I was out to dinner with a client when her phone rang. She apologetically excused herself and got up to take the call. We were at the new hot spot in town: a trendy and, at this moment, very crowded restaurant. Not wanting to endure a two-hour wait for a table, we grabbed a seat in the bar at one of those community tables—you know the ones: long seats that fit about 20 strangers with a respectfully empty chair between each party.
When my client stepped outside, I took my phone out and pretended to read emails, but in reality I was eavesdropping on the conversation going on between the couple seated next to me. I felt a bit ashamed but couldn’t help it! The gentleman was talking so loudly that it was difficult to politely tune him out. It became pretty clear that they were on a first date because the loud conversational content was all getting-to-know-you questions and answers.
During their first cocktail, things seemed to be going quite well. He was handsome and humorous, telling stories, and she was laughing and engaged, hanging on his every word. Just as the chemistry was heating up, I had to tune out because my client returned and we needed to get down to business.
As luck would have it, my client had to take another call, so I tuned back in to the couple’s conversation. At this point, things looked like they were getting better by the moment. He had moved his chair next to hers and the couple sat side by side. But as I kept listening, it became clear that things had actually started going downhill. The conversation had shifted from an even exchange to a one-sided monologue with Mr. Right dominating. Instead of sticking with light, fun, friendly topics, the gentleman had started opening up to his date about his last big breakup.
The more he talked about himself, the needier he sounded and the less interested his date became. By the time my client came back from her call, the sad gentleman’s date had gotten up from the table and walked out. Now, I obviously don’t know the entire story about why she left and what her exact reason was, but I do know that my unfortunate friend ordered another cocktail and settled in for a long night alone with a forlorn look on his face.
As any motivational speaker will tell you, real life offers the examples of what to and what not to do when building relationships, both personally and professionally. As I thought back on the unsuccessful gentleman later, I started analyzing where the date went wrong. My observations provided some great insight for hopeful daters and sales professionals alike. Failed calls often start out strong, with the salesperson making great contact and building rapport, but just like a bad first date, when the salesperson begins dominating the conversation or revealing too much too soon, the client loses interest.
Why was the date unsuccessful, and why does the same strategy fail in sales? In order to win the other party over at the beginning of a relationship, the focus needs to be on them, not you. Additionally, while long-term transparency and honesty are the cornerstones of sustainable relationships, revealing too much, too fast can paint you as desperate and needy. Clients choose professionals and organizations that are assured and confident, especially in this economy.
5 Strategies To Get You the Second Date
1. Get To Know Them – Clients choose and stay with your business because they know, like and trust you. At its core, buying is an emotional decision. The challenge comes from assuming that to get to know others we need to tell them about ourselves, when in reality this method fails time after time. The best way to get to know people is by asking questions, listening to them, and relating things about you that fit into their personal story. In other words, find a common ground. Our clients—and people in general—are interested in one thing: themselves.
2. Stay Focused – On the client, that is. At the beginning of any relationship you stand a much better chance of getting a second “date” if you spend 20% of your time talking about yourself and 80% talking about them. The gentleman at the restaurant was doing really well in the beginning, but the longer the conversation went on the less he focused on his date and the more he focused on himself. Even if the client asks questions about you, stay focused! Give a great answer and then return the focus of the conversation to the client.
3. Be Aware – Customers (and dates) communicate much more with their eyes and body language than they do with their mouths; pay attention to the physical messages they are sending. My poor friend at the restaurant was completely oblivious to the subtle signals his date was offering him. As she lost interest, she started diverting her gaze and looking around, folded her arms, and sighed a little, attempting to gently cue him in that she was losing interest. Unfortunately, he was so focused on himself that he missed these subtle but clear signs. Be aware of these physical signals; they can help you gauge your client’s level of interest.
4. Don’t Cave – No matter how much a client asks you about yourself and how tempting it is to do so, don’t cave. In fairness to the gentleman at the restaurant, his date kept asking questions out of politeness, and in part because of this he missed the signs, opportunities and clues telling him to turn the conversation back to her. In other words, he took the bait. No matter how much people ask you about you, they secretly hope that you will find them so interesting that you will turn the focus of conversation back to them over and over.
5. Keep It Light – This is a first call (or a first date), after all, so keep it light. You are not there to learn every deep, dark need of your client’s–you will have plenty of time to deepen your understanding of them as the relationship grows. As my unfortunate friend learned the hard way, your date or client does not need or want to know everything about you up front, nor do they necessarily want to reveal everything about themselves right away. Keep the first meeting light: ask questions, laugh and enjoy the conversation. Then be patient; give the relationship time, allowing the client to set the pace.
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