Dating has always been used as an analogy in selling. The first meeting with a prospect, for example, is like a first date. And it looks like this analogy even holds true for how many people secure first dates today. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, 38% of U.S. adults who are “single and looking” use dating sites. Of this population, 66% go on dates and 23% end up married or in long-term relationships.
One of the great attractions (pun intended) of online dating is the ability to “shop” for potential partners anonymously. Browsing online profiles to determine whether there are commonalities, desired personality traits, or even physical attributes is a safe and noncommittal way to start the dating process. Contrast this with the more traditional social function, say a bar or night club, and the initial face-to-face reviews of potential suitors can lead to awkward evenings of trying to extricate oneself from the hard sell of a mismatch.
It’s the same for many buyers today. Many of them complete a large percentage of their buying journey online before engaging directly with a salesperson. That’s why it’s incredibly important for salespeople to have a robust, credentialing online profile that presents them and their organization in the most positive and (dare I say) attractive light possible.
Interestingly, the Pew Research study also noted that 22% of online daters ask someone to help them write their online profile. I would guess that the percentage of salespeople today that actively seeks help in, for example, optimizing their LinkedIn profile is probably a lot less. For me, this is one of the most obvious areas where marketing can help sales adapt to new buyer behavior and position themselves for success.
Today’s seller, like their online dating counterpart, is fighting to be noticed in an ocean of competing online profiles. A quick online search of the seller can be hugely influential in whether a salesperson gets that first date with a potential customer. Just as how people hire dating consultants, it’s time for salespeople to leverage their marketing colleagues.
Here’s how it works: The dating consultant usually starts with suggesting, or rather demanding, a complete makeover for the client so that he projects the best image possible. Given that marketing is all about communicating key strengths and differentiators in clever and concise ways, this is a role perfectly suited for them. After all, they’re experts at taking large amounts of information and distilling it down to what is most pertinent and engaging. Therefore, any smart sales organization, at the very least, should immediately “hire” marketing as their dating consultant to conduct online profile makeovers for every individual salesperson.
The best dating consultants, however, don’t just stop with the makeover. They also ensure that their clients are on the right dating sites, attend the right events, and connect with the right potential suitors. Similarly, marketers can help salespeople identify the best online venues to be present in and which ones their potential buyers frequent. Then, they can further advise salespeople on how they should build relationships and connect with prospects.
In addition, successful marketers know how to leverage online tools, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as a host of other adjacent online engaging/listening tools, like Hootsuite, Refresh, or Meddle. These tools can subtlety build relationships with prospects and get them to engage with brands. Again, I would advise sales to sit down with marketing and determine which tools they use and which ones the sales team should leverage, too. Then, sales should “hire” marketing to train their teams on how to effectively use the tools and how to adapt the concepts, tactics, and skills of inbound marketing to their prospecting efforts.
This kind of collaboration between marketing and sales has the potential to be one of the greatest breakthroughs in alignment between the two disciplines. Organizations that adopt such an approach will find that, over time, their salespeople will be overwhelmed with suitors (prospects) in a way that most “single and looking” online daters only dream of.
John Golden is author of Winning the Battle for Sales and Social Upheaval: How to Win @ Social Selling and chief strategy officer of CRM provider Piperlinersales.