Tag: How to enter a relationship

4 steps into a relationship

4 steps into a relationship

Follow four steps to obtain commitment. (photo courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net)

“I tried to sell myself to you, but I couldn’t close the deal.” -Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail (1988)

Articles in women’s magazines, conversations between best friends and discussions in internet forums are filled with questions about how to find an ideal companion. Dating services are flourishing over the internet. Tips&tricks are served in blogs, books and courses. Dating industry is flourishing to help people to find love and warmth next to them.

To understand better your way into a relationship we can simply have a look at the different stages of the sales process. Come again? Why would slimy sales have anything to do with romantic and exciting occasion as dating and meeting new people?

Acknowledging stages of sales process, derived from a nearly 30 years old book of Neil Rackham, is crucial. In business it’s easy to diminish trust and deteriorate the relationship by rushed actions. I have seen many unsuccessful sales calls where the pivotal mistake has been a rushed jump over a step or even two.It’s easy to fall into that same trap when pursuing to get a girl for a coffee.

The skills involved with sales are essential in every aspect of organizational and customer relationships. The skills are about persuasion, interaction and understanding the counter part through listening. The most important coming as last. Even if you weren’t working in sales you need sales skills to move others.

It does not matter whether you are selling internally or externally the key to success is effective questioning. Unfortunately theories and concepts behind these skills are rarely taught in business schools, where learning often revolves around fashionable buzzwords.

So how do you successfully establish a relationship? What are the steps into a date or an order?

1st step: Preliminary questions

To be able to understand the sales better we need to know how a traditional sales process is constructed and how does it advance. First, to bond with the customer typical sales call starts with preliminary questions. You can imagine those as classic “Do you come here often?” questions. The purpose of the preliminary questions is to bond with the buyer, preferably touching some personal interest or topic.

Dealing with professionals does not require that much preliminaries. I mean professional buyers and purchase managers. They are often busy handling dozens of supplier accounts and aiming to hold stock levels low and its turnover high. With professional buyer business relationship is more often commercial than social.

2nd step: Investigating stage

After preliminaries sales call proceeds to investigating stage where the seller’s purpose is to drill into customer’s needs and expectations. By a correct order and pattern of questions – investigation – a subtle salesman develops needs of the customer further. By questions sales person identifies customer’s pain points, challenges and hindrances.

Today, it’s essential that sales person is capable of identifying the root causes of the customer problems. If the customer is very well aware of the problem and economical and practical solution to it, he would have already bought it from someone! By clever questions sales person lets the customer to express explicitly his or hers challenges. By doing this customer will be later more prone to accept the solutions provided.

3rd step: Demonstrating capability

Then the sales process can advance to demonstrating capability. It means showing how your product or service solves customer’s problems or meets his or hers needs. The greatest challenge is to convince customer to accept the solution and move forward by obtaining commitment.

In the best case scenario that means an order or either advance to a next step of the negotiations. In the worst case scenario you get rejected and that’s what the best salespeople are hardened to last.

4th step: Obtaining commitment

Typically sales call ends at obtaining commitment in a way or another. In simple and small sized sales situations purchase decision can be considered as a successful outcome for the seller. In complicated and large sized sales situations advancements are also a way towards a payoff.

Best performing sales people don’t visit a customer to gather background information or to make an introduction. They set goals and move the sales forward by committing the prospective buyer into action after covering the main concerns of the buyer.

What else is needed?

After goal-orientation second, perhaps even more important, attribute of best performing sales people is the amount and quality of questions they make. This is about being attuned and showing interest into customer’s business.

Based on one of the most extensive research on sales Neil Rackham (SPIN selling, 1988) states that especially in complicated and large sized sales it is crucial to equip the buyer with correct reasoning that will be communicated to the other influencers in the buyer’s organization. Questions will help the customer to express why the seller’s product or service is right for the customer’s organization.

This can be very well understood by looking at relationships and entering one. Often, you get introduced by a friend to a prospective spouse candidate. Would you think that he or she does not know anything about you? Chances are that the person has already heard about you and your background. You can only wish that your reputation has preceded you positively.

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New ABC for sales and dating

New sales ABC

Customer behavior has changed since the internet and has lead to transformation of sales work. So has landscape of dating changed too. (Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net)


“You can lose a lot of money when chasing women but you never lose women when chasing money.” -I think I love my wife, movie (2007)

Do you consider yourself working in sales? Not that long time ago I used to. Even if I worked as a manager of sales people I was closely involved with the day-to-day activities.

Outside workplace I used to answer question of “What do you do?” by saying “I sell {replace what your company produces}”. Often the face of the questioner was fairly confused as most of them knew my educational background. They probably thought I should have achieved more than being a regular sales guy.

Looking at their faces was part of the fun. Knowing that sales work and salespeople are not that well perceived. When you graduate from the business school, marketing, investing and consulting are often the most desired fields  of employment. Still, large amount of graduates end up to sales despite of the title that is printed on your business card. That’s most likely because sales is everywhere.

