Sales is so similar to dating that it is hard to believe that the two don’t get compared to each other more often. It starts with the chase, followed by a series of casual dates, leading up to a committed relationship. It’s about getting to know one another and building trust – neither of which happens overnight. You need to know if your customer is really into you before investing your time in them.
Make the first move
Making the first move is always awkward whether you are cold-calling or walking up to someone in a bar. Accept it and do it anyway. The more you practice your opening lines and conversation, the more you will realise what does and doesn’t work with your style of selling. Having a deep understanding of your product makes you an expert on your subject. Those first conversations will naturally become less robotic.
Pick up the phone
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone! No one likes their first interactions to be with someone over email or text. Though this can feel awkward, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be. Conversations with a real person convey authenticity. It is much easier to build a relationship of trust when you know the answers you are getting aren’t carefully well crafted before being sent. You have the benefit of hearing the tone and inflection in someone’s voice and you can therefore tailor your conversation accordingly.
When you are on these calls, don’t multitask. Disconnect from your email for 5 minutes. Pay attention and avoid miscommunication. Make the person your priority. Weirdly enough, they will be able to tell when you do.
Make a good first impression
Just like on a first date, don’t show up for a sales meeting suited up as though you are meeting royalty, but do dress to impress. Your physical appearance conveys more than you may expect. On first meeting someone you take in every aspect of them, even the little things you don’t normally pay attention to. You will be judged on what you wear, so don’t allow your unpolished shoes to create an unconscious bias of disorganisation before you even have a chance to prove how valuable you are.
‘There are plenty of fish in the sea’, so how do you make yourself stand out? You can do it by the way you communicate, your authenticity, or even with the venue you choose – a little bit of ingenuity can go a long way. Something as small as remembering a waiters name can make a fantastic first impression.
Tell a story
Stories are incredibly great at painting a picture, and can emphasize a point effectively. When we tell a story, those listening tend to start imagining the scenario we are explaining. By telling the story of a situation in which your product ‘saved the day’, you allow your client to imagine how it could save them in the future. Make your story is relevant to their priorities so that you “click” on your first date.
Listen more than you talk about yourself
No one wants to listen to one person speak from an hour, especially on a first date. This is your opportunity to get to know the person you are with. It’s hard not to jump in and talk about a product you are excited about. But if you can resist, you will learn why they are interested in the first place. You always want to provide useful information, but remember to do so sparingly.
Ask insightful, open-ended questions to uncover their frustrations and needs. This is important because your future client may not even know what their pain point is. Listen actively, clarify points they make, show genuine interest. The more information you get, the better your advantage over your competitors.
Extend your listening to more than business. Make sure you get to know them on a personal basis too. No relationship is built on numbers and percentage of ROI alone.
Try practicing your listening skills next time you are networking and you meet someone new. Only ask about questions about them, and do your best to avoid speaking about yourself. It is incredibly hard at first. What you will find though, is that after speaking about themselves for a while, people generally feel the need to reciprocate and find out all about you.
Pay attention to the signs
Remember that communication is 7% verbal, 55% nonverbal communication, and 38% tone of voice. The importance of paying attention to someone’s body language cannot be over emphasised. However, body language needs to be considered alongside deeper underlying details to understand what people are thinking.
You don’t want to invest all your time and energy on a proposal just to get down on one knee and be told “Actually we are under contract for another year with our current provider.” Those unreturned phone calls, lack of communication, and half-hearted apologies on missing deadlines can all have meaning too.
Like dating, it’s critical to be upfront about what you both want out of this relationship. If neither of you will get what you need, part on good terms and check back in a couple of months to see if anything has changed.
Speak the truth and keep your promises
If you say you will do something, make sure you do it. If you say you will follow up by 11am on Tuesday, make sure to call 1 minute early. Get reports and contracts together when you say you will. If there is a delay, make sure to communicate what is happening. People are more understanding than you give them credit for – if you let them into what is happening behind the scenes.
Truth is a very powerful tool. Make sure you never lie about what a product can do or over promise on what you cannot deliver on. You are just proving you are a liar and are unreliable. Rather be direct and honest. Trust cannot be built on broken promises.
Know when to move on
Sadly not every relationship is built to last, or even get started. Read the signs early on and know when to walk away. Not every prospect will be the right fit, and that’s ok. By having that conversation early on you are saving everyone time and effort. Remember that even if they aren’t a fit today, doesn’t mean they won’t be a fit later on. How you handle the situation now will create respect, and may lead to a great referral.
The bad, with the ugly, with the good
Because sales is like dating, it means that you are probably going to get rejected often. You might get ‘strung along’ by people who want to work with you one day… just not now. They may also want to see other people. On the other hand you could find love at first sight.
These basic principles are the same in dating and in sales; remember that with every interaction you have with potential clients. Know where you stand. Be truthful in all your dealings. Don’t waste your time on people who aren’t into you.
You, too, can be lucky in sales, and in love.