn to play the people in the room with the steps above, and not just use logic, you can drastically increase your odds of closing a deal.

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  1. Great advice, I don’t know which one I like better this one or the do business like a drug dealer one.

  2. Superb piece of advice sir.. each of ur post is such an inspiration to read as well to apply in my professional field

  3. Michael Holmes :

    The minute I saw the title I knew it was Suits! Man I love that show! I’ve been in sales for about 10 years now and I know the biggest deals I’ve won (and lost) were how I played the emotion card. I learned a long time ago: “People buy on emotion, and justify it by logic.” So I’m grateful for these tidbits as I have a deal on the table tomorrow.

    Thanks Neil!

  4. Hi Neil!

    Thanks for the great tips and certainly it gives lots to learn and certainly will work on this list in future. I love reading this.

  5. David - Boundless Opportunities :

    Hey Neil,

    This should be the first lesson of business…I know this as the best deals I have gotten are also from playing the man and not the odds…of course when I loose out, is when I am played.
    Anyway I am now getting my groove back on and now people seem to want to associate with me and my business more…

    Great stuff Neil and thanks as always for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the advice Neil. I agree that emotions are a very important in a negotiation. In my own experience, I know that sometimes the “logic” can change and that’s ok for me, but I wouldn’t accept a deal which I don’t “feel” is good enough or with people who does not give off a good vibe to me. Do you have any good book or other reference to recommend about negotiation and/or persuasion? Thanks again!

  7. Jeet Banerjee :

    Good article, I agree completely with everything that was said on here. Also, a great choice to use Harvey from Suits as the picture!

  8. Richard Marriott :

    Nice post Neil. I think point #2 is the most critical and from my own experience one of the key problems I’ve found so many people have is: Not knowing how to show your value to someone who doesn’t know you like your mother (or best friend).

    Sure, it’s easy to convince your friend, your mother, or your gym coach why you’re the perfect man for the job because whatever you say and how you say it, it won’t make a difference. They’re not looking to catch you out! They already trust you and believe in your awesome abilities!

    But when you’ve got to show your value to someone you are not close with, or even someone you’ve never met before, unlike your mother, they won’t stand there nodding their head, smiling from ear to ear and murmuring encouragingly, but will rather be waiting to catch you out and push you into a corner the moment one of your points isn’t backed up with hard proof.

    This is indeed why, as Neil has so rightly said, you must be clear about what you can bring to the table not just with emotions but with hard evidence. If there’s money involved, expect to be grilled on every statement you make about your abilities, because the only thing that’ll get grilled by your mother is the sausages.

    • You are correct Richard,

      It will not be enough without numbers and figures to show how you are going to help make them or save them money.

  9. Spot on advice, nice post.

    A+ for including one of the best movie scenes ever.

  10. Tapha at MyAppTemplates :

    Awesome and +1 for the poker reference. More entrepreneurs need to learn how to play poker to improve their business skills imo!

  11. Frederik Trovatten :

    Great writeup Neil!

    I think it’s a very interesting topic that I myself could learn and practice a lot better than I do today!

    It reminded me of a great dialog from the epic TV-show, Suits:

    “What are your choices when someone holds a gun to your head?
    You do what they say or they shoot you, right?

    Wrong! You take the gun. You pull out a bigger gun or you call their bluff or you do one of another 146 other things.”

    We are always left with choices and opportunities, not matter if we are pushed in a corner.

    • You make a good point Frederik,

      You always have a choice even if your options are limited or not very appealing. Sometimes you just have to get creative.

  12. Direct approach from the heart, I like it.

  13. :

    Great advice and love your choice of Harvey Spector as your image.

  14. Online Mastering :

    great advice neil! but I’d love to see some more seo related posts, but thats just me ;)))

  15. Really useful post Neil! I am soon making a business deal and i know how bad i am on negotiating. So, your post come on the right time for me! Thanks!

  16. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    I have enjoyed reading this article, as I’m just beginning to get some big local clients (SEO, PPC with Adwords and Facebook consultation) and every bit of advice helps.

    I’m living in a country of 2 million citizens, and I’m planning to offer exclusive deals to just one big company in a niche(category), because of the small size of the local market!

    I have established myself here locally but landing big clients (one of 3 top companies in each niche) is my future goal. I love reading your articles where you reveal your exact tactics in turning the table in your favor and getting big clients to actually look for you!

  17. What a terrific post! As always, absolutely LOVE your content, Neal! THANK YOU!

    1) Absolutely loved your “amog” strategy!

    The movie image that comes to my mind right away when I think of amogs is from “Analyze This,” especially when Vitti and Sobel meet for the first time. That’s what I’d call an “amog undiluted”!

