On the odd chance that you forgot, I wanted to remind you of the significance of this past Saturday, December 8th.
Because on that day, I arrived at what I like to call the “Marriage Equilibrium Threshold.”
More specifically, it was the day on which I had been married for 10,647 days. Prior to that, I had been single for 10,647 days.
Like a nine-month old baby, it was the day on which I had been in for as long as I had been out. (Unlike a nine-month old baby, the in part came after the out part and was not nearly as dark.)
Popping the Question
If you’ve ever asked – or been asked – to get married, there’s a pretty good chance that you remember the circumstances.
I do, quite clearly, although I confess that from a pure creativity standpoint, I blew this (hopefully) once in a lifetime opportunity.
I didn’t hire an airplane to pull a, “Linda, will you marry me?” banner across the sky.
I didn’t take her back to the spot where we first met.
I didn’t find a Toronto street magician who would hide the engagement ring in a magic cup.
What I did do was panic.
I picked up the ring at the jewelry store, put it in my pocket and, although I had no intention of asking her that night, it just came out. I leaned over during dinner at a local restaurant – right inbetween the salad and the main course – and the next thing I knew, I was popping the question.
It was boring.
It was awkward (you can’t really kneel in a restaurant booth).
It was completely without flash or romance. I seem to remember getting a free dessert out of it, but other than that, it was a missed opportunity.
But – and this is a critical but – she said “yes” anyway.
Not that I was surprised. We had been headed in that direction for months – this was simply the logical conclusion to all that had come before.
It took me a long time to realize, but selling a professional service is not that different. Here’s what I mean…
When I first began working for myself in 2000, I knew nothing about selling. My professional experience up until that point was in marketing, which is quite a different thing.
And so I figured I had better learn “how to sell.” I read a bunch of books, I took a few classes, and I practiced.
I practiced asking for the sale. I practiced handling objections. I practiced emphasizing benefits, not features.
Did it work? Maybe. Sometimes.
But it was always uncomfortable, and it never felt authentic. And, I eventually realized, it didn’t matter that much anyway.
People who liked me, trusted me and wanted what I was offering were eager to move ahead. We just needed to agree on the specifics.
It wasn’t about closing, it was about connecting. And connecting takes time.
The Sale Happens Long Before the Sale Happens
If you’re in the business of selling low risk, small ticket items to people who you’ll never see again, then yes, I suppose selling technique matters.
But you’re not in that business. You sell a professional service – one that feels risky to engage, is hard to sample, and requires a fair amount of investment in time and/or money.
The people who buy from you and me need to believe in us, something that happens slowly and begins long before we ask for the sale.
Here’s the bottom line.
When it came to asking Linda to marry me, the truth is, if she weren’t interested, there’s nothing I could have said or done during the proposal itself that would have changed her mind.
That’s because the key to effective selling isn’t in the close. It’s in everything you do to develop trust, connection and reputation for weeks, months or years leading up to it.
And while it may be true that only by saying the magic words, “Will you marry me?” does an engagement ever occur, by the time the question is asked, the decision has already been made.
- OK, math majors, how many years and days old was I on the day I was married? Extra credit: On what date did that occur (Note to Linda: You are ineligible to participate)?
- In what creative way(s) have you asked, or were you asked, to get married? (Was the answer “yes?”)
- How important are selling skills in your work?
Share your comments below!