Does it make a lot of sense to be afraid to ruin a relationship with a customer by being straight forward and asking for the business? I think it makes no sense at all. If we truly believe in what we are selling AND we are committed to being customer focused—then toavoid being straight forward and having that frank discussion with your customer about what we really believe is in their best interest makes no sense. For example: “I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my customer by asking for the business.” I feel there is something very wrong with that statement. It sounds like that sales rep has confused their business relationship with a personal one. The reality is that business and personal relationships are different—and each type actually has its own purpose and optimal way of communicating.
To begin with, a business relationship develops based on the foundation of one objective—to help you do your job. Yes, it helps to be friendly with your customer, and to develop a relationship with that person because people do prefer to do business with people they like. But it is important to keep top of mind that the driving force of that relationship is business. The reason you are talking to this person is to get the job done. We know that if a person likes us and is friendly with us then they listen to us differently. And that is what we want. We want them to listen to us differently than they do other people that are trying to get their business.
Personal relationships truly are different as the term “personal’ implies. There is a personal connection between the two of you. As personal relationships develop, the level of intimacy grows. You tend to share a different side of yourself to your friends. You may notice the difference in your language…more slang and curse words are often used among friends. In a professional environment, work colleagues tend to be more guarded in their verbiage and more selective in sharing their personal thoughts and opinions.
We have different expectations of our friends than of our professional colleagues. We tend to be more open in telling our friends when we are disappointed with them and hold back from telling our boss when we have a problem.
You have the option of choosing your friends but often have little or no choice as to who you work with. It is not unusual to work with people that you don’t naturally connect with. And because relationships do matter it makes sense to make an effort to develop a relationship with your business colleagues. But what is important is to keep in mind is the professional nature and the business slant to that relationship.
You may find that over time, you develop a more personal relationship with your customers and colleagues. Regardless of this friendship, it pays to remember that the business relationship remains the priority as long as your business roles continue to be the same. Often individuals get promoted or change jobs and still maintain those business contacts. It is not unexpected that these business colleagues continue to help us attain our business objectives in our new roles as well.
One of the most common problems in the work environment is the failure to understand the distinction between business and personal relationships. If you are in sales, it is never appropriate to feel that you will ruin the relationship by asking for a sale—for that sale is the reason you are there talking to that person in the first place. My advice is to remember the distinction between the two and keep top of mind your business objective. Asking for the business is expected in a customer relationship and you won’t get the sale unless you ask for it. Nor will you ever be seen as valuable if you are not advancing ideas with conviction that really help these people we like…..whether they are personal or business friends.