When Your Customers Become Your Friends

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The Sales Warrior Within | Season 2 Episode 36 – When Your Customers Become Your Friends

Andy Olen is a Sales & Leadership Trainer and High-Performance Coach. Andy works with talented salespeople, business teams, and leaders who seek empowerment, improvement, and insight. Andy’s clients strive to be the best in class.

“Good Selling, Good Leading, Good Living.” – Andy Olen

When Your Customers Become Your Friends

  • Sometimes a customer relationship evolves into a friendship.
  • Andy takes a look at this critical evolution of a key relationship
  • If a friendship is where both people want to go, then take it there
  • Be aware of some of the pitfalls or trapdoors of a relationship that is both professional and personal
  • Take advantage of the pros of a great customer/salesperson relationship migrating to a friendship
  • Happy holidays in 2022!

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Get in touch with Andy Olen @ andyolen.com. Andy enjoys engaging with the Sales Warrior Community.

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Speaker: Andy Olen

 

Speaker: Andy Olen

| 00:02 | There’s a Sales Warrior Within each of us. My name is Andy Olen, and I’m here to help you discover and empower the sales warrior within. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Sales Warrior Within podcast. This is Andy Olen. Coming to you at the end of 2022. Where did the year go? It felt like it started off a little bit slow at the beginning.
| 00:29 | Maybe that had something to do with omicron and a bunch of sales meetings, getting canceled, or postponed until the spring. And then all of a sudden, from, I think like April or May, through the end of the year, for me, at least it was just a complete blur. Nonstop, work, selling, execution, following up with people, a lot of family events, going on college recruiting trips for my daughter, the college tours and visits for my other daughter.
| 00:57 | So all kinds of activities there on the personal side as well. And all of a sudden, you look at the calendar and it’s ended December. Here we go. We’re going to close down the year strong. We’re going to open up the new year. Great. Hope your sales pipeline is looking strong for 2023. What I’d like to talk to you about today and talk with you about today is this interesting phenomenon that I think most salespeople have experienced. And that is that over time, with customers that you work with on a regular basis, a friendship might form.
| 01:30 | And develop. And a friendship that’s mutually beneficial that’s rewarding for both the sales person, the business owner, and his or her customer. And you know, I wanted to break that down a little bit, because I think there are some things for salespeople that you still have to reflect on and think about, even as the relationship that you have with your customer is moving beyond a customer relationship and is starting to move into that friendship zone.
| 01:59 | There’s still some things you have to do and be aware of both pros and cons as that evolution takes place. Overall, team, I would say that if a relationship moves from a customer salesperson relationship into a friendship and you’re comfortable with it, the other individual is comfortable with it, it’s working well for you, then no problem. Go for it. I mean, that’s just us being human beings. We’re going to build relationships with people.
| 02:28 | Those relationships in some situations will transcend the professional boundaries and move into really healthy, personal relationships as well. However, as a salesperson, you got to still manage both sides of that relationship because you have a responsibility. I could call it even a fiduciary duty as a salesperson. To ensure that the professional side of your relationship with that customer who’s also your friend continues to thrive, you don’t want a situation where the personal friendship somehow negatively impacts the professional relationship as well.
| 03:07 | Those two things can work in harmony with one another as long as you’re aware of some of the trapdoors or aware of some of the negative events that could happen if all of a sudden some conflict moves from personal over to professional. We’ll talk about that a little bit, but my net takeaway is, I think it’s a great thing. When salespeople and customers take what was a professional relationship and evolve it into a personal relationship.
| 03:35 | One, the long-term impact of that relationship is going to be incredibly rewarding. And most likely the personal friendship will last far beyond the customer salesperson relationship. Moreover, I do believe that there are a lot of really positive benefits that you get from doing business with a friend of yours. There’s trust already established. There is good communications. We’ll get into that as we talk about the pros of having a relationship evolved from customer salesperson into a personal relationship a friendship as well.
| 04:09 | And I was thinking about this recently because I just have an example of this more so I flipped the situation around. I was working with an attorney on a project. And for many years now, I actually working on this project in the projects just come to an end recently. And but what happened through that is that we built up a friendship. And we spent time going to bucks games together, going to see Wisconsin beat marquette in a college basketball game this year, having dinner together, enjoying that personal time as we work through the legal topics that we were engaged on.
| 04:46 | Now the legal topics are over, and there’s a really nice friendship there. And we joke about it, too, that even though we were enmeshed in some legal topics that the great benefit of all of this is going to be that the friendship will move on for some time. However, as that friendship evolves and builds up, it does change or impact some of the business topics you talk about. For example, with my friend, the lawyer, he would probably open up a little bit more about some of the challenges in his business with me because we’re Friends.
