The Business Dating Game

The Business Dating Game

Wooing new clients is a lot like dating.

You wouldn’t rush up to someone on the street you had never met and ask them to marry you, would you? Why then do so many business owners think that one-off contact (for example, one advert) will be successful? Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but let’s look at how to build long-term relationships with your clients.

Step 1)  Your Friend Knows Someone You Might Like
Dating: So, your friend thinks they’ve found someone who you might hit it off with. They give you the person’s number or ask if they can give them yours.

Business: In the business world this is called a referral, and may involve giving you their business card or phone number, or giving yours to the new contact.

It is imperative to follow up referrals for potential new clients promptly and professionally. If the person that referred you knows you and your business well, then this could be a very good new client for you.

Step 2)  Online Dating
Dating: Putting your personal profile up on a dating website then crossing your fingers and waiting for a response is a little too passive. If you really want to find someone, start looking at other people’s profiles to see similar connections, interests and personality traits.

Business: In business, this is achieved using social media. It is fine to have a social media page such as Facebook or LinkedIn, but if you are not using it to see who’s viewed your profile and to look for potential clients or business associates, you are wasting a very good opportunity.

Step 3)  Pre-Dating
Dating: Talk to them over the phone. If the call goes well and they seem nice enough, arrange a day and a time to meet with them in person.

Business: Depending on your type of business, arrange a simple phone call to discuss their needs and wants, and how your business could help them. If you think this may be a suitable client, while you are still on the phone, arrange a time and place to meet them in person.

Step 4)  First Date
Dating: Going to the movies is a great first date. It is initially low-interaction, giving you a chance to be around them without awkward conversation. Plus afterwards, you have the movie in common to talk about. If it goes well, you might want to send them a text message.

Business: Meeting a potential client at a coffee shop is a low-commitment action. The background noise can help offset any nerves or awkwardness, the public setting creates a neutral ground, plus good coffee, all helps to create a casual first meeting.

If it goes well, send them more information, specific to what they are interested in.

Step 5)  Building The Relationship
Dating: Follow up the first date with a second date, and do an activity that requires more interaction, like mini golf. Texting and phone calls help you get to know each other better. Continue dating over the next few months or years.

Business: Follow up the initial meeting and information you sent with a phone call or email. Add them to your newsletter list to keep them up to date with you and your business, new products and services, and latest news. Invite them to relevant events, seminars or webinars that you are running.

Step 6)  Proposal
Dating: Pick a great spot to propose, and pop the question.

Business: Based on their feedback from the meeting and extra information, write up a proposal and arrange a meeting to put it forward and to discuss it.

Step 7)  Engagement
Dating: They said ‘Yes’!

Business: They accept the proposal.

Step 8)  A Happy Marriage
Dating: Keep the lines of communication open, build a great level of trust, and remember to go out and celebrate every now and then.

Business: Continue to communicate and follow up, and touch base regularly with your client. Celebrate anniversaries birthdays, Christmas, and special events. But most of all treat them with respect, honesty, and go above and beyond what they expect and what they pay for – they will think you are amazing and will recommend you to others, which takes us back to Step One.


Darlene Mathieson

Article by Darlene Mathieson
• Business Consultant, Traction Business Acceleration Ltd
• Co-Owner, Simply Reading – Creative Learning Tools
• Motorsport Champion

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