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Similarities Between Selling & Dating

I have been thinking about this for years and while I have been out of the dating scene for quite some time I have seen many dating scenarios gone eerily wrong (some of them resulting in marriage). My long experience in consultative sales has taught me that dating and sales are very similar.

My mission is to bring the least common of the senses back. Common sense. I am a big believer in science but sometimes scientific approaches keep us from doing what we feel. I have been mostly successful when I listened to my gut and followed my intuition. Once I start over-thinking, whether it's on a personal issue or in a business environment, things usually go off track. In dating and in sales there is human interaction and humans want to be treated with respect, dignity and most importantly, they want to be heard.

Unfortunately, sales people are often viewed as a necessary evil. "The tragedy of the salesman in modern business is not that he is on the way out, but that he is disrespected. C-Suites hardly ever contain a "Chief Sales Officer". Chief Executives rarely come from sales" (Quote from an article on the Art of Selling - The Economist, October 22nd 2011)

This quote really saddened me, but it couldn't be more true. And you know whose fault this is? It's our fault. We sales people need to take back the reign and show the rest of the world that we are as professional as anybody else.

Marriage counseling and dating advice is not my cup of tea, but sales coaching is. So let's look at the similarities between the two:

1) Hanging at the bar, not knowing how the evening is going/ Hanging in the office, not knowing who to call on

It's important to know what you are looking for. In a dating scene and in sales. Be clear about your goal and don't just target anybody. People want to be chosen and if they get the feeling that you sought them out, they will respond positively. Don't just talk to anybody hanging at the bar, choose a person and then approach them with a personal line. Nothing catchy, something that they can relate to. Along the lines of "I see you are using an iPhone. Was this your first choice, or did you look at other phones first?"

In a sales environment, don't just pick up the phone and call. Do your research, develop your ideal client profile and then target that company/person with a customized message that will focus on a benefit to them. Something along the lines of "We have a customized solution that helps HR executives like yourself save time and money by organizing streamlining important documents".

2) Small talk.....

In both scenarios, this should really read "small listening". If you are curious and you ask a lot of questions, you will extract information to get to know your target (date or sales target) and it will help you build trust. Trust is essential to move to the next level. Integrity is all we have as people whether it's a personal or sales environment. It's not about how good the products or services are that we are selling, it is whether we are able to build trust.

3) First date - Getting to know your date/Understanding your prospect

This is the time where you want to ask even more questions, get deeper into the situation. It is an opportunity for you to show that you remembered facts from the "small talk" and that you are still curious and interested. Be prepared and ask follow-up questions that you couldn't ask the first time around. In dating that sound something like "You said that you don't like violent movies, what genre do you prefer?
In sales you can ask the person if they are the ultimate decision maker, hot big their budget is, if they are currently working with a competitor, etc.

4) Did you listen to your date/prospect?

If your date told you that she or he doesn't like violent movies, don't suggest to watch the newest Quentin Tarantino film.

If your prospect shares with you that they have a limited budget, don't show them a solution they can't afford. Put together a presentation that lists a couple of options, including one that is within their budget range. This shows respect, but it can also open their mind. Maybe they will be able to find additional money somewhere to buy the more expensive solution. It is important however that you honor what they shared with you.

5) Is it a good fit? Don't pretend to be somebody you are not

When you are on a date and you pretend to like sports just to impress, you will have a serious issue once the relationship gets more serious. Be yourself and be authentic. It will pay off in the long-term.

When you are pretending to a prospect that you can solve a problem but you really currently can't, it will break the trust and even if you sell, there will be an issue down the road. Instead, manage expectations. Be honest and offer the best you can. Overselling is bad business practice.

6) Why is saying "no" a good thing?

Because "no" is the second best answer. If your date doesn't feel comfortable, invite a "no". This way you can walk away with a good feeling that you kept your integrity and you might be able to stay friends. No bad feelings.

If you are prospecting and it's not a good fit, invite a "no" as well. Why? Because it will save you and your prospect time and it will be highly appreciated. Sometimes it's not a fit right now but the fact that you gave them an out will go a long way and you might be able to sell something at a later time. You can't convince somebody to buy something they don't want or need, at least you shouldn't.

7) Making your case/presenting

There is nothing wrong with pursuing if you think it's worth it. In dating, as long as you come from a place of integrity you can say that you can imagine being interested in soccer at some point, but you don't know yet. Just be careful that you don't make a promise that you never intended to keep.

The same is true in sales. You can showcase and highlight all the benefits your product/solution has to offer as long as you address the needs of your prospect and you don't over-promise.

8) Closing the deal/Closing the sale

Once you feel that this date is going well, you can explain your intentions. If you want to be in a long-term relationship, say it. If you don't, say it as well. Not everybody goes on dates with the intention of getting married.

Asking for money in sales is something that many sales people are uncomfortable with, but it needs to happen. Start your meetings with a clear agenda that states that the goal of the meeting will be to determine if there is a next step. "We will determine if we will end up working together" is one of the bullets that should be on your agenda. This way you manage expectations and everybody knows what they are in for. People in business know that eventually you will ask them for money, so just put it out there.

9) Keeping the momentum going/Turning a client into an ambassador

When it comes to relationships, it's really important to keep the momentum going. Don't stop listening, keep curiosity alive and always pay attention to the little things.
In sales you want happy clients so they will refer business to you. If are being honest, authentic and respectful throughout the process, you will end up with clients who understand that nothing is ideal but that you tried your best and what they got meets their needs and was exactly what you sold to them.

10) Pay attention to all the steps, in a dating and in a sales environment. Be human, be humble and always have a sense of humor!

Never forget those 3!

When developing the benefits to your audiences, always remember to develop messaging that helps them get their attention. If you have read my blog you will remember that people buy because you can help them

- Make money
- Save money or time
- Improve their reputation internally

Be the first to find this article helpful.

About the Author

Monika DAgostino, Consultative Sales Academy
54 Soundview Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06854

If you would like to re-print this article, please contact the author.
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