As I’ve mentioned before, in my day job I work in sales and have done since the end of 2016. Over the years I have undertaken a number of sales training courses and become quietly proficient at it all even if I do say so myself.
My move to sales and undertaking all of these courses coincided almost exactly with becoming single at the start of 2017, and the more training I did the more I realised that essentially I was getting a two-for-one deal. The lessons of how to manage and progress the sales process are incredibly similar to many of the lessons shared about how to approach online dating.
Here are ten tips that salespeople use every day which might just help you as you embark on, or continue, your journey to find love.
1) It’s a numbers game
Statistically, the more opportunities you create, the more likely that at least one will come off. If you call more people and send more messages, by law of averages at least one will respond which you can then expand upon.
However you identify suitable prospects, whether it is in person at events, through your existing network or by reaching out with little to initially connect you using digital tools, do it often and cast your net wide. Each approach has its benefits, with different approaches suiting different situations. Digital outreach of course has the benefit of being possible anywhere and anytime, so will allow you you to contact a lot of people with at least some amount of information about them already available and all at little or no cost other than time and thought.
Just remember that there’s no point creating an opportunity with someone you don’t actually want to engage with. That wastes your time and theirs, and time is too precious to be wasted.
2) Make every interaction feel personal
Nobody likes feeling as if they are just one of a thousand options: everyone likes to feel special. From the first message you send onwards, make them feel like it has been tailored to the individual and that you are aiming to meet their own particular needs and not sending out a generic mailshot.
That’s not to say that you need to start from scratch every single time, just that even if you are cutting and pasting content you should tailor it slightly, and that you should take advantage of any and all additional information you have about the prospective partner to make them feel individual from the start of things.
3) Strike while the iron is hot
Once you’ve identified an opportunity get stuck in quickly. Waiting around has the potential for things to cool down rapidly, so follow up on initial interest as soon as you can and without game playing.
Starting initial conversations and asking insightful early questions will allow you to either qualify things as a viable opportunity and one that is worth pursuing, or alternatively you’ll be able to work out that it’s not going to go anywhere so you can close it down quickly and make sure it doesn’t just sit in your opportunity pipeline uselessly taking up space. Having a lot of opportunities open that are basically going nowhere is no more than a vanity metric that helps no-one.
4) Communication is key
From the first contact to the last, regular communication is key if you are ever going to build up any level of relationship with the other party. It needn’t be every day and it should never feel like you are harassing or badgering the other person, but there should be regular opportunities for you to touch in with them and see how things are.
Even if there isn’t much to report by way of progress, a short message often goes a long way. Maybe you saw something you thought they may find interesting, maybe they came up in conversation, maybe you had an idea on how to navigate the next steps – whatever it is, keep in touch. And if you truly have nothing to say to each other, perhaps the deal is already dead in the water.
5) Find out what their decision making criteria is
It is easy to focus on yourself and all the positives you offer in early discussions, as you both establish whether there is a good mutual fit. After all, you know your strengths better than anyone, and may well be able to exploit the weaknesses of your rivals where you know you are able to outperform them.
However, as impressive as your own talk-track may be, if the other party is actually looking to fulfill a slightly different set of criteria then you are setting yourself up to fail. You need to understand not only what you bring to the party but also what things they are going to be making their decisions on. Otherwise you’ll end up having all the answers and simply hoping that they ask the questions that match them, and hope is never a good strategy.
6) Build on a solid reputation
In this modern, digitally connected world it is naive to think that other people will take you on your word without doing their research as well. With the information superhighway literally at their fingertips it is likely that your profile, background and information will already have been checked multiple times. If the person you are speaking with claims they haven’t, be sure that others in their influence circle will definitely have done so on their behalf and advised accordingly.
Make sure that everything you claim is verifiable and backed up with facts, and that all publicly available information about you and what you are offering is positive. Your digital presence may be the difference between success and failure.
It also helps massively if you are able to introduce others to verify your abilities and provide a solid character reference – the ideal situation is that this is someone your prospect also knows and trusts, but if that’s not possible then a reputable reference is the next best thing. (It may be worth a prep call with them first, though, to ensure they cover areas which match those you would like the focus to be on.)
7) Don’t skip stages
Sales goes through a number of distinct phases. These can be described in different ways, but involve making initial contact through learning more about them, discovering where there is a fit, understanding dealbreakers, proposing a way forward and then getting their agreement to proceed before finally closing the deal and kicking the project off before eventually it becomes business as usual (with regular review points built in).
Don’t go straight from initial contact to trying to close the deal if you are looking for a long-term relationship rather than a one time win. Even if you manage to do so, it’s rare that you will get repeat business as it’s likely they’ll feel railroaded. Make sure each phase is adequately covered before moving on. Nobody will sign on the dotted line after your first message.
8) Keep an eye on timelines
As it is when starting a conversation, keeping things progressing at the right pace is important to bear in mind. If an opportunity has been drifting for a while there’s a good chance it will keep doing so and won’t end up going anywhere. There needs to be a sense that things are going to move forward if it is worth progressing with.
Keep in mind how long things are taking to move from one stage to the next. Are the other side constantly looking for deadline extensions on decisions? Are they putting off discussions? Are they blaming outside forces or other people for delays? If so then there’s a good chance things are never going to move forward. Break off discussions (politely)and focus elsewhere on brighter prospects.
9) Proportional effort
It is no use investing all of your time and effort into closing an opportunity which is likely to be small in scale initially and probably won’t lead to a longer term commitment or escalation in relationship. Whilst the short term pay off and rush of success is intoxicating, all you are doing is taking your time, energy and focus away from opportunities which will ultimately prove to be more fulfilling and rewarding.
If you are able to close those opportunities without much effort then by all means do so knowing they are short term wins, but reserve your real effort to put into those larger opportunities which will pay dividends for years to come. You only have a certain amount of time and energy – use it wisely.
10) One approach doesn’t fit all
It’s easy to think that you have a perfect process, and that if all you do is follow it each time then you will be successful. You may well have a process and approach which gives you a better chance of success than most, but remember that other people will also be interested in any opportunity with your prospect and will not play by the same rules you will.
If you find that, for whatever reason, your tactics aren’t working then don’t just keep doing more of them. Mix it up and be creative; it’ll help you stand out from the crowd and make you someone other people want to be associated with. Having a range of approaches prepared will ensure you will be able to use the right approach with the right person at the right time.