Tricky Business: When Clients Become Friends

I’m sure you’ve been there: you work with someone, everything goes swimmingly, your client is happy…

And over time, a bond forms. A friendship of sorts.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

You solve someone’s problem, you get paid, and you get a friend in the mix.

It happens to me all the time, and in fact I consider all my clients as friends.

And with some people, there’s a really strong bond (if that’s you: Hi! You know I’m talking to you).

But it can also be problematic.

You started out with a business relationship, and now there’s a personal, emotional aspect to it.

And that can be very detrimental for your business and the business relationship.

When you get too chummy with clients, it can literally break sales.

Happened to me several times.

Once, I’d written website copy for a lady who sold organic rose cream.

Over several skype calls and a chain of emails, we’d gotten to really appreciate each other, and we got along splendidly. Lots of laughter etc.

But the day after her new copy went live, she sent me a chat message on Skype.

“Martin Martin Martin!!!”

And I, foolishly, replied:

“Haha! Nutter! :)”

Her reply?

Silence.

Even after apologising, and explaining in an email and apologising again, never got another reply.

When she probably was simply excited to see her copy bring in buyers.

So by being too friendly and unprofessional, I destroyed a business relationship and a budding friendship.

When clients become friends, you can of course decide that the relationship continues on a strictly non-business level.

But that would be the easy way out, and besides: it wouldn’t help your client-become-friend.

After all, they started giving you money because of the product or service you provide, and now they have to go find it elsewhere?

No fair, and not nice.

There’s a better way, and all it requires is that you keep an eye on how much personal information you exchange.

A bit is good, but too much doesn’t serve either of you.

And more importantly: keep that personal exchange away from business conversations.

Because when you mix the two, and your emails or convos go back and forth from personal to business, your client no longer has a focus on the problem that you’re solving for them.

And that’s when sales can break.

So you demarcate: one section of the conversation is about terms and agreements, where you each focus on the business transaction.

And the other, well that’s where you can let your hair down a bit, relax and kick back, and exchange more personal, friend-type stuff.

Because never forget that your client came to you to get the thing you serve them with, and as long as they’re your client, it’s your duty to keep giving it to them.

And the worst service you could render a client, would be to let the friendship get in the way of that.

And you wouldn’t do that to a friend, would you?

Now, I’m not going to ask you to be my friend.

But if you want the best possible service I could give you, just get in touch.

Cheers,

Martin


Also published on Medium.

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