How Sales Is Like Dating

By Brandon Reynolds

Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge that the sales process is kind of like dating, only in dating you don’t have dedicated marketers crafting awareness content about how “Alex is very thoughtful” or pushing email campaigns on how “Erin is a great listener” and “Kim knows all the best places to go ziplining.”

And like in sales, it’s also tough to calculate ROI before that first date.

Still, everyone knows there’s a lot of crossover between the mechanics of sales and the rituals of dating. Advances in technology improve how people are paired, how they meet, who’s compatible with whom. Technology has revolutionized the entire sales cycle, too, from lead scoring to customer insight to future opportunities. There’s no magic formula for success in either, but they’re both using data and AI to become smarter and more efficient.

First, we examine how disconnected, inefficient sales is like the current “State of Dating” (for which we don’t have an e-book).

Here’s what we know doens’t work:

Limited Customer Intelligence

A siloed sales process is similar to the unknowns of dating: you don’t have complete information on your customer or your potential paramour. In dating, we have a hard time knowing what it is we’re getting into. Is this person going to hate my collection of porcelain chinchillas? Dating apps attempt to address this with profiles, but still: so many unknowns! In sales, reps bound by spreadsheet and notepads have a hard time making customer information available, which leads to redundant contacts and slower sales.

Low Customer Satisfaction

In dating, how many times do people fail because they’re trying to sell themselves rather than understand what it is the other person wants? People, like companies, can be too inward focused. Just as your significant other expects birthdays and last names not to be forgotten, customers expect a business to “know” them. That is, to understand their habits and preferences, to anticipate their needs, to incentivize them in ways that are sensible.

Lost and Delayed Deals

Communication issues early in dating will tank that relationship. Somebody’s feelings are hurt because somebody didn’t send a text, or wasn’t forthcoming about that criminal charge. In sales, prospects get lost in the shuffle. Maybe a rep has moved on to something else or an email got buried after a long weekend. Whatever the case, an interested prospect will be put off by a company’s lack of interest or lack of respect for a potential customer’s timeline. The customer will move on to someone else.

Inability to Forecast

I shouldn’t need to tell you how doggone problematic future-blindness is to dating. If only you had a solid body of data that your paramour absolutely hates chinchillas, it could’ve spared everybody a lot of tears down the road. Companies without good customer data and the ability to analyze it will also have no idea how that relationship might proceed: when the customer might be inclined to buy, what the customer might be willing to invest, how likely the customer is to buy in the future.

And now for what we know does work:

The power of analytics and AI has revolutionized modern romance by transforming dating preferences into quantities that can be used to match people. Just the same, data-driven sales can provide a complete view of the customer journey, allowing reps to find the right customers and deliver the right service at the right time. Here are a few ways that data that can both better dates and better sales.

Marketing Automation

In dating, people throw out all sorts of facts and tidbits about themselves, their opinions, their tastes, and then adapt based on the response from the other person. In conversation, you throw out that you like pancake breakfasts and horror movies. The other party responds that they too love such things, or hate them, and the relationship adapts accordingly. In sales, automated email campaigns offer potential customers ways to engage through promotions and free content (“I like pancakes and movies”), collect data on how a prospect engages (“So you hate pancakes, eh?”) and revise the campaign accordingly (“No breakfast dates for us, I guess”). Does she click through to an article? Does he revisit the abandoned cart? The system learns from these interactions and customizes the experience to engage just the right way, at the right time.

Lead & Opportunity Management

This is basically the goal of those swipe-left, swipe-right dating apps now, which match by personality types and basic interests. Now, two people who love 1970s Japanese pop music and want to do something this Thursday before 8 p.m. can tee up a date to a record store with very little effort. Sales reps can analyze and score data on sales behavior to grab equally precise insights — do they have the budget to buy and time to implement? — which can determine which prospects are the best leads to pursue.

Cross-sell and Up-sell

Learning about that new paramour helps reveal when’s a good time to suggest a double-date, when to move in together, or when to buy a chinchilla together. In sales, we look once again to data for these kinds of discoveries, finding opportunities for cross-selling into other products or upgrading existing ones. Seeing the whole customer picture allows for those insights.

While there isn’t yet an RRM (Relationship Relationship Management) system out there — dating apps don’t exactly guide you through the entire customer journey — there is a comprehensive way to manage sales: a CRM. Check out more in our free e-book for a better sales-life (if not a better love-life).


Originally published at www.salesforce.com.

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