Just the other day, I was talking with my business coach and we somehow got on the subject about why she never allows her clients to become a “friend”.
“To become a better closer in any business,” she said, “when you allow clients to become a ‘friend’ you are making a big mistake.”
Now, some background. Lisa, my coach, is a successful author and speaker, and now she only does two things: She does massage therapy and business coaching.
How’s that for an odd combination? But, she’s one of the best mentors I’ve ever had because she doesn’t just throw ideas at me; she helps.
Anyway, after I asked why is it a “big mistake” when you allow clients to become a friend — especially when you want to be a better closer, salesperson, or whatever, she explained,
“My business is a perfect example. In the massage business, it’s a very personal experience. Meaning, there’s a lot of thinking, talking, and it’s a close-up experience more than most, right?”
“So,” she continued, “in the massage business (or any therapy, coaching, or any business where you are sharing a more personal experience — like a coach, holistic practitioner, or therapist), it’s very easy to blur the lines between a client and friend.”
“What’s the problem?” I asked. “How is that a problem at all, business-wise?”
“In the therapy, coaching, holistic practitioner business, etc.,” she explained, “when one allows the client to blur the boundaries, many things change.
“It starts slowly, like the client arrives just a few minutes late. Or, a phone call here-or-there that isn’t in your ‘time slot’.
“Then, when it comes to money, things starts going south quickly. The client may, at the end of a session, might ask a question, or he may see if you could do something that will ‘only take a minute or two’, and it starts.”
And here is the issue, Lisa explained:
When someone is a client and a “friend”, imagine what happens when you have a new program or product that you want her to buy. And, it’s inevitable when the friend asks about a “friend discount” or something similar.
And closing the sale is harder because he can just say — because of the friendship — he’ll get back to you, where there’s no commitment like a client would have.
Your own view as “the expert” becomes cloudy, too! I know a business coach where her client/friend needed advice on another issue in her business. But, because of the coach/friendship, the coach’s friend decided to seek-out an “expert” in another business coach.
And, this happened because the lines were blurred between the client/friendship thing. Her thinking was that she needed a different opinion from an expert.
Yes, I know, it’s somewhat messed-up, but this is what happens.
Then, there’s the issue of raising fees or prices.
How can you charge your “friends” more money?! If someone is a friend, they tend to stall, make excuses, or just quit.
Sure, clients may do that, but in the “real world”, most clients will accept the new prices and move on.
When I got my hair cut six months ago, they told me that the prices are going up a little. Yeah, I was surprised, but I “get it”. Prices go up in business and I just made the next appointment, as usual.
Imagine what would happen if we were friends? She would’ve hesitated or not even bring up the new price because, well, we’re friends. Get it?
Women — more than men — tend to think of their business as a friendship with their clients. Maybe, because women are more “feeling”-type people than men. Who knows?
If this what you do, now’s the time to re-learn how you’ve structured your clients in your business.
First: Realize that you can’t run your business as a friendship. It’s a business.
I remember I had a publicist who would always go to amazing social gatherings and events and I’d ask her many times, “Can you let me know about the next one?”
She never did; and I wasn’t happy about that.
However, she was right! If my publicist started inviting me to all of those social events, we’d be “friends” and not the client/publicist as we should.
She was there with her real friends, not her client/friends.
Second: Know what to say when things happen. When emergencies, lateness, requests for “extra time” or “phone calls”, etc. you need to know exactly what to do and SAY when these things come up. And they will.
So, start listing all of the things that could happen like, when a client shows up 10 minutes late. In my previous business, my schedule was a tight ship and when someone showed up late and ask for the whole session, I would say, “Oh, that would be nice. Unfortunately, I have three clients at 4:00 and then my whole schedule would conflict with the rest of my clients today.”
I didn’t need to make excuses; they know it’s not fair to ask for the “extra time” (and all of these were explained in the program when they joined, so nothing is a surprise).
In this Second Step, you are listing all of the things that usually happen and things that could happen, too. So, make that list.
Third: Create a small script for each of those items on your list.
When they need to change an appointment ten minutes before their scheduled appointment — write that out.
When you explain that prices will go up in 30 days, script it.
When your client calls you during an “after-hours” time, you know, exactly, what to say (or have in your voicemail).
Just like when you become a better closer, you know, clearly, what to do. Your clients are clients. Oh, and they aren’t even acquaintances. They are clients.
Then, when things happen, it’s not your friendship that will cause any difficulty in your relationship… because they are a client!
Closing a sale — and being a better closer and business person — isn’t just knowing the tactics and such. A lot of it is about selling and selling IN your business with the current clientele.
Keep it all separate — and your stress will be less, too!