Finding a Romantic Partner in Sales

rocky-adrianPaulie: “You like her?”
Rocky: “Sure, I like her.”
Paulie: “What’s the attraction?”
Rocky: “I dunno… she fills gaps.”
Paulie: “What’s ‘gaps’?”
Rocky: “I dunno, she’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.”

– Rocky, 1976 (ht Noah A)

During a break at a sales training program, an older gentleman made the following comment about his romantic life:

“The problem with dating in a big city like New York,” he said, “is that everyone is a Buyer.”

I asked him to explain further, which he did: “When it’s Buyer versus Buyer, Procurement versus Procurement, List of Requirements versus List of Requirements, then it’s hard to get a deal going… and even if you get a deal going, it fizzles pretty quickly.”

The Secret Bench of Knowledge by Lea Vivot

There’s a tendency in the world of direct sales to conflate the world of business with the world of romance –i.e., to make an analogy between the activities of selling and dating.

While this analogy provides some interesting insights to the activity of selling, it often does so at the expense of trivializing or demeaning dating for those who have the intent of seeking an exclusive life partner, because so much of selling is transactional, short-term and almost certainly non-monogamous.

For some salespeople, however, the dating-selling analogy extends beyond the initial relationship phase of wooing / seduction: So-called “high touch” salespeople approach the task at hand with a passion that goes beyond the immediate term.

In the world of sales training for professional services we often wax poetic about terms like “relationship building,” “trusted advisor,” “consultative selling” and “partnering with clients.”

No doubt, the nature of selling professional services lends itself to a longer term, relationship-based model, where building trust and providing advice to (and sometimes, also critiquing/challenging) the client is part of the job.

However, while there is a fair bit of consultative selling — where the salesperson must provide consultation as a part of solving some complex issue — there is, in fact, very little true “partnering” going on out there in the world of sales.

The word “partnering” is a buzzword used by (well-meaning) people (like me) who look at the client-service provider relationship and see an opportunity for greater collaboration. That’s right, I don’t like being called a “vendor” (cf., The ‘V’ Word).

Collaboration is a good start… and certainly better than the Procurement-versus-Procurement approach.

But if it’s going to be a partnership, it needs to be more than just collaboration.

A salesperson does NOT “partner” with their buyer unless there is a two-way exchange of resources, a mutual sharing of risk, an exploration of how both parties can structure a business activity that is designed to fill complementary needs.

Or as Rocky would put it, “fill gaps.”

brooklyn dancers-640-216


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on June 30, 2013, in Business, Collaboration, Communication Skills, Metaphors, photography, Sales and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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