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Marketing / Business relationships

Is being friends with clients a good idea?

Often in business we put up a ‘guard’, but is this the right way to generate new leads? Here's why being friends with clients is a good idea.

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Micro business masks

Using a co-working space recently, I found it very difficult to be ‘myself’ even though the people around me weren’t potential clients. All of us were putting across a persona of our ‘best’ selves.

Performance versus authenticity

Unlike social settings, in a business environment we don’t like to be our authentic selves or to show vulnerability. Perhaps it’s because we want to impress potential customers and sound knowledgeable in our field? But none of this performance, in reality, is as important as these two things:

  • The quality of our work
  • The quality of our referrals

It’s no secret in the Flying Solo community that most business owners gain the majority of new customers through word-of-mouth referrals. But many of us still take a more passive approach, waiting for our work to do all the talking. Or, we put in more networking efforts by creating a large but ‘shallow’ network, hoping it will deliver.

This approach is too slow

As business owners, we know we can deliver, but the problem is that potential customers don’t trust us yet. They need someone else to vouch for us first.

"I challenge you to forget your sales pitch and just be yourself. As a result you’ll remove the stress of performance and be more relaxed and approachable."

So doesn’t this mean we should focus on adopting wholesome relationships in order to foster trust? What better way to do this than by being friends with clients?

We trust our friends.

Forget the elevator pitch

With all this in mind, I challenge you to forget your sales pitch and just be yourself. As a result you’ll remove the stress of performance and be more relaxed and approachable, which opens up the possibility of developing authentic connections.

From here, you can cultivate more genuine relationships. Take the leap and ask someone you’ve met (and like) to just hang out. Don’t even consider what they can potentially do for you, because the moment this happens you will try to impress them.

Pretend you’re in high school again 

Be vulnerable. In school, while rejection was prevalent, we didn’t have concerns over ruining chances of potential work by appearing too needy, so it was easier to seek out friendships with our guard down.

Try being friends with clients

How would it make you feel if someone in a ‘professional’ setting showed interest in your friendship? Probably thrilled! (After all, so many of us work alone and are starved of regular social interaction.) So why are we so afraid of initiating being friends with clients?

You’ll get referrals 

The truth is, when someone is simply attracted to your personality, it’s easier to develop a relationship based on trust and integrity. This person is far more likely to think of you and offer referrals, because they trust you.

In addition, because the referral comes from a more genuine intention (an invested referral), the people receiving the referral will take it more seriously.

What you’re doing is setting up a culture of people who value the cultivation of trusting and long-lasting relationships.

If you let down your guard and spend more time being friends with clients, you will be feeding your network in a more wholesome way, which will result in better referrals.

What are your thoughts? Do you think being friends with clients and prospects is a good idea?

Sonja Meyer

is a graphic and brand designer who works in print, web and user interface design. She works with an holistic approach that leads to more human-focussed and sustainable design outcomes.

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