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Applying the Wisdom of Business to Dating

At my job, we are producing a pilot for a reality TV program that teaches the art and the science of dating to those who are utterly clueless. Meanwhile, I have also been reading a series of articles about how to effectively market a creative business. Interestingly enough, I could not help noticing startling parallels between business and dating.

In business, marketing and sales are separate functions. Many people who did not study business in school are unaware of this distinction. I myself did not know it until recently. Marketing is about making the initial connection, “getting a foot in the door,” so to speak. Whereas sales is about “convincing” or “closing” the deal. In terms of finding a job, writing a résumé would be part of marketing, whereas going to an interview would be part of sales. Skills required for marketing is quite different from those required for sales. I believe the same distinction should be applied to dating.

In the first episode of our show, we had a candidate named Fred. He was intelligent, knowledgeable, confident, funny, and financially successful, but he had no clue about how to get a date. It appears that he had never given any thought to the problems that were quite obvious to others: his hairstyle, clothing, mannerism, etc.. At one point in the show, he says that he could attract a woman if he could lock himself up in a room with her for 10 hours.

If you are an introvert like me, you could probably relate to his sentiment. I bet you have fantasized about a situation where you and a beautiful girl are stuck in an elevator for 10 hours. You feel that this is the only way you could get her attention, and convince her of your substance, because she would never give you even a minute of her attention otherwise. The problem here is that you lack marketing skills, the skills that could get the attention of your potential mate. Fred is aware of this. So, he feels that the only way to convince her of his substance, is to force her to pay attention to him for 10 hours. This means that he is confident of his sales skills. I think this problem is quite common.

The principal of the company I work for, Manny, has always said that he is not a good salesman. The rest of us were surprised to hear this, because we thought he was quite good. We were confused because we did not make the distinction between marketing and sales. Manny is in fact very good at sales (convincing), but he is not good at marketing; making the initial connection. Our marketer, on the other hand, is quite talented at getting the attentions of total strangers, but she does not have what it takes to close sales (mainly because she does not know enough about how our business works). Thus, they complement each other.

The first step in solving the problem of dating is to make a mental distinction between marketing and sales, because the two are quite different in nature. Many people are actually good at sales, but not at marketing. Honing your skills for sales would not improve your mating outlook, if the problem lies in marketing.

In business, we have two different marketing methods: direct marketing such as cold-calling and mailing, and indirect marketing such as referrals and PR. This is true of dating too. Direct marketing in essence means you make direct contact with someone you have never met before. Approaching someone at a bar, or contacting someone via online dating services would fall in this category. Indirect marketing is where you rely on a third party to make the connection. That third party does not have to be a person; it could be a thing. For instance, you could write an article for a magazine, and that in turn could attract clients. In dating, here are some examples of indirect marketing: meeting someone through your friends or through your work, forming a band to attract young girls, joining a club of some sort, or writing a beautiful poem.

At the end of the first episode of our show, Fred admitted that the experience of being on the show was helpful in terms of “removing the obstacles.” That is exactly what marketing is about, to connect with your potential client or date, to make them feel comfortable and interested so that they pay attention to what you have to say. At this stage, you do not need to talk much about the business, nor about the substance of who you are. The point is to get their attention.

I once had a friend who was an amazing marketer in dating. He was tall, handsome, charming, and funny. He had the attentions of most ladies wherever he went, but ironically, his sales skills were poor. Because of this, with every girl he met, he had to get laid within the first 6 hours of contact. Beyond that, he risked losing her attention because he was not convincing in terms of the substance of what he had to sell. Most of us are the opposite. We wish we had such marketing skills.

Fortunately, now there is online dating, which allows us to bypass some of the obstacles of mating. It makes arranging a date much easier. In business, we have websites like Monster.com and HotJobs.com which make marketing ourselves as laborers much easier.

Once you are on a date, you just need your sales skills, which is about communicating effectively the substance of who you are. In marketing, it might pay off to twist some truths just to get attentions, but on a date, there is no point in lying or manipulating; if you and your date are a fundamentally bad match, it is not in your interest to close the sales. This is true both in business and dating. Honesty and sincerity count more when it comes to convincing someone, or closing a deal.

I think it is important to make the distinction between marketing and sales, since the skills required for each are quite different. If you confuse them, you might end up applying your skills inappropriately. Using your marketing skills for sales, or sales skills for marketing, is not necessarily effective. It is fine to use a funny pick-up line to get someone’s attention, but once you have her attention, giving a dozen more would not do much; it could just be annoying. By the same token, when you are just initiating a conversation with someone, being honest about your negative traits isn’t necessarily smart either. You might end up painting an unnecessarily negative picture of yourself. If you want to have a long-term relationship with your mate or client, the objective of sales should be to communicate accurately. Painting an overly positive or negative picture could only jeopardize that relationship. In this sense, the classic advice of dating, “Just be yourself”, is appropriate. But, it may not hold true for marketing. Just as you tend to embellish your résumé, you might need to add some pizzazz to yourself when you are looking for a date. We all expect it. It’s part of how we play the game.

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