    Another amog undiluted is someone I knew – the father of a friend. That man (the father) was actually a GM of a very large company, in another country, and man, he had “presence”! When he was visiting the US, I remember my friend, that father, and I would go places, such as shopping, a bank, some tourist attractions. The man was really nothing particular to look at, and dressed plainly. Yet literally within seconds after we walk into a, say, department store, or bank, or wherever, he would be surrounded by a dozen of employees and customers helping him. And everywhere we went to. He just had this commanding “presence.” It was hilarious to me at the time. But in retrospective, I wish I payed closer attention and tried to learn 🙂

    My point is: As Neil points out, it is important to “sharpen your claws” and practice this – all the time, so that it comes naturally! And it doesn’t have to be with just friends and family! It could and perhaps should be every day situations and businesses we visit and deal with.

    2) This reminds me of another great tip from Neil in another post he wrote: It takes about the same amount of time/effort to build a big business as it does to build a small business. So you may as well work on building a big business. (Something like that.)

    The easiest example I have of this is real estate transactions and negotiations. A realtor who specializes in high-end real estate told me his story. Early in his career he was dealing with the low-end real estate. And then one day it was like a lightning hitting him: that all that work – making appointments, finding clients, driving clients around, showing properties, etc etc etc – is actually very much the same whether you deal with $200K houses or $4M houses. But think of the difference in commissions!

    3) Another dimension to keep in mind is which side of the negotiation you are on – the payer or the payor, the buyer of services etc or provider of services etc. Each calls for some unique strategies.

    4) Special negotiation considerations apply to situations – common – when clients are ignorant. They can be ignorant about the work, expertise, know-how, time, etc it takes to do something. Or they may be ignorant about how much things (services) costs. Or both. This is common. In many cases, educating such clients is either an exercise in futility or actually counter-productive.

    Example: Someone I know used to provide web services (set up and maintain a website etc) for small businesses. Clients – those small businesses – had no clue about what it takes and how much different things cost (in terms of time/expertise it takes and also what others pay).

    Such situations could have major advantages, as you could command higher fees. Or it could present major problems because clients want to get it cheap because they have no clue about what it takes and how much things cost.

    5) Some of the very-very-very best books I’ve read about these things are by Alan Weiss. Ala Weiss is a high-end consultant. His main theme is “value-based” fees for services. I.e., forget about the hourly rates and all that. There is no way to make real money with that. “Value-based” pricing is the way to make real money in client-based consulting services. As a personal experience, I’ve dramatically increased what I make from client-based projects the very moment I switched to his approach.

    • Blake Waddill :

      Anytime I think of AMOG, I think of Boiler Room and any scene with Ben Affleck.

    • Thanks Olga,

      1) Definitely a nice example of “amog.” Thanks for including a link.

      2) I am sure it was something like that. If you are going to do the same amount of work, why not get the most out of it that you can.

      3) The more you are prepared and aware of the position you are in the better equipped you will be at negotiation.

      4) Not much is more valuable than your time. I agree you shouldn’t be wasting it explaining or educating as you said your client for longer than necessary.

      5) Thanks for the recommendation, I will have to check it out.

  18. Amir @ Blue Mile Media :

    This is great. I think one of my weakest points personally is closing deals. Lots of good information here. Also, #1 and #2 works very well with women too 😀

    What I like to do is ask about what the biggest problems they have with internet marketing and then use their own answers to help close the deal. Emotional responses like that work great, especially if the problem comes out of their own mouth.


    • The more you practice the better you will be, hopefully some of these tactics help out.

      That should work too, thanks for sharing what you do.

  19. Luis Rivera Colon :

    You capture my attention with the picture of Harvey from Suits. That guy its awsome, i see all the season, and one of the quotes i never forget is “Play the man”.

  20. Neil, let me cut you off and say…..kickass article as usual, cheers!

  21. Awesome inspiring articles.
    I believe that if you want a business, you must “be” the business and create networks based on emotions.

    BTW, Pursuit of Happiness is one of my favorite movies!

  22. Liked the post Neil actually it needs to be done after we have list of prospects to call. How to build that list and what are the sources , it will be a good topic for post , what do you think ?

  23. Bird Collision :

    Thank you for the great sales tips. We can all use these regardless of the field or industry we are in.

  24. Neil yet again great post, you are dead on in your technique for closing a deal. When you can mix in logic with emotion, you can get a greater outcome overall. In my experience I found that getting to know the client you are working with can help you to better understand how you can help them. Knowing that you need logic just as much as emotion will help you to close that deal!

  25. This related very well to scarcity, domination and giving direction to the deal.

  26. This post kinda affirms everything that I have been reluctant to do but knew it was the right thing. I left a meeting the other day feeling beat up. I was double teamed by two aggressive brothers. I wish I had read this post first. Amazingly, the little amount of confidence I had landed me the job…but it was definitely not my best meeting.

    • It takes time and practice, as long as you learn from each meeting and improve you shouldn’t be to hard on yourself.

