There were times I struggled to understand how to have a friendly business relationship without crossing the line into a personal friendship. Some experts told me to treat prospects like cultivating a friendship, and others said keep is strictly professional. One sales manager told me, when making sales calls, NEVER ask a prospect anything of a personal nature…NEVER!
Wow…was I confused!
In my video…”DO you Suffer from Buddy Syndrome” I talked about what happens when you cross the line from a friendly business relationship into a personal relationship….If you missed the video and the article you can watch here and read here.
In this article, I’ll give you tips on how to straddle that line so you don’t lose your prospect…..
The DO’s and DON’TS of Cultivating Prospects!
Ok…so you may be thinking your prospect isn’t buying because you’re now his buddy.
Over and over we’ve heard, people want to do business with their friends not stuffy professionals. And while this is true, you still must maintain a business relationship in order for your prospect to move forward as a client. There is a fine line, especially in the beginning of a business relationship. The truth is when people see you as a “friend” early on, they stop seeing you as a professional.
Now…hear me…I have clients that turned into friends…but that was over a period of years being their trusted advisor. I first became their trusted advisor, and in turn they became loyal clients and over the years…a natural friendship evolved. I didn’t push the friendship in the beginning.
SO what’s the solution?
You need to learn to straddle the line!
Here are the Do’s and Don’ts
DO find common ground and interests.
A prospect’s office can reveal so much about their interests. One prospect’s office, I remember so well. He had golf motif wallpaper. Golf motif fabric on his chairs. A putting green ran the length of his office, with various antique golf clubs hanging on the office wall. Yes…it wasn’t hard to tell his passion! Finding common ground helps facilitate conversations in the beginning, in order to eliminate that awkward pause when you first sit down to talk.
DO include the prospect in golf outings, ball games or other forms of “client” entertainment.
Especially if you know he’s a lover of a particular sport or has a passion for a certain interest. One of my clients who turned into a life long friend, had a passion for NASCAR. He and his family came to Indianapolis every year for the BrickYard race. Eventually, over the years, they turned into friends and stayed at my house. I watched his children grow up and he and his wife watched my son grow up. One summer, they invited my son to spend a few weeks with them when I was on a business trip in Iowa. We still talk and laugh about those NASCAR days, but it all started with the first invitation to be my guest at a NASCAR Race.
DO know the prospects birthday, anniversary, kids names and spouse name.
Knowing prospects birthdays, anniversaries, etc, just shows you have an actual interest in the prospect and it’s not all about the sale. In Harvey MacKay’s book, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, he shares a 66 question customer profile (called MacKay 66) that he keeps for every customer! He believes its more important to know your customer than it is to know your product. Check out MacKay 66 PDF by clicking here. Harvey generously gives this PDF out for free!
DO know what is personally important to the prospect.
Is your prospect a board member of her favorite charity? Does your prospect support a particular foundation? Knowing what is personally important to the prospect helps you to help them by passing on information of value.
HERE ARE THE DON’TS
DON’T pretend you have a common interest in something that you don’t.
If you pretend you like golf when you can’t tell a putter from a driver, your insincerity will shine through like a sliced drive. If you can’t find common ground or interests, work on getting to know the prospect through breakfast or lunch invitations and eventually you’ll find something that syncs.
DON’T step over the line and invite your prospect to your house for a cook out or graduation celebration.
Don’t push the business relationship too soon in the process. Let it unfold naturally.
DON’T disclose personal information that you’d reveal to a close friend.
Basically, don’t get chummy because when you do, you just won’t be taken seriously. A sales person I coached years ago felt if she revealed personal information, the prospect would feel more comfortable with her, because she was “opening up.” I cautioned her not to do this. BUT she plowed forward treating the prospect as a girlfriend instead of a business relationship. When the prospect bought from her competition, she was floored. “We were so close”, she said. Oh my!
Do you have a situation you’re in right now with a prospect and unsure how to move it forward? Feel free to comment below and I’d be happy to help.
AND…Here’s a short video to watch that goes along with this article.
Thanks again for stopping by and for leaving your comments or questions below!