It sounds strange, but sales is strikingly similar to finding love online. While you don’t attract leads with the promise of long walks on the beach, the way you approach a business interaction could mean the difference between a one-time fling a la Tinder and a lasting relationship you might find on Match.com.
As a founder or CEO, it’s time to recognize that traditional sales tactics fulfill a temporary need and leave you constantly searching for your next customer. Strong businesses are built on lasting, mutually beneficial customer relationships that you nurture for years.
The Tinder approach doesn’t work For those unfamiliar with online dating, Tinder’s approach is pretty straightforward: Find an attractive person nearby who thinks you’re attractive, too. It’s a shot-in-the-dark approach to dating that usually doesn’t lead to anything serious.
Sound familiar? Transactional sales tactics rely on lead sheets and cold calling in hopes of connecting with the right prospect at the right time. This may result in a bump in sales, but it’s certainly not a sustainable way to build a business.
Today’s consumers have far more control over the purchasing process. With access to unlimited information and choices online, consumers are well educated and fickle. All these options have led them to place more emphasis on the buying experience.
If you want to build a growing, thriving business instead of relying on a constant stream of new customers, you must shift to a relationship-driven sales approach.
To build lasting relationships for a long-term customer relationships, you should use a Match.com approach. Unlike Tinder, Match.com uses data and a sophisticated algorithm to suggest possible matches. When two users start communicating, they already know that they’re a good match and can begin a relationship based on shared values and interests. Not to mention that only paid subscribers can actually communicate with potential matches, meaning these people are more invested in finding a long-term relationship.
The business equivalent, of course, is finding a customer with a strong interest in what you’re selling and building a relationship. The key is shifting away from a transactional mindset to form lasting connections.
Follow these tips to show prospects you’re looking for a serious relationship, not just a fling:
1. Look for warm connections.
While simply “swiping right” is enough to connect in the “Tinderverse,” spontaneous connections via random calls and emails rarely work in sales. In fact, 90 percent of executives never return cold calls. Your chances of success are higher if you already have a connection to a prospect through a mutual friend.
2. Have standards.
Transactional sales focus on selling anyone who’ll say “yes,” but it’s better to establish criteria for the types of people you want as customers. Just as a relationship is doomed to fail if you don’t share the other person’s values, there needs to be some alignment between what you’re looking for in a customer and the type of business the prospect wants to work with.
3. Make sure they want what you’re offering.
If you’re looking for your future spouse, Mr. or Miss Casual isn’t the right match for you. Likewise, before you try to sell, make sure the prospect will benefit from what you’re offering.
4. Make it a win-win.
In sales and online dating, both parties get something out of the interaction. For example, William Shatner’s relationship with Priceline.com was a win-win because his endorsement grew the once-struggling company into the go-to site for travel while he was paid in stock options now worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Related: The Best Way to Win Repeat Customers
5. Treat them right.
Eighty-five percent of consumers would pay more than the standard price for a better customer experience. Meanwhile, 78 percent have abandoned an intended transaction because of a poor experience. Strong customer relationships lead to increased revenue, higher retention and future sales, but you have to earn that loyalty. Once you make the sale, work hard to make your customers love you every day.
The Tinder approach to sales may gain a few one-time customers, but it won’t get you the “happily ever after” you’re dreaming of. When you’re looking to build a strong, sustainable business, you need to concentrate on forming lasting customer relationships the Match.com way.