Strategically Succeeding through Luck in Buying and Selling


Strategically Succeeding through Luck in Buying and Selling

The Oxford dictionary defines luck as “success or failure brought by chance rather than through one’s actions”. Business people rarely discuss the role of luck in buying and selling. If mentioned at all, the prevailing perception is that buyers or sellers who depend on luck for success are at best lazy and lack a strategic mindset. However, the hunger for success through luck is prevalent in traditional and religious beliefs in Africa. For example, people say that itchy palms are a sign of good luck and could also mean a large amount of money is coming your way1.

An essential and yet understudied reality is that the quest for luck is driving success among buyers and sellers in some industries in Nigeria. One good example is the Nigerian sports betting industry.

The sports betting industry is fast becoming a multimillion dollar industry in Africa. According to reports, the gambling industries in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are projected to be worth $37 billion as of 2018. Price Water House Coopers reported in 2017 that sports betting constituted 21.3 per cent of South Africa’s total gambling turnover of $18.77 billion. Similarly, 76% of 10.1 million young people in Kenya spend at least $50 a month on sport betting activities, totalling about $461 million annually. However, in Nigeria, 60 million residents in the age group of 18 – 40 are active sports bettors. They spend an average of $5 million on sports bets daily. The implication is that sports bettors stake approximately $182.1 billion annually in Nigeria. Besides, statistics have also shown that Nigeria’s sports betting industry is experiencing an annual growth rate of 7.7 per cent, while that of South Africa is growing at 6.3 per cent. These indicators reveal that Nigeria`s sports betting industry is not only the largest but also the fastest growing betting industry in sub-Saharan Africa, yet, the World Poverty Clock still points to the fact that 90.3 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty for spending less than $1.25 per day. Why then do Nigerian bettors stake a significant portion of their meagre income on sports betting?

Some analysts emphasise that Nigerians are increasingly involved in sports betting due to an increase in unemployment, sports fandom, increased smartphone usage and a lack of consumer confidence in the economy.  However, one fascinating insight from a recent study of sports betting companies in Nigeria reveals that the return on investment for bettors over six months is about 110%. Interestingly, data also shows that 70% of bettors win at least one lottery or the other within the first six months. Therefore, when the economy does not provide a clear pathway to success for buyers, the hunger for success through luck expresses itself more strongly.

An important conclusion from this insight is that success in buying does not depend on effort alone but is instead a combination of effort and luck.  Thus, understanding the strategic role of luck in influencing the beliefs and actions of buyers is critical for success in capturing the buyers. Luck also affects the behaviour of salespeople. According to Joel le Bon (Harvard Business Review, April 2015), “if you downplay the power of luck, you stand to fall behind competitors who have learned how to manage it”. In a significant study of successful salespeople and students, the author found that the higher a salesperson’s belief in good luck, the greater the sales activities, the higher the opportunities for luck and the greater the person’s provoked luck.

How can marketers strategically exploit the power of luck among buyers and salespeople more effectively? First, marketers need to be trained to identify the extent of hunger for luck among buyers. Consumer analytics could identify the cultural, religious, economic and emotional triggers of luck. Marketers would have to search not only for knowledge about buyers but also about competitors and the overall market.

Another strategy is to select the right events and seasons of the year to organise promotional events that celebrate the luck associated with using products and services.  For instance, the use of games and contests to increase the brand association of buyers is an exciting way to explore the power of luck. During these events, buyers could compete for prizes that boost their reputation for luck and their association with the company’s brand.

Marketers could also run advertisements and campaigns that showcase success stories of lucky consumers who won awards and prizes thanks to persistent patronage of products or services. Since buyers tend to identify with role models, blessed and prosperous buyers could help to boost the emotional connection with brands.  Consequently, religious, business and thought leaders who believe in luck might be playing influential roles in the buying process of several brands.

Salespeople could also use luck more effectively to improve their performance.  Luck can drive sales performance when salespeople are persistent in their quest for excellence in selling. The pursuit for excellence implies getting out of one’s comfort zone and making concerted efforts to understand the stakeholders involved in every buying decision. Salespeople can encounter instances of luck from improving their networking skills, obtaining relevant information on the latest trends in their industry and identifying untapped opportunities from unexpected sources. Salespeople also require a high tolerance for failure to increase their chances to succeed through luck. Tolerating failure implies reframing instances of failure into opportunities for learning that are meaningful for the future.  In summary, success through luck requires hard work and resilience. Managers and marketers can benefit from understanding the strategic synergy between effort and luck.

As a salesperson, do you believe in the concept of luck? Has it produced any significant results in your sales activities so far?


Salespeople could also use luck more effectively to improve their performance.

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