Sales and Romance

‘When are we going to stop dancing and start f**king?’ – These were the immortal words delivered by a former boss of mine during a contract negotiation. When is this conversation we are having going to get real, so we can talk about the stuff that we are actually here for? But let’s face it, life wouldn’t be what it is without anticipation, without the mutually respectful attitude towards one another of being ready.

Working in sales over the past 10 years, I can see the parallels between courtship and selling are many and varied. Allow me to make a few observations…

The Power of First Impressions

How many of us have been powerfully overwhelmed by the sight of a potential mate at first glance? It is one of life’s great joys to drink in a new person or experience, be swept up by the first interaction and continue to observe closely and listen carefully. Let’s explore this parallel for selling. How do we create a captivating first impression? Mostly it’s visual – how we dress, how we carry ourselves, but most importantly, our attitude. It is also our energy and enthusiasm, and how we articulate what is going on in our minds. Are we clear and purposeful?

Active Listening

It is not a favourite phrase, but it is a powerful one, especially in the days of the device. We would recall our crusty old teachers at school saying something to the effect of, ‘I want your full and undivided attention!’ On a first date, there is no doubt you spend more time asking questions and listening to the other person than you do babbling on about yourself. You know that by doing so, active listening will build a far greater bond between you. In the selling context, you must do the same. Let’s be honest – how well do you rate yourself on asking questions, listening to responses and asking open questions? A well-constructed, empathetically executed line of questioning sets up a sale. Most importantly, active listening will allow you to create a complete image of the customer, their needs and how you can best serve them at this point in the buying journey.

Mind the Gap

A lot of people find silence uncomfortable. So they fill it will banter and idle chat. Don’t ! On a date, all the exciting stuff happens in the gaps: the gaze, the smile, the clink of the glasses; this is where you get really comfortable with one another. However, when we are selling, we seem to forget this entirely. How many of us have unwittingly stumbled on with a sales meeting when we could feel the prospect of a successful meeting slipping further and further from our grasp? We hopelessly thrash about making noise when what we should be doing is using the gaps in dialogue to build rapport. When we listen, we get the sense of what the customer wants, rather than just pushing our wares as the solution. This is especially relevant in the context of negotiation. When we table the number, be sure not to speak! Let the client do the talking.

Create Some Fomo (Fear of Missing Out)

We have all felt a ‘Fear of Missing Out’ when it comes to dating, there is nothing quite as motivating than seeing a potential mate or golden opportunity slip through our fingers. So it goes without saying that the most important aspect of making a significant B2B sale is being able to create a sense of urgency in the buyer’s mind and gut. Why should your offer jump to the front of the queue? You may have had two or three meetings already and gotten to know each other, but still can’t seem to make the sale. Sometimes it’s as simple as the timing, which you can’t control, is not right. But what you can do, with a little FOMO, is progress your potential client further along the journey. I believe the best way to execute this is by using SPIN, in particular ‘implication questions’ and ‘need-payoff questions.’ A carefully crafted line of questioning which opens up the problems associated with delaying and positions a speedy sale as the ideal salve to those problems.

A Final Word

You will note that I haven’t raised a features and benefits component to this article. This was deliberate. Let me pose the question: how many of us receive daily an offer of either marketing services or business coaching through LinkedIn? Straight to the offer – it’s the dating equivalent of turning up naked to the restaurant. When selling, you can’t expect any potential buyer to take you up on that kind of proposition! Any savvy already knows 90% of what you are selling and it is up to you to take the time to determine all the other factors that need to be managed: timing, budget, need, context, competing priorities… it’s a long list, but one that must be carefully and respectfully worked through, even if this isn’t our natural inclination.

Remember, your buyer is a complicated suitor, they are a real human with a range of other things going on in their lives. We must tread carefully and always be respectful in working towards the ultimate goal of being of value to them.

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