Sales tips for the aspiring rock star!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Realize You Don't Know Me, But Please Marry Me?

You scan the room cautiously and there, like a diamond in the ruff is someone you feel compelled to approach. Mustering every ounce of courage, you walk bravely across the crowded, noisy room, rehearsing your lines and getting yourself “in the zone” It all seems rather surreal, (like in Wayne’s World when Wayne approached Tia Carrere to the theme of “Dream Weaver”). You confidently tap this person on the shoulder, look them in eye and say “We don’t know each other, never had a date nor even a conversation, but would you marry me?”

I’ll let you finish the story in your own “Theater of the mind” style, but I’m guessing in this case the guy doesn’t get the girl?

In the spirit of beating up the obvious . . . Why?

Aside from not knowing each other, there has been no conversation, no establishing of mutual likes/dislikes, a first date, trust and about a million other elements which comprise a relationship.

All in all, a ridiculous scenario but not too uncommon if you ask me. I not only see it every day on Social Networking venues, I’ve been both the receiver of such proposals as well as the one on bended knee.

Some examples of what I’m talking about:

Someone “@” me on Twitter several times wanting an appointment to discuss my company’s social media strategy. Innocent enough, but I don’t know this person, our paths have never crossed, we have never shared “tweets” or have had any interaction. Probably not a good initial contact strategy, but to each their own.

When you accept someone as a “friend” and they immediately launch into a sales pitch.

You’re in a group discussion on Linkedin and someone sends you a private email about how their company is the bestest company in the whole world and can help you with that thing you happen to be discussing.

There’s a change taking place in the way many people want to do business. It wasn’t so long ago, that two people would do business with each other and the relationship would form after the transactions began. That’s when you would really get to know them. That’s when this crazy thing called “trust” would enter the picture. The trend now seems to be the exact opposite. People want to get to know you, and trust you on that type of level BEFORE doing business with you.

For the sake of clarity, I’m not talking about due diligence. That’s always existed. I’m talking about the relationship part of the process. It really seems to have been front ended to a much higher degree.

I believe there are several reasons for this:

Our current economy has buyers more concerned with risk than ever before. A bad choice is viewed as “raising your hand in class” and the fear is that they could be the next person cut from the organization.

Its easier and safer to begin online. It’s easier in that there’s an immediacy in Googling, checking a profile, a blog etc. If someone has an online presence, they have in essence, “left a trail” for us to learn about them. It’s safer in that we can sort of “lurk” without someone seeing that we are checking them out. Its safer in that if we become “friends” and if for some reason there becomes a discomfort in that “friendship” we can un friend, un follow, ignore, delete etc.

There is a huge cultural shift due to more and more Generation Y’s moving into decision making/influencing positions. They prefer more online, virtual interaction as part of their process.

We can go on and on, but I think you get the point.

So if the trend is in fact moving more towards getting to know someone via an online courtship . . . how could you go about accomplishing that?

Like anything else, it should begin with the proper mindset. In this case it’s a mindset of Patience as well as Urgency. Patience in understanding that this is a long term strategy. How long is long term? Let’s go back to the proposal at the beginning of our blog today. When does “love” happen? Traditionally, is it on the 7th date, 7th month, 7th year or is the answer something more along the lines of . . . Love happens when it happens? Your online courtship should be no different. The urgency mindset means that you shouldn’t get so hung up on a long term strategy that you lose the “fire in the belly” to get going now!

Watch for the many “clues” that you can leverage:

On Linkedin:

Their status updates. You can learn a ton about someone based on what they decide to tell us in their status update. We can also comment on their status to validate the things that are important to them.

Tripit . . . where are they traveling to? Can we learn something from that? Sounds like another opportunity for a conversation starter.

Their involvement in groups. What are their opinions, beliefs and philosophies?

They may include a link to their blog which now becomes yet another opportunity for you to learn about as well as connect with your prospect. Let’s take a look how.


Another great opportunity for you to get inside their head. See how they think. Find out about their pet peeves, philosophies, interests, sense of humor, likes, dislikes etc.

An opportunity for you to comment and move away from being a “lurker”.

Another opportunity for you connect!


Might open a door to a blog or article they have written

Sometimes you can get a “play by play” on what they are working on, challenges, opportunities etc.
A chance for you to learn “buzzwords” from their industry you may not know that you can use when you approach them in the future.

Another opportunity for you to connect


I think Facebook is an opportunity to you get to know someone in a more "business casual" atmosphere. I use it to show people my more casual side. I talk about my guitar playing, what we did over the weekend, my kids, my family.

