When I first started in business back in 2000, I was told that, in the corporate world, it wasn't appropriate to be friends with customers. Business was business and personal was personal, and never, ever cross the streams. The result of this way of thinking are vast numbers of people in corporate America gaining a split personality – the “business” them and the “personal” them. This is a false reality that is now detrimental to the success of a business.
Many years ago I realized there is no point in being someone different simply because I walk through the door of job. And extending that to customer relationships – why can't I be friends with customers? Are they going to suddenly take advantage of me in someway? Might they see my shortcomings and suddenly jump to the competition?
What fear drives us to believe that we cannot be 100% ourselves with our customers, and that we must put up a facade in order to attract people to our businesses?
I believe it is the same false, limiting belief that tells us we must be all things to all people in order to be successful.
Just the other day Hugh (our National Director of Sales) and I were speaking with a prospect who had not decided on the types of customers he and his business partner wanted to work with. His forward momentum was being blocked by the same belief I held for so many years – that his service could help so many folks that he should go after them all. For many of us our products and service can, in theory, help the masses, however that doesn't help your business. Believe it or not, you will have much more success when you specialize. And with 7B+ people on earth, I'm sure there are more than enough customers to help make you successful.
But I digress. Back to the point of being friends with customers.
Jay Abraham calls all of his customers clients. He uses the term client because it implies a different relationship. When you have clients you are looking out for their well being. When you have customers, the value exchange is purely transactional – you trade me money for a product. I call our clients friends.
Friendship is a relationship between two people who hold mutual affection for each other.
I have affection for our clients. We don't work with just anyone – we work with people we believe in, people that are benefiting great numbers of people.
Pete and Dean at SagePresence help people get over their fear of speaking so they can land multi-million dollar deals. At the core though, they are helping those people gain confidence in themselves, and remove fear. That's important stuff!
Rachel Kerr Schneider at Spirited Prosperity helps people access their faith in order to overcome the harsh trials in their lives, trials like ALS and other afflictions. That is important work!
Josephine Geiger, through her stained glass art, brings joy, peace, inspiration and art into the lives of countless thousands. We can all use more of those qualities in our lives!
I count everyone I mentioned above and everyone we work with not only as our clients but as my friends.
Can you scale friendship? You bet your ass you can.
When you have mutual affection, you have friendship. When caring is present, you have friendship. When you are looking out for the well-being of another rather than simply exchanging business value, you have friendship.
Now I'm not suggesting you fawn and drool over your clients. As with any relationship there must be boundaries, so be sure to set them. One side should not take advantage of the other. That's not a balanced relationship. However, don't let a false belief hold you back from having a more quality relationship with those around you.
When you are friends with your clients, which I highly recommend, you will realize that you are surrounded by loving and supportive people. That kind of knowledge can literally change your world. It has certainly changed mine.