Have you recently found yourself struggling to balance customer relationships that teeter between professional acquaintance and friendship? If so, you're not alone. This challenge has become ubiquitous in the sales world due to the nature of sales conversations that have been occurring over the last several months.
When the pandemic hit, there was an abrupt halt to sales conversations. Customers simply weren't buying, and they certainly weren't receptive to sales professionals who appeared at their virtual office doors trying to sell something to them. Sales professionals quickly realized that, in the absence of being able to sell to customers, they needed to do something to at least stay in front of them. This meant altering the nature of their customer conversations. Sales professionals began to focus more on personal check-ins with customers as a way to stay in touch and build trust with them rather than trying to directly sell them a product. Although it's always been a best practice for sales professionals to focus first and foremost on building trustworthy relationships with customers by continually checking in with them, it's no secret that doing so became even more necessary and prevalent during the crisis.
With everything going on in their worlds, customers have had a lot to get off their chests over the last few months! As a result, many of these customer check-ins likely turned into deep, lengthy conversations as customers vented their frustrations, fears, and challenges - both personal and professional - to their account rep who was willing to listen. It's no surprise that after all these months of lending an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on, sales professionals have become confidants and even close friends with their customers!
But now, perhaps you feel trapped in between friendship and making a sale. You know a lot about your customer, have developed a bit of a friendship with them, and perhaps don't want to make them feel as if you're taking advantage of them. This is where you need to re-evaluate your role as a sales professional. Your primary intent is always to help your customers solve their problems and reach their desired outcomes. Everything you do, you do out of consideration for them - to help them.
Both you and your customer know that you originally became acquainted with each other so you could help them fill a business need or close a gap at their organization. Although things may have gotten personal along the way, you are still there to help them and their business. And they know that, too.
As you move forward with "business as usual," remember that you can simultaneously maintain a professional relationship and a personal relationship with customers! A professional relationship and a personal friendship both center around the same foundation: trust. Because of this, the personal bond you have built with your customer can strengthen the professional relationship you have with them and vice versa. As long as you're always focused on helping your customers solve the problems they've presented to you, then it's safe to say you're successfully balancing your personal and professional customer relationships!