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Four Lessons The Bachelor Teaches Us About Sales

At first glance, you probably don’t think much information can be gleaned from watching an episode of the hit ABC dating show as it pertains to account management. However, a closer look reveals that much can be learned when it comes to courting prospective clients.

For the uninitiated, The Bachelor (and related spinoffs including The Bachelorette) is a reality TV show centered around 30 or so contestants vying for the heart of the lead bachelor. Single people from all walks of life put their lives on hold for up to 2 months to take their chance at finding love. While watching a recent episode, we couldn’t help but notice the similarities of the show to the pursuit of a new client.

Lesson 1: Gimmicks never work

The first episode of the season features the “limo arrivals” where the contestants pull up to the Bachelor mansion in a limo and make their all-important first impression. Over the years, countless contestants have tried to stand out from the crowd by using some sort of gimmick to get the lead’s attention. These stunts have included arriving on a tractor, showing up in a shark suit, hiring musical acts to sing, popping out of a box, arriving on skateboards, and the list goes on and on. While the stunts might be good for a laugh, these contestants rarely progress far in the show, and many of them are eliminated the first night. In fact, far more often than not, the eventual winner is the person who gets out of the limo, walks up to the lead calmly and with confidence, and introduces themselves with a smile and perhaps a short anecdote about who they are. That’s it, no more, no less.

The takeaway: You want your clients to take you seriously. They care about the substance, not the splash.

Lesson 2: Avoid the temptation to talk about the other contestants

Every single season, there is a contestant who tries to throw another suitor under the bus to the lead. They might reveal something that was told to them in confidence, critique something that person has said or done, or just outright lie about the other person. Sometimes the lead falls for it. But inevitably the truth comes out, and the contestant who tried to make themselves look better by badmouthing another person gets sent home. The same thing happens in sales all the time. If you’re in a niche sector, your consulting space might be a relatively small world. Often we know our competitors and they know us. We are all targeting the same clients. It can be tempting to say something negative about another firm but it will always come back to bite you. Always.

The takeaway: Focus on your company and what you bring to the table. Don’t worry about what your competitors are doing or saying, just do what you do and do it the best.

Lesson 3: Don’t try to be all things to all people

By its very nature, the show takes people from different walks of life, different careers, ages, etc. and puts them all under the same roof. Not surprisingly, certain people try to adapt to those surroundings by changing who they are into who they think the lead will want. This never works. The same is true in staffing. Often, in an attempt to get in with a new client or land a certain deal, a salesperson will try to be exactly the kind of person they think the client wants instead of just focusing of what they are good at.

The takeaway: If your company is great at staffing Accounting professionals, then do that. Don’t try to become an expert in another field when you don’t know the ins and outs of that world. Know what you do and do it well.

Lesson 4: When you mess up, own it

Inevitably, at some point during the season, one of the contestants messes up big time. When this happens, instead of owning the mistake, they dig in deeper and try to talk or lie their way out of the situation. This absolutely always ends in disaster because the truth will come out. In sales and staffing, even though we don’t have a camera crew following our every move, the truth still reveals itself. If you are in the industry long enough, something bad will happen. A consultant will do something that has the potential to derail years of relationship building. When that happens, own it. It sounds so simple but in practice it can be very difficult. Resist the temptation to cast blame or deflect. Showing up and tackling the issue head on is by far the the best approach. Sometimes you have to fall on the sword, but you should try to view these hardships as an opportunity. By owning it and immediately taking steps to fix it, the trust between the client grows exponentially.

The takeaway: Be transparent and own your mistakes