Are you a sales representative or business owner who has dealt with a client with whom you thought was loyal to your company only to discover one day that they have suddenly been using your competitor(s) without your knowledge?
I recently had this experience where a client of mine had been using my company’s products exclusively for some time and I only recently discovered that they had started to buy some of the same products from my direct competitor. My first gut reaction was to think, “Why did they go behind my back and do such a thing without even consulting me?” If they had a problem with my company’s product or service, why didn’t they call me and give me a chance to resolve that issue?”
That’s when it dawned on me… this was a familiar feeling. It was as though I was being “cheated on” as one may be in a romantic relationship. Although the circumstances and the relationships (client vs romantic interest) are entirely different, that feeling was the same. Further analyzing this odd parallel in more depth, I have come to the conclusion that there are some very unique similarities in the sales process and the dating process that do not exist in our other relationships (i.e. friendship).
Sure you might be tempted to think that yours truly is just some crazy, over analytical chick who is projecting her dating experiences on her working relationships (and you may be right), but before you judge, read the processes below and draw your own conclusion.
Stages of Relationship Development in Sales and Dating:
Prospecting: “The Cold Call/ Pick-up Line”
In both sales and dating, we must seek out potential customers or potential mates.
Sales: We seek out customers who we think would buy our product or service either from an established database, book of business or referral. From there we may conduct a cold call to introduce ourselves and our company to ascertain if there may be potential for a business relationship.
Dating: We search for mates either from a database in the case of online dating or in person through our network of friends or daily interactions. If we see someone that appeals to us whether it is based on initial appearance, intelligence or other factors, we may initiate contact by means of flirting (essentially cold calling) to introduce ourselves and decide if there may be a match.
In both cases, if we see potential, we proceed to step #2.
Qualifying: “Probing Questions on The First Meeting/Date”
Upon establishing initial contact in a business setting or on a first date, we must decide if the other party has the potential to be a partner in business or dating respectively. We achieve this by asking a multitude of questions and getting to know more about the other party to determine if there is a fit.
Sales: We meet with our potential client and ask them a series of “probing questions” to determine if they could or would buy our product/service. If they appear to be a good potential customer, we might give them a product sample or demo.
Dating: We go on a first date with a person of interest and ask each other “probing” questions in order to get to learn more about each other. If the dialogue is suitable, we may try a first kiss, which is essentially sampling.
Upon qualifying the party of interest, we either come to the conclusion that we either have the potential to work together or not. If so, then we proceed to step #3. If not, then back to step #1.
Closing: “Closing The Sale/ Sealing The Deal”
This is quite self explanatory. If you don’t get this one, well I might suggest that you avoid getting involved in either process.
Sales: If you don’t want this to be a one-time only sale, proceed to step #4
Dating: If you’re looking for a relationship and not a one night stand, also proceed to step #4.
Maintenance: “The Follow-up/Relationship Development Phase”
In order to achieve growth, relationships need work and maintenance.
Sales: After closing the sale, it is essential to do proper follow-up in order to ensure that your client is satisfied with your product or service so that they continue to do business with you. By following up and keeping in touch regularly, you may find that your client needed additional support or training. It also keeps your foot in the door so that you can continue to supply those products or services to your client as well as others from your portfolio.
Dating: Once you have “sealed the deal” and have decided that you may want to do that again and again and… ok well maybe all the time, it is essential to “follow-up” with your person of interest. Make arrangements to get together again to repeat steps #2 and #3, and watch the relationship flourish.
The “Exclusivity” Talk
When the relationship is going exceptionally well, both parties are happy, satisfied and don’t have a need to look further to have those needs fulfilled, it’s time to have the “Exclusivity Talk”.
Sales: If you have an excellent relationship with your client and they are using almost all of your products and services except for a few which they are still using from your competitor, it may be time to ask for exclusivity. After all, if they like everything your company has to offer so far, why should they bother to use your competitor if they can get a similar product from you? If they agree, then great, happy sales! If not, then you are perpetually trapped in Stage #4 and will be required to work hard to maintain your existing sales to ensure that you don’t lose your piece of the pie.
Dating: Presuming both of you have an excellent relationship and are both on the same page about moving forward into a relationship, then go for it and make it exclusive. If not, then you’re in more a “Friends with Benefits” zone of Stage #4 and will have to accept the continuous competition with other mates.
The Future: Make it or Break it?
Is the relationship sustainable over time? Only time will tell and there are 3 most probable outcomes as follows:
A: The “Live Happily Ever After”
Ideally, we would like to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship that will last our lifetime or that of our career that requires minimal effort to maintain.
B: The “Break-Up”
Even though everything may be going perfectly well, a situation may arise which will result in the termination of the relationship. In business, we may be forced to fire a client or our client may fire us because of poor service. I’m not going to bother elaborating on why people break off romantic relationships. That topic in itself is worthy of several books.
C: The “Friend Zone”
In business or in romantic relationships, we may find that although we have a good relationship, it may just not be as great as we thought it might be and worth 100% of our time and efforts. I refer to this as “The Friend Zone” because regardless of the relationship, if it’s not headed towards the “Happily Ever After”, then we have to accept it for what it is and make the best of it and enjoy the piece of the pie that we do have.
So, do you still think I’m crazy?
I’d love to hear your feedback on this topic.
In the meantime, happy sales and best of luck in love!