You Should NEVER Propose on the First Date…in Sales

Devon-McDonald by

Closing the deal in enterprise software sales is a lot like getting married.  Hear me out…

You’ve found a trusted partner who is your perfect match. You’ve gotten to know one another — strengths and perhaps a few manageable weaknesses — all signs point to the fact that this relationship is one that will yield much long-term satisfaction for both parties. Your vision is aligned. It’s meant to be.

Now, would you EVER propose on the first date? Tell your date that you want to marry them an hour into your candle light dinner? Of course not — even if you are experiencing the “love at first sight” feelings. Why? It’s way too soon. Your date doesn’t know you, you don’t know them, and quite frankly, a premature marriage proposal/discussion would seem desperate and downright concerning. The propose would likely be running for the hills post-marriage talk. That sort of pressure is uncomfortable and a major turnoff for most.

Given the obvious similarities between these two scenarios, why on Earth do sales reps, time and time again, pull out the full court press on the first call with a prospect? “Here’s who we are, here’s how I see you using our product/services — what do you say? Lets make it happen!” These sort of assumptions, pressuring and one-sidedness will result in nothing more than the prospect being turned off and avoiding your calls/emails from there on out.

Despite having marriage and weddings on the brain this month, I actually can’t take credit for this metaphor. Today Mashery’s Director of Demand Generation Ian Brown explained to me that their goal is to build a relationship with prospects in order to get the deal to close — not pressure them and give the hard sell prematurely. Instead, their outlook on sales is to foster a healthy relationship — learning about the buyers pains, needs, business goals, and vision, and building a true partnership. After all, Mashery is not selling a widget; they are selling a  full-package solution —  global API platform, strategic services, extensive developer network, and support team that together can completely transform a company’s (SMB or enterprise) online presence, well beyond the walls of their own website.

In the few days that I’ve spent with the Mashery team here in San Francisco, I’ve come to realize that they’ve got their heads in the right place. The members of the sales organization are experienced and mature (not to mention fun as hell). They understand that when you are selling a digital solution of this magnitude, the deal is not going to close over night. Even if you’ve got a really interested prospect, there are always going to be obstacles such as multiple players being  involved in the decision making process, particularly within the larger, global organizations. Back to the relationship metaphor, Ian explained that “bringing in other decision makers” would be like a couple bringing their parents into the equation to meet one another out, feel out the situation, and make sure its truly the right match — their opinions matter too of course. After all, this is a major commitment.

So next time you hear your sales reps smothering prospects in that first conversation, remind them to take a step back. Are they really focused on building the relationship, asking the right questions and articulating their value proposition in a non-abrasive manner? Or are they so focused on “putting a ring on it” that they are in fact scaring away your precious leads?