Sales and dating… Not that different!

Nov 08, 2011

Check out the similarities. It’s a chase. There’s anticipation of a meeting, a presentation of your value proposition, and a general nervous excitement that comes from both making sales calls and being in the dating world. I’m a long-time marketer and even longer-time single gal, so I know a thing or two about both, and I can’t help but notice a correlation. Getting from, “Would you like to have dinner with me?” to, “Will you marry me?” or from, “May I schedule a meeting to talk to you?” to, “Will you sign a contract to work with me?” requires a certain process and attitude. Where are the fish? And how do I meet them? The first rule of dating and business development is you have to put yourself out there. Sure, sitting at the computer sending emails or chatting online might be easier, but you’re not going to really get to know anyone without face-to-face, personal interaction. There are scores of places to meet people, such as professional, industry and community events. Participate in new activities, such as volunteering, chairing a committee or teaching a class. The more diverse and broad your network, the more likely you are to make connections. Be friendly and approachable. Don’t huddle in a corner or limit your socializing to the people you came with. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see, particularly at networking events, friends and coworkers mingling among themselves, not even trying to get out of their circle. Getting to know you You’ve made an introduction, moved beyond talking about the weather, and discovered you have some mutual interests. Now what? Spend more time getting to know each other. What are their needs, what do you have to offer and do those mesh? Keep in touch periodically to let them know you’re interested, but be careful not to come across as too needy or aggressive. Desperation is not appealing in any realm, so read the signs and follow accordingly. In this stage you may still be one of many vying for someone’s attention. Honesty and showing your true personality will reap benefits. This is serious It may take weeks or months, but as trust develops, you start to gain a better understanding of the other person’s goals and how you’re compatible. In this stage, communication lines are open and you are comfortable seeking ways to be helpful and contribute to the relationship. Their needs are foremost on your mind, and you introduce them to people you know – friends and family or vendors, suppliers, consultants; those who will be an important part of your potential future together. The proposal Ironic, isn’t it? Whether it’s an RFP or an actual marriage proposal, at this point, both parties have a very clear understanding of the expectations for the relationship. You’ve laid the groundwork, put your best foot forward and now the question is on the line. Marriage is forever (and some projects can feel like that), so you better be certain this person or firm is capable of meeting your goals, and, not to mention, pleasant to be around. Will you look forward to those daily conversations or weekly meetings? Can you work together to successfully reach the desired end result? Yes! A new journey begins. You signed the dotted line, and there’s no turning back. Gone are the days of making unilateral decisions with only your priorities in mind. There is a give-and-take needing constant communication about each other’s wants and needs. Compromise will be inevitable because the stakes are high, and no one wants to think about what will happen if this relationship doesn’t work out. Lawyers will be involved, tempers will rage and plans for the future will fall by the wayside. All relationships require effort, so don’t take this lightly. Let your client or spouse know they’re appreciated. Say thank you and do something nice for no reason. Your gestures will pay dividends. It takes finesse and instinct to sell, whether it’s an idea, a solution or ourselves. So keep these simple tips in mind as you prepare for your next business development meeting or get dressed up for a night on the town with your single friends. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll eventually get to “yes.” Debbie Frederiksen, CPSM, is director of Marketing Consulting Services for ZweigWhite. Contact her at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.