Sales is actually everywhere

Daniel H. Pink elaborates into the importance of sales skills in his book called To sell is human. In the United States alone one out of nine people in the workforce are directly involved in sales. The same goes for Europe and basically for all the countries where agriculture is not a dominant way of making a living.

Beside actual sales more and more people in various occupations influence and persuade other people to do things. Self-employed entrepreneurs, teachers, consultants, craftsmen and many others are required to do sales work for a large proportion of their daily activities.

Internet has enabled buyers to have much more information about the purchase they are making (see David Meerman Scott for a great presentation). Recently I have often heard b2b salespeople admitting that customers usually know about novelties and new products before they do.

In the era of nearly unlimited information Pink goes and questions the legendary Always be closing mantra. He reformulates ABC as attunement, buoyancy and clarity. As I’m not a native speaker I had to go for Merriam Webster to check the meaning of these words. Nevertheless they do make sense. How?

Always be attuned

In the terms of relationships and sales attunement is the first step. Simply said it’s about looking at the situation from the perspective of the other party. To perform well in the attunement part there are several tips and tricks available.

Position of power often determines how and to what extent will you take into account emotions and motives of the other party. Therefore it’s recommended to consciously think that you are in a weaker position than the counterpart.

Other trick is to chameleon, as Pink calls it, the other person you are pursuing to bond with. That’s what you do on a first date. You seek for resemblances and imitate to create common interests and topics. And that’s what you can do also in a sales situation or connecting with new colleagues.

Pink declares also that sales skills can be learned. Actually, he points out that extraverts aren’t the best sales people on earth when measured by sales performance and volume. The people situated in between extraverts and introverts by their social behavior, ambiverts, have in fact the best results in sales.

If you think about it that’s very natural. To be able to close a deal, sell something or get a phone number of a representative of opposite sex, one needs to balance the amount of listening (introversion) and amount of outgoingness (extraversion). If you talk all the way through, you might appear to be just a jerk.

Don’t be always closing

The A was attunement. The B in the new ABC of sales is about your attitude and mental preparation for sales situations. Often salespeople are characterized of bumping up self confidence by motivational self talk.

Instead, Pink suggests a new approach. When you desire a little bit of nice time between the bed sheets, don’t encourage yourself only by telling yourself “Now I’ll take him or her”. Rather use method of interrogative self talk. “Can I take him or her?” This kind of questions makes you to think what is required to accomplish the goal and therefore more mentally prepared for the pivotal points in the sales situation.

As Neil Rackham did couple of decades earlier in Spin Selling also Daniel Pink denies importance of closing in sales. In his book, synthesizing from many recent studies, Pink replaces closing with clarity. When reaching for a deal one needs to be able to make clever questions to identify the problem and make it clear.

Earlier, before the time of internet and vast source of information, salesmen were required to answer questions and solve problems. Today, thanks to internet, solutions are often closer than the diagnosis. The same goes for women. They don’t expect you to solve their problems. With questions you show empathy and interest and that’s enough.

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Two misunderstandings about business and dating

Business plan

There are two major misunderstandings about successful businesses and relationships. (Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net /  Boians Cho Joo Young)

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do” –Proverb captured from Sri Lankan tea plantage

There are a few common misunderstandings about the fundamentals of entering into relationships and developing successful businesses. We need to unlearn from several concepts taught in business schools all over the world. Before launching a new venture people are taught to prepare detailed business plans, evaluate risks and estimate revenues.

Careful planning limits action

Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras prove this to be somewhat wrong. Even the brightest idea, carefully described in a business plan, will remain as an idea without execution. Great businesses and the most enduring companies have most often been built on mediocre ideas and pure experimenting. According to extensive research and the book Built to last, first published in 1994, many of the most known American corporations weren’t established on the basis of breakthrough ideas, products or services.

Instead, visionary companies, as Collins and Porras call them, such as P&G, Hewlett&Packard and 3M found their way to success through trial and error. Hewlett&Packard, to name just one, was founded without specific idea of the business of the company. Founders weren’t either certain which products they would make. Of course they did have some ideas, but many of the initial experiments turned out to be failures. Two founders primarily sought to be self-employed and establish their own business.

In Built to last Collins and Porras conclude that it’s a bad idea to wait for a superb idea to appear.That’s how you should feel about approaching a girl, making an unforgettable engagement or just a giving nice gift to your significant other. Have you ever wondered how a regular guy strolls hand in hand in the street with gorgeous woman? How has he got there?

It’s about our misconceptions. In a perspective of relationships, whether they were business or personal, one needs to bear in mind that trying and experimenting is the key forward. If you don’t utilize your chance you won’t ever find out how it would have turned out.

In business school I had a classmate who had a goal to talk to one previously unknown (beautiful) girl per day. Eventually he succeeded to find a girl who was nice too. Unfortunately nobody documented how many days it took. In business sales work follows the same logic. You can enhance your sales work and quality of your leads. But the more sales calls you make the more sales you create. From here we can make a transition to another common misunderstanding.

Charisma is overrated

Second common misunderstanding among want-to-be-entrepreneurs is that one should be a charismatic leader to establish a highly successful company. Collins and Porras prove this also to be a major misconception. To run a business effectively is not required to be an exceptional leader.

