It is true that relationship selling can often take up a disproportionate amount of your time. Because these clients consider themselves to be your friend, they also feel free to make all kinds of extra demands and requests that you are now honor-bound to accommodate. For example, I always find that I am spending more time in meetings and phone calls with clients on my `friends list’ – even if I am not working on their accounts at the moment. This is all part of the relationship-selling territory, and if you are as people-oriented as I am, you learn to make those allowances.
But there is a downside to relationship selling as well – and you have to be aware of this before you even step into the arena. You always run the risk of getting too invested in the human relationship. The whole friendship thing. Professional differences can crop up at any time, and unless you’ve accepted the probability of that happening, relationship marketing can end up deeply hurting you.
“I think we are friends!” – this is the core phrase of relationship selling, and all is good when both parties are on the same page with this statement. As a marketer, you’re always going the extra mile for your friend-client, working extra-long hours, taking a personal interest – over and above your professional one – to make sure that they succeed. In return, the client puts a high value on your efforts and the business relationship becomes even more rewarding because it is backed by a very genuine and enjoyable camaraderie.
“But I thought we were friends!” – See how quickly the equation changes the moment you’re thinking this instead?
So what just happened?
The client decided to change the terms of your partnership or started rethinking your marketing deal, or wanted to go in another direction with their marketing plans. Leaving you behind…
This happens in business all the time. But when you’re into relationship selling, the change-of-heart can deal a body blow to your faith in yourself as a person and faith in yourself as a professional.
Currently, I am dealing with a friend-client who wants me to submit a whole new proposal and I find I am feeling the pinch – even though I am fully aware of the risks of friendship selling. My feelings are hurt, and yes, a part of me does feel cheated and let down.
There is a big lesson I need to re-learn from this experience, and I wanted to share this with other relationship-sellers out there. Chances are, you too thrive on human interaction, human connections and you put great value on friendship. It inspires you to do your best, it keeps you engaged and passionate and constantly evolving in your area of expertise.
Do all of that – and do it well, because not very many people can do relationship selling with as much authenticity as you can. But remember the downside, and be prepared for a moment when things will go wrong in the equation.
It has nothing to do with who you are or what you stand for. It’s just that small 5 percent of the time when relationship selling simply proved not to be the perfect fit after all!
Alicia is the National Business Development Manager at Mastodon Media. She is loud, in your face, and has a DEEP passion for making your business hum. Chances are she has an idea for your business already. She is an artist when it comes to seeing what you need, and getting the rest of us to make it happen.