As a founder of Outgrow, I get around 660 emails every day, each aimed at getting me to buy something. On average, I reply to 2. I see approximately 45 advertisements every day across Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and LinkedIn. That sums to almost 1,350 ads every month. I click on 5 at best.

I’m pretty sure that the engagement numbers for other decision makers aren’t far from mine. So why do most sales and marketing attempts fall flat?

What I’ve found after analyzing a sample of 50 emails and ads from last week is something that we, as salesmen/women, should be pretty worried about.

88% of the senders/advertisers almost exclusively talked about themselves or their product/service. They celebrated how awesome their product is, how its features are going to rock my life, how they have an impeccable service record, or how without them, my business will never reach its potential.

They didn’t care to ask about what I want, what my needs might be, or otherwise try to help me in any way. They didn’t care to mention anything about me or my company. All this makes me feel that I am being used, that I am just a tool for them to just complete their sales/signups quota.

Now, let’s take a step back and talk about dating.

What do you think would happen on a date if the first thing you spell out is a list of all your endowments and revel while basking in the glory of your own awesomeness! When all you do is talk about yourself, your achievements and you, you, you… how do you think that date might end?

Well, it won’t end with a second date, that’s for sure. And maybe not even with dessert! So why do you expect your self-absorbed sales emails and me-centric marketing messages to get a warmer response?

Sending an email with a call to action to buy now or register now is like blatantly asking for sex on the very first date. You aren’t going to get it. Well, you might if it’s your day and your product is truly that handsome. But the chances are pretty slim.

So how do you get a second date?

You listen. You make a genuine attempt to get to know the other person and understand their perspective. Then, you engage: share knowledge specific to their life, their experience – so they are convinced that you truly “get them” and aren’t just throwing generic pick up lines. This leads to building trust, which lends you enough credibility to successfully ask for a second date.

Getting someone to buy something is no different. You need to build a rapport with the prospect, and rapport cannot be built upon the foundation of an intent to sell. You need to prove that you have a genuine interest in getting to know them and that you “get them.” Once that line of trust is established, then maybe you can plug your pitch.

This makes sense, you might be thinking. But you might also be thinking, “How do I tactically establish this aforementioned trust? What are the action points, what is the checklist that I should follow to not sound too salesy?”

Let’s again turn to dating.

The number one most important thing to do during a date is to build a dialogue and not a monologue. If you ask an insightful question, it will beg an insightful answer. And if you get your date or your prospect to think deeply about something that is important to them, congratulations! You’re on the right direction.

And to be clear – this dialogue doesn’t necessarily have to take place during a sales call. You can spark your “conversation” with an interactive marketing tool like a quiz or a calculator to get introspective feedback.

For example, a home remodeling contractor might have an ad with a quiz like, “Which type of roof will best suit your house?” In the quiz, the contractor may ask, “What kind of neighborhood do you live in?” which gets the client to start to engage. Now, the customer is thinking and the first step in building rapport has already broken the ice effectively. The guard is down.

Once you have established this two way engagement, the 2nd step is to listen intently. People love being listened to, but do you know what they love even more? Being understood! So make an effort to sincerely understand them, their sensibilities, their perspective, their use cases. If something is not clear, clarify. If everything is clear, ask a follow up question and go deeper. The point should be to engage at a deep level and not just roam about on the surface with superficial small talk. Isn’t that what we aim to do in a date setting?

If you really understand your prospect well, you can then execute on the 3rd critical step – which is all about adding value! In the context of a date, it can be entertainment through a joke. In a sales or marketing context, it can be consulting the client on a problem that he or she is having or giving a well-thought-out suggestion: “I noticed a bug on your website. I think you can improve your SEO by adding this keyword on your blog. I use a competitor’s product and I think it does a really good job with this feature.”

To understand how to do this in your ads, let’s go back to the roof quiz example. After asking insightful questions, you can give an outcome like, “Based on your answers, you should get a red shingle roof.” In just a few seconds, you engaged the user and provided a valuable suggestion.

If you do everything right, you will have brewed a definite relationship with your prospect. You’re not someone random anymore. You fall into a different league of brands – one that he/she trusts, one that he/she is more open to buying from.

In case you haven’t realized, you have not spoken about your product (or the second date or sex) at all. And yet, your chances of making a successful sell are looking pretty good.

What we, as marketers and salesmen have to realize is that at the end of the day, we are selling to people. And people are driven by emotions. So if you can develop a relationship and build likability through engaging, listening, and adding value, that’s half the sales cycle already completed.

So next time you’re thinking of a marketing campaign or a sales email, make sure to put yourself in your dating shoes! Do what you would do in the context of a date.

Don’t sell. Just be nice!