First dates with customers: a show I’d watch

Sales people get advice for all kinds of things…but, dating? We’re told about closing techniques, phone scripts, presentation skills, asking for referrals, etc. The list of topics is endless. But, of all the advice being offered out there, I think there is one subject that is missing. Sales people can have great scripts and be the most polished professionals around, but if they are not skilled in one certain area, they’ll have a great amount of trouble with their customers. Sales people need a new kind of advice: sales people need to learn how to date.

Now more than ever, sales people need to be skilled at wooing their customers. Technological advancements have created a marketplace in which a customer can find whatever she needs at a low cost and with little effort. There is very little that has not been commoditized. As such, sales people can no longer rely on transactional selling. There isn’t enough profit in a single deal to sustain a business. Sales people need loyalty from their customers. Sales people need customers that will marry them.

Having spent decades in the “bachelor” mentality of transactional selling, many sales people will be unprepared for what it means to be viable suitors for long-term clients. In their hay days, perhaps they were captains of football teams or front-men in rock bands. They were studs, untamed stallions playing the field and scoring with the ladies. But, guess what, guys? The girls have all grown up. It’s time for you to do so as well. Step into my office: you’ve got an appointment with the dating doctor.


It’s true that first impressions aren’t always accurate but, unfortunately, that’s all customers really have time for. You may only get one shot. Dress for success. Be optimistic. Give it everything you’ve got. The main objective of your first date is to get a second date. When she agrees to see you a second time, that means she’s interested. Make your initial contact with your customer memorable.


Customers don’t like it when you are over-zealous. They can smell desperation like bad body odor. When you call her incessantly and leave four messages on her voicemail each day, she begins to think you are a little too needy for her liking. Give your customer a little room to breathe. If you don’t she will feel smothered and, if she does return your calls, it will be to tell you that she just wants to be friends.


Nothing says you don’t believe in yourself like a sweaty palm. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, why should you customer have confidence in you? You, after all, have no reason to be hesitant. You have a quality product and you know that you can truly make a positive difference for your customer. If you’re scared of rejection, don’t be. If she dumps you, it just wasn’t meant to be. As long as you keep your head up and give it your best shot, she will respond favorably if she’s a keeper.


You aren’t shooting for the kind of girl who will invite you up to her apartment on the first date. Don’t treat the relationship like you just want to get into her pants. Begin each date with marriage in mind. You are going for the long-term. You want to be a life-long partner. You don’t want a transaction; you want a relationship. Focus your conversations on subjects that indicate your intentions of being in it for the long haul.


“Did it hurt…when you fell from heaven?” Newsflash: she has heard that one before! Prospective customers are not persuaded by your tacky scripts. If something you say causes you to sound like a telemarketer, don’t say it. It will make you appear phony. And no one wants a relationship built on lies. I’m not saying to be unprepared. You should always have a good idea about what you would like to discuss on a date. But it is not attractive when you have to pull a wadded-up piece of paper out of your pocket and read from it in order to express your feelings.


I know I mentioned that you want to begin with marriage in mind but, for goodness sake, don’t talk about it. If you propose on the first date, you are out of you’re freaking mind! Give the relationship time to mature. Don’t force her into anything she isn’t ready for. It has been said time and again that closing should come as a natural result of an effective sales process. When you do propose, it shouldn’t be such a shocker to your date. Make it natural.


If you are serious about the relationship, you will be willing to invest heavily in it. By taking her some place nice to eat, buying her something fancy for her birthday, or treating her to some classy entertainment, you show her that you are truly interested in her. In the same way, you should be willing to put time, effort, and, yes, even money into your customers before they even buy. Sure, some will take advantage of you but it will be worth it when you find the one that appreciates the work that you do.


There is nothing worse than being on a date where the other person talks incessantly about themselves. If you want to move the relationship forward, you will focus the discussion on her. What’s her background? What’s her family like? What are some difficulties in her life? What does she do for fun? You are interested in being an asset to her. If you add value to her life, then she might want to keep you around. But she won’t care about you until you express interest in her.


When you do get married, you will want to be the same person that you were when you were dating. So, when you first go out with her, be yourself. Be the best you that you can be, but be yourself. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Don’t pretend to offer something that you don’t really offer. Be genuine. Remember, you’re not trying to score a one-night stand. You aren’t trying to keep up a facade just long enough to get the sale. You want a long-term relationship, so be the same you that you will be down the road. Be authentic.


No matter how much you give in a relationship, if she isn’t giving back, you need to let her go. Have a little self-respect. You are not in a relationship to get walked on and taken advantage of. The fact is that there is someone else out there that will appreciate what you have to offer more. Don’t waste your time on her if she isn’t willing to reciprocate the love. Dump her and go out with someone who will love you back.


Be honest with yourself: if you’ve made it this far, you’ve earned the right to ask. How many potential relationships are ruined because you can’t ask for the sale? Granted, if she says, “No,” it’s going to hurt. You’ve invested a lot of time, money, and emotion into her. At the same time, you want to know where you stand. If she says no, you’ve got to wander where the relationship is heading. Why are you even with her? If, when all is said and done, you can’t close, all your efforts have been in vain. Don’t be too scared to propose. Either she will say, “No,” and you will be able to cry your tears and get on with your life sooner or she will say, “Yes,” and you will live happily ever after. Either way, you have a right to know where this is going.


The relationship doesn’t end with the wedding. Sure, you invited all of your friends and family and made a big to-do about it. But, when it’s all said and done, it’s really about the marriage; not the wedding. Remember, you are partners for life. Always treat her like you did when you were dating. You don’t want divorce or infidelity to ever enter her head. But, guess what? She has needs. She wants to be loved. Always provide her with the same level of service that you did when you were dating. You can never stop trying. You are in it for life.

I feel inclined to add the disclaimer that this is indeed an elaborate metaphor. Please, do not literally ask your customer out for drinks in your first meeting or buy her an engagement ring toward the end of her buying cycle. That might just be a little unprofessional. But the point is that the business relationship you are striving for should be something akin to marriage. You want your propsect’s business…and you want it for life.

Are you involved in sales? How do you see your opportunities? Are they one-night stands? Or are they life-long commitments? Charles Green in his recent book, Trust Based Selling, makes the assertion that “the relationship is the customer.” He rejects that idea that a customer is ever really “closed.” Each “sale” is just another event in a long-term relationship. I agree with this sentiment.

Closing is the new opening. Your proposal is the beginning of the relationship; not the end. When your prospect says, “Yes,” you are just getting started. So, I would encourage sales people today to, yes, refine their scripts, develop the inflection in their voices, and work on the delivery in their presentations. But, most of all, I would encourage sales people to seek out long-term relationships with their customers. Date your customers. Marry them. And cherish them for life. “Till Death Do Us Part” is the only scalable business model in today’s competitive marketplace.

This post was originally published August 26, 2011 on Be sure to check out the site, which has all kinds of great articles on marketing, leadership, and living a fuller life–written by some extraordinarily smart people.

Leave a Reply