I can find out someone's birthday. Can that help me get in the door? Well it worked for Charlie Sheen in Wall Street when he brought Gordin Gecko those cigars for his birthday so what the hell?
At the same time that these things provide clues and opportunities for you, they provide opportunities for them to get to know how you think, behave. Its an opportunity for them to evaluate your reputation.

Here’s the key . . . its an opportunity for you to start building a little something known as “TRUST”
Try proposing to someone without that one!

Here’s where I begin to worry.

Since venues like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook etc are still rather new (as is the concept of social networking) many of us are rushing the process involved for these forums to work their magic. We become impatient and then quickly write off either the venue or the concept of social networking.

I guess all of this is simply a long winded way of reminding us to allow for a proper courtship before the marriage.

Do that and you have a higher probability of getting face to face.

You’ll lower the probability of having to dance around objections. Why? Because you will understand each other properly and will have established the necessary ingredients of rapport and credibility!

Much in the spirit of a strong marriage, you will retain your customers longer. Why? Because you took the time to really understand each other.

I’ll leave you with something to think about, a bit of a challenge if you will. Understand that this concept of an online courtship is a bit counter intuitive for most of us. It can be real easy to jump the gun and just approach someone you have no relationship with in the hopes of getting a face to face appointment. Resist that urge! Instead, take an opportunity to have that courtship. And for how long? How about, however long it takes?

Wishing you all incredible courtships leading to lifelong marriages!

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  1. Nice post Paul. I feel we have really connected now.


    P.S - Buy my stuff :-)

  2. Thanks James.

    That was one hell of a first date :)

    Rock on!


  3. It's been a long time since I've gotten a proposal! Then I realized it wasn't just sent to me!LOL! How true this is Paul! Those courtships in spring are turning into great marriages this month! Love December weddings! Thanks for making me feel special even for a moment! :)

  4. But you are special Julie!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and have an awesome weekend!

  5. Paul,

    Through using both LinkedIn and Twitter, I have come to the following conclusion: everyone is talking and no one is listening. I watch the daily questions go up and about the same dozen or so consultants looking for work dominate the discussion (maybe becuase they have no work). I saw a question last week asking for responses from middle managers and not one middle manager answered, just consultants.

    Yep, I am very careful who I allow to connect with me. I'm getting tired of being puked on everytime I accept a connection request.

    Does it not seem strange to you that there are 6 million people suppoosedly on LinkedIn and less than 100 people dominate the discussions?

    The idea of the social networks is good but too many greedy and ill-advised people think it's a license to push product. Would never marry someone like that - ever.

    If you want to marry me you had better be able to solve a problem I have. And don't just assume that i have a problem because someone else once had it - find out. Court me. Offer me your expertise as a sample of hwat you can do. But don't try to sell me. I'll force you to sign a pre-nup.

  6. Thanks, Paul. Someone has finally said out loud what I have been wondering since Social Media has exploded. I agree that it's something of a generational phenomena, but we can all get lulled into doing business this way and having unrealistic expectations.

  7. This is great Paul! Have fun out there.

  8. @ Kevin: Well stated and you deserve a much lengthier response that will have to wait because I am heading out to the airport. I agree with you totally!

    @ Gina: I think the problem lies in the expectation and our need to rush it. Due to this crazy economy, there isn't anything thats going to give us a quick kill.

    I say, why not embrace a mix of activities, hope for the best, but be prepared to take the proper time to have a proper courtship.

    Thank you both!

  9. Paul,

    I've always enjoyed your blogs. Great topic! I am a firm believer in building relationships, the courtship process is the most important. That's the time when you get to learn more about their needs and wants. Until you get to know them, any such proposal is an utter shot in the dark and waste of time. This would make a great Discussion in the best LinkedIN group around: Sales Playbook!


    Jared Wells

  10. I borrowed the concept of 'marketing is like dating' from Seth Godin for my first business book.

    My buddy Jerry Kennedy talks about how selling is like making oranges. It's a process, not an act. Plant seeds, cultivate the tree, wait patiently for the fruit.

    You don't make a plant grow faster by tugging on it.

  11. Great post, Paul, as usual! I totally agree with Kevin...I feel like there are so many people puking on the prospects that they just end up giving up and ignoring all the future courtships that actually mean something!

    I get so frustrated with all of the stupid convo's that happen on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, that I have begun to just ignore them as well. I was actually starting to wonder if the fakes on the social networks had started getting somewhere?

    Maybe I'm just so tired of hearing bs come out of everyone's mouth...that I've given up on the whole concept myself.