| 05:18 | However, in opening up about those challenges, then I start to think as a customer, are those challenges going to impact me negatively or in a neutral way. So I start to think about both sides of the balance sheet, if you will, on one side of the balance sheet, the professional topics that we’re talking about is customer sales person. On the other side of the ledger, the personal side where I welcome him opening up about his business topics with me because maybe I can help.
| 05:44 | So you can see how very quickly in this example where I’m the customer, you can get caught on both sides of this balance sheet with the salesperson or the business owner, the lawyer in this case, the account and the financial planner, where there could be some topics that you just have to be really thoughtful about. I think about this in the world of attorneys, of course, banking relationships that you may have that evolve into friendships, but there’s still money on the table.
| 06:12 | Financial planners probably have to be very thoughtful about this topic because no doubt they start to become friends with the people that they work with over time. Some of those people. At the same time, you’re investing as a customer you’re investing in your faith in that friend in that financial planner as someone that’s going to guide you in the right direction. And so you can see that if things aren’t working out on one side, say the professional side of the balance sheet, maybe the financial planner is not having a good year, that could negatively impact the personal relationship.
| 06:41 | And if there’s something in the personal relationship that goes ajar or a miss, that could impact the personal relationship. So the big takeaway here team that is that one, it’s okay to evolve your relationship, your friendship with customers, I should say, customer, salesperson relationship, as a salesperson, it’s okay to evolve that or let it evolve if both parties want to into a personal friendship at the same time as the salesperson is the business owner is the one responsible for the business side of this engagement.
| 07:17 | You just got to be mindful of both pros and cons of this evolution. So let’s talk a little bit first about the cons of a salesperson customer relationship evolving into a personal relationship. Let’s take a look at a couple of cons and make sure that you’re not falling into these pitfalls, I guess, are these traps, these trapdoors open. And you’re aware of them so you can manage through them or simply avoid them as well, which I think would be great.
| 07:46 | So one of the cons is, I think that if a salesperson becomes friends with a customer, they can then maybe ease off some of the follow-up. They can take a few shortcuts on the professional side that they wouldn’t normally take with maybe a new customer, a relationship forming, or an established customer, where that relationship is fully and solely on a professional side, and has not evolved into a personal relationship.
| 08:15 | So as a salesperson, it may feel like, hey, you know what? I’m Friends with Andy. I can just take the shortcut here because we’re bodies and we’re going to figure it out later on. Don’t take shortcuts on the professional side. Do all the same things you would do for your customer friend as you would do for a customer in any situation. Manage the relationship with excellence, no shortcuts, and no assumptions that you can just deliver in a different way because this person’s a friend.
| 08:48 | Give them, give your friend the respect of your, I would even say full time and attention. Same, because I like you because I respect you as a person, because we hang out, you’re going to get my best. Don’t do the shortcuts, give your friend and friends who become who our customers as well, give them the best of your efforts and execution. I would also say that one of the things that I mentioned earlier is that if there’s any type of conflict in your personal relationship with this customer, that can easily migrate over into the professional space.
| 09:24 | And it could harm you and harm your business relationship if that conflict isn’t put out on the table. And so that’s my recommendation. Is that every relationship is going to have its ups and downs in a relationship where it’s evolved from customer salesperson into customer salesperson and now friends as well. Just ensure that you are hyper transparent that you put all your cards down on the table that you over communicate in as many ways as possible.
| 09:56 | And if there’s a little bit of conflict, just bring that up. Do your regular relationship management. And be very, very transparent about it. I think you have to be hypersensitive about the conflict in the personal relationship, not migrating over to an impacting the professional relationship, and vice versa. If there is professional relationship conflict, put that out on the table, let’s talk about it. The good thing about being friends with a customer is you probably have great communication already set up.
| 10:25 | You’ve probably already cooperated through a lot of things you’ve done this before. So if conflict comes up in either domain, the professional or the personal domain, be transparent, put it out there. Don’t let it fester. Don’t let it linger. So those are a couple of cons you’ve got to be watching out for. You don’t want to do the shortcuts just because your buddies with the person you think you don’t have to deliver excellence know over deliver excellence because that person is your friend. You already have a great foundation with him or her. So just build on that and get after it.
