Sales Coach Christine Harrington

When the Prospect Puts You in the Friends ONLY Category.

How to Recognize when the Prospect puts You in the Friends ONLY category.

When the prospect puts you in the friends only category, I call it the Buddy Syndrome. This is the worst place you can find yourself in with a prospect. It’s confusing. It’s frustrating.  And you'll be spinning your wheels trying to move the sale forward. Hopefully, you’re not making this mistake….Let me explain.

When you’re dating and you meet the person of your dreams, the worst possible thing they can say to you is

“Let’s BE Friends”


In business, I see the same thing happen ALL THE TIME! Sales professionals unintentionally say things that put them in the category of “friends only” by the prospect.

Here are Clues to determine if you've been put in the friends only category

  • You've hit it off with the prospect, found a common interest and felt like there’s rapport. You've had great conversations over the phone talking about your common interest but when it’s time to buy, they’ve gone underground. They no longer take your calls or answer your emails.
  • You've “courted” the prospect by taking them to dinner, a ballgame, or given them theater tickets. When it’s time to ask for the sale, they seemed irritated or worse aloof.
  • How about this…. the prospect is engaging. You feel great about the way the business relationship is progressing. He’s asked your opinion on business trends and the competition. He's even asked your thoughts on ideas to grow his business. BUT when you move to close the deal, he says he’s “only picking your brain.” What? Really?

If these scenarios sound familiar, you’ve been put into the friends only category and the prospect only sees you as a buddy, a free dinner, beers and a ballgame, or a business resource, especially if you have a generous expense account!

You may be wondering how do you avoid the friends only category with the next prospect.

Consider this...Know your boundaries.

Some sales professionals and small business owners make the mistake of “being real”.... literally! They share too much of themselves in an attempt to align with the prospect…In other words…instead of treating them as a business prospect, they treat them like a buddy....


Because we’ve all been told people prefer to do business with their friends not a stuffy professional. And that’s true …but the buddy syndrome is taking this one step too far in the beginning of a business relationship. There is a fine line between developing a friendly business relationship and personal friendship.

It takes years to form a lasting business relationship which can develop into a personal friendship. And you want those types of deep business relationships as well. However, my warning occurs when you first meet a prospect and begin to cultivate the prospect into a client. There's a boundary you must maintain in order for the prospect to take you seriously.

If you cross that line... the prospect considers you a friend... not a serious business associate. That's how you end up in the prospects friends only category. You're just a good time Charlie with an expense account!

Let me expand….in your personal life, who’s the hardest people to sell…YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!


Because they don’t see you as a serious business person. They see you as their little brother Johnny or as Jill, their best friend who suffered from acne until she was 20!

Same thing with the prospect…if you cross over the line to personal friendship early on it’s difficult to impossible  to change back to a business relationship.

In the next article, I’ll explain how to move the prospect into a friendly business relationship without crossing over to “let’s be buddies”. I'll also tell you my personal story on how I suffered the Buddy Syndrome and what I did about it.

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