  12. Great post! I think proper mindset should be to behave on-line the same way you would in person. Hopefully, no one wants to be the obnoxious person at the social event who is just there to pimp himself and his products. Making unsolicited product pitches or appointment requests via social media is the equivalent of being "that guy."

  13. The clients I call on do not twitter, blog or have a face book. About half have a linkedin account. So it is REALLY difficult to get information on them. I use a pretty good tool called InsideView that helps search the web (it goes out to 30,000 sources to grab data). Any advice on how to get to these hard to reach people?

  14. Hi Paul,

    Thank you for this, what you have mentioned is absolutely true. I think one of the problems that we have on linked it is the diversity of cultures which brings with it the differences in expectations from people! Believe it or not, in some parts of the world, running to someone in the room that you do not know and proposing may work very well. That is the reason we get all different types of proposals on daily basis. I have personally worked on different parts of the world at different times, and what is acceptable during the sales process differes from APAC to North America. I still agree with Kevin that we need the trust and the expertise before we get into "relationships", but unfortunately, this is not yet a universal approach.

  15. these are all great posts! I also often wonder if those who are "puking" (sorry, nikki, am stealing your word, its a great one!) on their prospects on social networking sites are really getting anywhere.. Good networking relationships, sales, etc, are like good food, they take a while to cook, but once they're ready, they taste great!! :-)

  16. Thank you all for the fantastic input.

    The world of social networking is still very new. With new things and new approaches comes the learning curve, the falling on your face, putting your foot in your mouth stuff. I think most of us can accept that. I think we can also accept that this is a never ending evolution that changes rapidly.

    My pet peeve lies in not only the "puking" but the mutual "writing off" of the venue by both the puker and pukee because neither took the time to embrace the venue properly. And because their perception was formed by people who don't know what they are doing.

    I believe the hallmark of a sales professional is in the ability to "read" a situation and adapt to the terrain.

    Why not approach social networking from that same perspective?

    Once again, thanks for taking the time to contribute to this post. Keep the input coming!

    Paul Castain

  17. @ Kevin Burns:

    I've owed you a lengthier response than the one I offered yesterday. I was running to the airport and didn't have the time to respond properly.

    I almost want to begin with a "don't get me started" response because I can't tell you how often I have observed similar things.

    I think what we have here is an ignorance issue. People simply don't know what they are doing so they either do some dumb things like puke on others or they sort of lurk on the sidelines, watching, learning but reluctant to dip their toe in or worse yet, they join a group and perhaps they think the world will beat a path to their door.

    I have two ways I approach that.

    First, I think it presents an incredible opportunity for those who "get it" because they are now the diamond in the ruff.

    Second, the concept of community needs to work its magic. As in any offline community, the online one has its rules and protocals. Its up to the individuals to learn and follow them, remind others when they break those rules (professionally)Call it to the attention of group managers and even go as far as sending a message by leaving groups that disrespect that sense of community.

    Its also up to all of us to contribute to that community.

    Its all part of a proper courtship.

    I love your thought about the "pre nup". What many sales people fail to realize is that they are being forced to sign those every day when they short cut the courtship.

    Thanks for contributing Kevin!

    Paul Castain

  18. Paul,

    Will you respect me in the morning? :-)

  19. Nice post, Paul! I agree with Kevin. Also I notice that the same discussions would be put in more than one group. Sometimes the title is changed. You would not notice that it is the same discussion until you get to read the details. This would add up to the frustration of people being members in the group. If it could be identified that a post is already read, it could save a lot of time and effort.

  20. Nice post Paul. What you say is right - if you want to marry me - then we need to have a proper courtship :) Without that I aint even letting you close to me ...

    People fail to realise that Social networking is a tool for .... networking ... not for selling (duh). It is a great investment for building relationships and perhaps exposing your talent to a larger bunch of folks (perhaps) more easily than other mediums. Here's an opportunity to tell the world the remedies you have for the ailments that they could be facing. That's how I look at the whole Social Networking Conundrum ....


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Paul Castain is the Vice President of Sales Development for Consolidated Graphics (CGX) one of North America’s leading general commercial printing companies. Paul has over 25 years of sales and sales leadership experience. He has trained, mentored and coached over 3,000 sales and sales leadership professionals. An accomplished public speaker, Paul has delivered numerous key note addresses. He has authored numerous training manuals, articles, blog posts and is currently working on his first book for release in 2011. Feel free to email Paul This has been a paid announcement by the friends of Paul Castain!

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Paul Castain's Sales Play Book is blog dedicated to strengthening our sales game, supporting rock star development and developing jedi like skills. All that is required is a willingness to learn and a sick sense of humor!

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