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Sales Rule #74: Never Ever Sleep With Your Customers

March 9, 2009


There is a common adage in sales, “people buy from people they like”. And for the most part it’s true. Behave like a prick and you’ll see a significant decline in your pipeline.  You’ll also probably be down graded by your spouse and receive crappy service at Starbucks. So far no deviation from social norms in the magical world of sales.

Read that opening statement again: “people buy from people they like.” Nowhere does it state any correlation between buying decisions and exchanging friendship bracelets. I have yet to see a holiday corporate card signed “Best Friends Forever” but every day esteemed gurus throws up some new nutty fad, so you never know.

In fact, as a sales manager I am suspicious of any business relationship that starts off with “my fraternity brother’s Mom’s chiropractor got me in front of so and so at Big Corporation.” I also downgrade any forecast that has “she likes me” as the primary reason for closing this quarter.

My objections coincide neatly with the five digits of my right hand; fortunately I can’t think of a memorable five letter acronym to add the dictionary of contemporary corporate babble.

1) Business relationships driven by personal acquaintances are often unqualified. We meet people we like whether we have a business requirement or not (and most people don’t have a need for your product otherwise sales would be a lot lower paid occupation). Strangers are harder to get in front of but face time generally only gets scheduled when there is a genuine opportunity. Meeting buddies makes us feel busy and gives us great weekly reports but nine times out of ten the business isn’t really there.

2) Working exclusively within the confines of your personal network is quite limiting. Sure, it’s nice and cozy within our comfort zone but it rarely represents the most direct path to signing a deal. The individual who can build a business network founded on industry insight and competence will generally out perform the socialite. In reality we need a bit of both and perhaps James Bond wasn’t a bad role model in this respect but like I said in the title of this post, I wouldn’t recommend sleeping with your clients.

3) Which brings us neatly onto numero trois: a business association is a lot easier to work within than a personal relationship. Generally after the excitement of lap dancing with a sales rep or sharing every detail of a messy divorce there is limited interest in bringing the same individual into the boardroom. Once you cross into a client’s personal space (and this definitely includes sleeping with them) business becomes a lot more complicated. Save your antics for that movie script you’ve been working on – keep your business life simple.

4) From time to time clients will make unreasonable demands; at some stage your company will screw up. They’re certainties just like taxes and death. A solid business relationship is the best starting point for working through these inevitable issues without the added complexity of people taking things personally.

5) Business relationships are remarkably fickle and contrary to popular belief the abuse frequently flows upstream from client to supplier. I have known a lot of “customers” that have used their vendors as an alternative to anger management and dropped the most committed of partners for a 5% price discount. (It’s not just in marriage that you hear “but my partner’s not like that…” it happens in business too) Sales involves a lot of rejection whatever way you it cut and you must keep some separation between your personal pursuits (especially if it involves hotm semi-naked hot yoga classes) and getting a purchased order signed. To survive you need friendships you can rely on out side of work.

In summary sales put you in front of a lot of people and is probably the world’s most relationship driven occupation second only to working for the Bambino crime family. (Luckily getting “fired” in sales usually just involves collecting a pink slip). If you can only do business with personal friends you’re significantly limiting your potential market… And then how are you going to buy your yoga buddies a round of green tea at the weekend?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2009 1:33 am

    so in summary:

    connect with others … but not too deeply?


    • The Closer permalink
      March 9, 2009 1:46 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. I think it is the “type” of connection that is more important than the depth of the connection. I lot of people treat business relationships like they do personal relationships and that compromises both aspects of your life. Cool avatar by the way.

  2. mintorogo permalink
    March 19, 2009 12:05 am

    People buy from people they like, it is true. It is about how we sell our product, it is not about sell our self.
    Irawan Mintorogo

  3. August 22, 2009 11:08 pm

    Love your blog! Look forward to coming back and seeing more!

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