Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Doing Business With Friends - June 13, 2015

If you’ve been in sales for even a little while, you’ve most likely run into the scenario or possibility of doing business with friends. As a sales person you may feel like it is your lucky break or a guaranteed close. But, more than any other type of sale, one with a friend can be the most dangerous.


I was in a meeting with a client recently, the VP of Sales, and she asked me for some personal advice. She had recently entered into a consulting engagement with a new client of her own, and one in which the president of the company was a personal friend of her husbands, and things weren’t going so well. She was running into a situation where this gentleman was calling upon her to bend her company rules, do more work without being billed, etc. She needed some guidance on how to best handle the conversation with the client and to set the record straight on what is to be deemed their personal relationship and their professional relationship.


Having run into this scenario myself not too long ago, I shared with her the approach I took, and she seemed rather appreciative.


Having too close of a relationship with a client can cause communication issues at any point in time, but it hits even harder when the client is a personal friend first and becomes a client second. The likelihood is that this person has heard you tell stories (possibly horror stories) about the office or clients. Without realizing it, they may try to change your approach to business because of something you shared with them in the past, in an effort to better suit their own needs.


Moreover, your friend may also take an entirely different tone with you because of your relationship, which may skirt the bounds of professionalism. And, what’s worse, they may want you to give them preferential treatment over other clients.


So how do you avoid these issues?


Well, this easiest answer would be to not do business with your friends. Of course, that may also be easier said than done. So, my recommendation is to have a very open and honest conversation about the rules of engagement. Set the record straight up front about how your company operates and works with clients. Make absolutely sure your friend is fully aware of these rules, and whatever you do, make sure you have a witness to this conversation both from your company and from your friends company.


And, to ensure that the business relationship is handled smoothly, and with minimal interference to your personal relationship, assign someone else as the point person in the business relationship. It may be a subordinate if you’re in management, or it may be your manager, or it may be a peer. You should find someone that can handle this scenario in a professional and confident manner and your friend must accept that you are making the introduction and then stepping aside.


You should never allow a friendship to be diminished due to a concern in business, and you certainly do not want your career to be jeopardized by a bad decision in sales. A true friend will not only agree, but will expect nothing less.

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