Relationships vs. Transactions: What Game Are You In?

Are you playing an infinite game or a finite game? Shifting your mindset between the two.

If there are at least two players, a game exists. There are two kinds of games: finite games and infinite games. Simon Sinek’s latest book, The Infinite Game, brilliantly describes these two games as well as the choices and consequences for leaders and sales associates. Reading The Infinite Game is highly recommended.

Finite Games

Finite games are played by known players. They have fixed rules. There is an agreed-upon objective that, when reached, ends the game. Football is an example of a finite game, and so is a real estate transaction.

Infinite Games

Infinite games, in contrast, are played by known and unknown players. There are no exact or agreed-upon rules. How each player chooses to play is entirely up to them. Business is an example of an infinite game. Because there’s no finish line, there’s no such thing as winning an infinite game. The primary objective of an infinite game is to keep playing—perpetuating the game.

It’s the infinite game that lives on, and it’s the players whose time runs out. Company founders and owners engage in succession planning to perpetuate the game. They want their companies to last, to play the infinite game. Simon Sinek’s book provides a roadmap.

For sales associates, most in our industry (94% according to the Consumer Trends Report), are focused on the finite game of the real estate transaction. There are known players—buyer, seller, real estate professionals, lender, inspector, title officer, etc. There’s a start of the game when the property goes under contract. The game ends when the transaction closes. Sales associates then move on to the next transaction (the next finite game). Their career becomes a series of finite games.

Shifting Business to a New Gear

What these sales associates often fail to realize is that these finite games (transactions) occur within the context of an infinite game called relationships. When they shift their mindset and begin to focus on the infinite game of perpetuating their relationships, their business shifts to a new gear.

Relationships last longer than the transaction. New players join the game, such as family members, friends, and referrals. The most successful sales associates understand this and are playing the infinite (relationship) game. According to the Consumer Trends Report, only about 6% of sales associates are playing the infinite game by staying in touch with their clients every month after the close of the transaction.

Simon Sinek notes that players in an infinite game are driven by a Just Cause—a mission greater than the transaction or even the relationship. Our company, The Group, Inc. Real Estate, has identified our just cause and mission as follows:

“We exist to help our people and our clients go from the life they have to the life they dream about.”

For our associates, this means helping them with their health, finances, and personal development as well as real estate sales. For our clients, it means helping them identify and achieve their dreams—not just sell them a house. We’ve found that, by playing the infinite game, we excel at the finite games as well. One of the keys to winning finite games is to play the infinite game.

Here’s an example of two sales associates who are competing for a listing. Notice the difference in their goals, depending on the game. With whom would you want to list?

• Sales associate playing the finite game and driven by winning: My goal is to get the listing.

• Sales associate playing the infinite game and driven by a just cause: My goal is to help these people get to the next chapter of their life on time.

Why does your company or office exist? Is it merely to make money? To be No. 1 in market share? To have a record quarter? These are essential goals in the finite game. But what would happen if you also played the bigger game, the infinite game? What is your just cause that aligns your associates and attracts your customers? Play the infinite game, and the finite games tend to take care of themselves.