  27. Hi Neil. I am an entrepreneur with a startup company and I am interested in how women, especially women with children, fit into the business world– how our perspective and approaches differ from men. I’m curious: imagine you are a woman in this article, not an AMOG. Would you rewrite any of this sage advice?

    • As a man, I’m not able to properly convey how women in the business world cope. However I image they do the same as men do, probably even better. All these tips should work for women too. Instead of AMOG it would simply be AWOG. 😉

  28. Software Testing :

    What a terrific post Neil.. I am about to finalize a deal and this post will definitelt help me in my aspirations.


  29. Now that’s a great post and also very inspirational. I almost feel the money :). And the movie sequence is like the cherry on the cake.

  30. Its great post dude. I like the points 4 & 5. Every post of yours is interesting and gives more inspiration in the business field. Very useful points you are sharing with us, Neil.

  31. Interesting article. Its funny, Neil you always manage to write an article where something is new. This entire subject was quite new and nice to read for me!

    By the way, Harvey is the best! 🙂

  32. Michael Flanigan :

    You had me at the picture. I love that show Suits. It’s also great advice. But just like on the show are there good rules of thumb to go by when you are doing this like knowing when to fold, stop pushing or walk away? If there is something bigger that you’re risking then how should you use this strategy?

    • That is something you have to learn as you go. This strategy would be applied the same way regardless of the risk your taking.

  33. Best thing you said (for me) was to keep things short and make them feel like you are in high demand. I find myself spending too much time explaining each detail instead of the 30sec elevator speech version. Gotta work on that amog for sure…

  34. Great post! I agree that bring assertive can get you far in this game that we call life. I just wanted to add that body language plays a huge role as well. Joining your fingertip as you speak tends to make people believe that you are an expert 🙂

  35. Being in command of a situation/sale is always a powerful position to be in as people respond well to someone who gives direction and shows authority and product knowledge. Add emotion, respect and interest for your customer and you can the become very powerful. Nice post thanks!

  36. Good bit of advise, i like the $1 – $1,000,000 price range! I dont think it will fit with my line of work, Car Detailing, I like your Drug Dealer post, I think this is more appropriate to my business

  37. Hi Neil

    This steps really made think, sometimes one is so desperate by doing things with out thinking.

    I will be working on these steps and practice them.

    The snippet of the movie really put the cherry on this post. I really enjoy you style of content and how you always amaze me.

    Thank you for sharing this one…

  38. Online Mastering :

    i lost $400 on one blackjack hand last week….ughhhh

  39. Brilliant post Neil

    I’m really struggling with #3 . I don’t know if people like to make themselves dumb to get things cheap but … so far I’m nothing near where I want to be.

    Thanks again

    • Thanks Lenny, it is tricky to get the price range right for everyone. It is something you have to practice negotiating before you get what you want out of it.

  40. Mobile Monoply 2 :

    Great Advice Neil Sir…Your blog is such an inspiration to new comers like me

  41. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    Neil, can you please tell me who is this guy on the photo at the beginning of this article….looks so familiar to me, but can’t remember where I have seen him, movie or something…

  42. Yea for me be confident is the key of any interview or meeting, If you will make poker faces so no one can trust on your skills so be confident give your best in shot.

  43. Normally tend to agree with everything I find here but this time I never bothered reading past point #1.
    Anybody who comes to my office, acts aggressively, tries to act like top dog, cuts me off whilst I am talking and generally behaves obnoxiously will be out of the door before they have had a chance to finish posturing.

  44. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    I’ve been reviewing this article again today and I must say that making them nervous and making yourself precious in their eyes will be the most effective approach to take, according to me!

  45. I too enjoy the making them nervous and making yourself precious in their eyes approach. Great work.

  46. Great tips as always. By the way , love watching Suits.

  47. I really, really feel great when I make people nervous, close the deal and ts help their live with my great product.

    Sometimes I think maybe its the only way certain people will buy something.

    great tips man.

  48. Awesome post.

    Suits is awesome and so is The Pursuit Of Happyness 🙂

  49. how to make sushi :

    well thought of post !

    i can see any dates on you posts , every how often do you post a new article? i wanted to know every how often i should check in to this blog.

  50. yeah neil you are right, that logics and emotions go side by side. great tips. and great post as well.

    Thank you so much.


  51. meeh… it’s an ok post [step 1: check].

  52. Nice tips sir. Thank you.

  53. Very nice tips!!!

  54. Hello!,,,,,,,

    Awesome inspiring articles.I believe that if you want a business, you must “be” the business and create networks based on emotions.


  55. thiet bi loc nuoc :

    yeah neil you are right,.Nice tips sir. Thank you.

  56. Welcome to Twitter :

    The UNFPA evaluation properly states that teenagers have “hope, ambitions and commitmen.

  57. Should you not have cash to spend, anyone won’t ever have the capacity to benefit from the savings.

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