For sure CEOs of visionary companies are highly skilled leaders and businessmen in most aspects, but in visionary companies the business is not dependent on the top leader. The leaders develop their company in such a manner that the organizational culture, strategy and systems keep the wheels turning whoever would lead the company. One of the main tasks of the leader is to crystallize the purpose of the company.

This fact provides us support to the fundamentals of building a strong relationships. It’s more about hard work and understanding the dynamics of the relationship than being a perfect person and partner. To understand how and what to work for we need to first understand why relationships exist.

Remain humble – word of caution

The word of caution is about a phenomenon of positive illusion. The illusion is strongly psychological. It creates tendency to see us performing in daily tasks better or more than our peers. Most of the people think think that they are better drivers than others. Statistically that’s impossible. In our profession we often evaluate ourselves possessing better leadership skills than others.

When your spouse tells you that you don’t do any household work, you usually think you contribute a lot. Even if women tend to use such words as never, ever and at all, it’s probably a good time for serious reflection. In relationships it’s dangerous to benchmark yourself to other husbands or wives. Watching the big bunch of reality TV-shows is not going to help either. Stories about celebrity couples living beyond normal life are poor benchmarks.

Again, if you aren’t the most charismatic, borrowing the words of Collins and Porras, husband –  don’t let it bring you down. Letting go of overly positive thinking is good healthy steps to take. Just keep in mind that one does not need to be a superhero and success does not require greatest idea nor a plan. That’s proved by business practice of several great enterprises. The second piece of evidence is me and our relationship, which also started as a result of not that great idea.

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Relationships are like start-ups

Entering a niche

Starting small is a sure way to get started.

“Go niche or go broke.” -Tim Ferris, author of 4-hour-work-week

Most entrepreneurs establish their businesses by finding and entering a niche; small market, specific customer group, offering unique product or service. Most of the niches stay small but provide a decent living to the entrepreneur. Sometimes niches grow big and can create tremendous wealth to the founders. Many end up purchased by larger corporations which aren’t innovative or agile enough to operate in small markets.

Fundamental observation is that companies can’t start big. Every business needs to make their first sale. To grow big companies first need to come into life. If you meet a nice girl, she might feel uncomfortable if you kneel down and propose her right after saying hello. Relationships resemble start-ups in surprising ways.

In his book The $100 Startup (2012) Chris Guillebeau highlights the benefits of establishing and running a small business. Small ventures don’t necessarily require large investments and they usually originate from a passion towards an object of interest.

Also, small businesses create a feeling of accomplishment, fulfillment and pleasure that is created by working with the things one enjoys. Relationships too are about enjoyment and, at least in the beginning, require rather small investments to flourish. How do you find your way into your own niche?

3 ways to enter a niche or a relationship

Guillebeau lists three strategies to find your business idea and eventually escape 9 to 5 corporate life. In other words, to be a highly successful owner of a business of your passion. First they might appear to be basic and simplistic, but highlight the three essential steps.

First strategy is to dig deeper into customer expectations to uncover hidden needs. It can also mean fulfilling and exceeding customer needs that are inadequately served.  Often that’s about solving problems which big players in the market are too stiff to address. If you don’t catch all the eyes of the room like Brad Pitt, one can find a target person that does not even expect him to appear.

Second strategy is to make your customer a hero. By being a small business owner you have the flexibility and capability to offer dedicated services and product offerings to serve specific needs of a selected customer group. Again, these needs rarely appear into the radar of large corporations.

Finally, third strategy is to sell what people buy. And what is that people really want and buy? Our desires and consumption are more and more directed into two categories. Table below demonstrates what elements entrepreneur can offer to an under served market.

Love Stress
Money Conflict
Acceptance Hassle
Free-time Uncertainty

The table lists the same fundamentals what man and woman need from each other and what relationships build on. They are the elements why men and women fundamentally seek long-term relationships. Looking from the viewpoint of business, this blog pursues to provide more love and less stress and conflict at home. By applying the learnings at workplace one can perhaps boost career and score a larger paycheck.

Passion as a starting point

Like start-ups also relationships often begin on shared passion to common hobbies and interests. First relationships contain excitement and thrill. Same way an entrepreneur jumps into the challenges of business full of enthusiasm.

Initially the fulfillment concentrates on the “More” side of the table. In the beginning some of the elements on the “Less” side might remain as excitement covers the negatives.

Later relationships transform and serve to reduce stress, hassle and uncertainty in life. Don’t expect the conflicts to completely disappear though. As it goes in relationships and business, and as we will see later, smooth resolution of conflicts is just a great way to strengthen the partnership.

Another common aspect between relationships and small entrepreneurial businesses is that in the very beginning of the relationship the actions and required investments are usually relatively small. Usually it’s enough to open your mouth in a correct place. Later, a shoulder massage will yield good atmosphere for several days.

The key is that small steps and actions matter the most. The main component of success is to get started and grab yourself for action. That goes for both businesses and relationships.

(photo courtesy of amenic181 / freedigitalphotos.net)

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