| 10:54 | And I think you’ll see explosive results. And then if there is conflict on either side of the ledger, because now you’re managing both a professional and personal relationship, just be very transparent about, hey, I think we’re having a problem here. Just want to talk about it. I care a lot about you. Let’s get this, let’s get this resolved. Oh, you know what? Andy, I sort of felt the same way. I’m so glad that you brought it up. Get after it. Don’t let those things linger because it has a very toxic effect to it. So what I would say then on the other side, here are the pros.
| 11:24 | And this is where I think the balance sheet is strongly tilted towards it being fully acceptable and really healthy to be able to develop a personal relationship with a customer as well. A friendship with a customer. Here are the pros. Trust has already been established in the salesperson customer relationship. And if you’ve done business together for a while, that trust is just compounded time and time again. And you’ve created as a salesperson, something valuable for your customer.
| 11:53 | So you already have this wonderful history of trust of consistency and predictability. What a wonderful place to continue to evolve and build a friendship from you’ve also demonstrated great communication with one another. You found a way to communicate through probably some funky or hairy business situations. You know, nothing is perfectly executed and executed with total ease.
| 12:20 | So you’ve probably found a way to really nicely built a great communication, great rapport with one another. Capitalize on that. Absolutely capitalize on it. I think that’s fantastic. Leverage that communication from the professional relationship into this growing friendship as well. You’ve also shared third, you’ve shared success with one another. Nothing breeds camaraderie, nothing breeds.
| 12:48 | You know, in some ways, I would even say loyalty, certainly in the professional domain. If you create success for your customer, that customer will likely be loyal to you, loyal to your offering, loyal to your business. Loyalty or brand as well. And that success probably translates into that person wanting to be around you. When I’m around, my salesperson, when I’m around Andy, for example, things good things just happen. He’s helped me out quite a bit.
| 13:16 | And if it’s working here, and the professional domain, you know, what? I feel fairly secure that this is going to be beneficial in my personal life as well. You’ve also established a rapport with one another. You probably have a shared sense of humor in some ways or an appreciation for your senses of humor. You have an ability to sort of volley back and forth with one another. You have this general rapport. People see it around you. You enjoy it. You enjoy the energy that you get from being around this individual.
| 13:47 | And that’s really, really helpful as well. All these things are super helpful. All these things are what we’re looking for in our regular relationships. And if that relationship just has its roots in a customer sales person relationship in professional space that’s now evolved to personal relationship, there’s a lot of just really, really good foundation there that’s going to probably give you that opportunity to take this relationship into a great long-term friendship.
| 14:17 | Just be aware of the cons out there. Don’t don’t ever take a shortcut with any customer, certainly not with your friends because you think you have a different space there. Remember, even a friend, if it’s not working out for his or her business or their business, they can fire you. They can say, I got to move on and go somewhere else. So balance that. I would also say last and finally that if you’re working with a business to business environment.
| 14:46 | And you’ve developed a friendship with one of the customers continue to do the work of building relationship sales relationships with other people in that business. Spread yourself out. Your friend may not be working at that company forever. The good news is if he or she leaves that company, they may go somewhere else and bring you along for the ride, which would be great. You also want to maintain that existing business. And so if your friend leaves, you want to have enough relationship equity with others.
| 15:12 | You also don’t want to be seen as sort of just getting all the benefits because your buddies with this individual, the decision maker, but you’re delivering value across their enterprise and you’ve developed a lot of great relationship equity, great value that you’ve created across the enterprise. So don’t allow that friendship with the customer to be the only friendship or really the only I should say customer relationship you have in that account continue to broaden yourself out.
| 15:43 | That gives your friend cover and the power to say yes, because everyone else wants you. And it also diversifies your customer base in that account. If anything ever happens to your customer friend. So a lot of great benefits of becoming an evolving your relationship to friendship with your customers, just be aware of the pitfalls and you’ll be able to manage all of these relationships to success both for you and also with your customer friend as well. Team, this will be the last podcast for 2022.
| 16:14 | It’s been a pleasure engaging with you. I think I got almost 40 episodes out this year, which I’m really pleased with. Have some great interviews coming up at the beginning of the year. Also will be a guest on multiple podcasts next year. So if you like this, and you want to hear me on other shows, I will certainly make that available through my social media on LinkedIn at Andy Olen. And also, please, please feel free to reach out, check in with me at any time. My email is Andy at Andy@AndyOlen.com. And I look forward to bringing a great new content next year.
| 16:45 | And if there are any topics you’d like to talk about, please bring those my way. I love taking listener recommendations. They usually make for great shows. Team have a great holiday season, have great success as you close out 2022. We’ll see you in the new year. And until then, and as always, my name is Andy Olen. Thanks for listening to the sales warrior within podcast. Good selling, good leading, and good living.