The power of friendship in business
A reader recently confessed to me that she struggles with reaching out to her contacts, prospects, and clients. When she first meets someone, she does great! It’s only following up or reaching out to them afterward where she struggles.
She just can’t seem to get herself to do it. Her business is suffering because of this, and she knows it.
There’s a long list of reasons why creative hustlers hesitate to reach out to their people. It could be shyness, anxiety, fear, awkwardness…the list could go on and on.
As an entrepreneur, it’s really tough to admit that our feelings can stop our business from flourishing. Even worse, they can be solely responsible for the failure of our business. No one wants that!
Today, I want to talk with you about why it’s actually critical that you bring your feelings to the forefront and use them to develop strong relationships with your clients and contacts. Though it’s tempting to keep every client in the comfortable “business” zone, there are several reasons why developing friendly relationships are vital to your success.
Friendship can pick up after us
Not too long ago, I was visiting California. I find this such a lovely and happy place to be, and the people are the same!
One day during my stay, I remember waking up at 8am for a meeting with a client. I don’t check my email early in the morning, instead usually waiting until after 10am.
I hopped on a GoToMeeting call and waited patiently. The elevator music during my wait played as I prepared my notes for the meeting and took a few sips of my water.
Fifteen minutes had gone by, and my client hadn’t joined the call yet. I thought this was out of the ordinary, since my client is rarely late. So I finally checked my email just to make sure the meeting hadn’t been canceled.
Nope. The meeting definitely wasn’t cancelled…it had already happened!
My stomach dropped when I realized I was in a different time zone. Yikes. I joined the meeting two hours late!
I quickly called my client to apologize.
She picked up right away: “Luis! So good to hear from you!”
I immediately apologized for missing the meeting and explained that the time difference threw me off.
“Yeah, we were worried about you since you never miss a meeting,” she said.
I replied, “I’m so sorry for that.” I felt awful.
“No worries! I’ll let the team know you’re safe and sound. We know how you like to travel, and we hoped nothing bad had happened to you.”
She then went on to explain what I missed during the meeting.
After we hung up, I took a moment to think about how her reaction wasnothing like I expected.
While I expected my absence to disappoint her, in reality it worried her. When I called to apologize and explain, instead of feeling indignant, she felt relief and even happiness—much like a friend would.
That’s the power of friendship.
When you truly befriend people, everything is better in life and business.
Contacts are more willing. Prospects are more receptive. Clients are more invested. You are more dedicated.
If you struggle with taking the lead and making contact with people you know, then perhaps you’ve failed to truly befriend them.
I firmly believe that friendship should supersede business relationships. This way, even if the business relationship doesn’t work out, the friendship can still exist.
A good friend of mine was suddenly let go by his employer. He decided to start his own freelancing business, and he landed his first five-digit project a few months later. To his surprise, the person who referred him to this client turned out to be his ex-boss!
That’s the power of friendship.
Although their business relationship had ended, their friendship prevailed; when his ex-boss had an opportunity to help him out, he didn’t hesitate.
Later on, his ex-employer needed someone for a project and offered him a full-time job again. By this point, though, my friend was enjoying his business so much that he declined. Instead of letting him get away, the company hired him as a contractor, and they’ve actually hired him multiple times since then.
None of that would have been possible if there were hard feelings about how the initial business relationship concluded. They were able to do business again under a different context (which actually worked better!) due to their friendship.
That’s the power of friendship.
So, how do we truly befriend our people: contacts, prospects, and clients?
Over time, I’ve witnessed powerful friendships that supercede business norms. The more I think about them, the more I see patterns and commonalities between the people involved.
Let’s discuss some of these.
Transparency goes a long way. When I think about people who have attained great success, this is a characteristic they almost always have: they’re not afraid to be themselves.
Transparency = Authenticity
People gravitate to those they feel are real. Transparent, authentic people are simply easier to connect with because they put more of themselves out there. Transparency in relationships also helps you accept others for who they are, even when you disagree with them.
Ways to invoke transparency:
- Build your business to reflect who you really are. Things like your online presence, the way you dress, what you write, and how you talk should match the person your clients would bump into on the street. In other words, you should be recognizable!
- Accept that there’s no need to act like you know everything. It’s okay to admit to a lack of knowledge, but make sure to promise further research.
- Be honest about your experience. There’s no shame in learning as you go…just make sure to price accordingly!
- Don’t brand yourself as ultra-successful when you’re really not.Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s important to be real about that process.
The way we do business is beginning to evolve. Just like we gravitate to the transparent and real, we also feel more connected to those who are personal.
My philosophy is that creative hustlers shouldn’t shy away from being personal in business, and thus shouldn’t be shy about mixing some business with their personal life.
Personal = Relatable
When you’re personal about business, you also become relatable. Whether you’re in the board room or the break room, people are always attracted to those who are relatable.
Being relatable makes you easier to connect with. Even if the folks around you don’t say a word, they feel more connected with you, and their actions will reflect it.
For example, you’re reading this right now because we connect by the mere fact that we’re both introverted creative hustlers. See? That’s how it works.
Ways to invoke personality:
- Tell personal stories. Just make sure you don’t drag them on! Funny stories usually do the trick, as well as stories about failure and success outside of business. Talk about your kids, friends, family, etc.
- When you converse with people, say their name often. It helps them stay engaged and know that you’re connecting with them personally. You know who they are!
- Invite people out to lunch or coffee, and talk about things other than business. It’s fine if business comes up, but aim to connect on a more personal level.
- Send an unexpected gift. Call or email someone to just say hi and briefly catch up. You know…do things a good friend would do!
Who doesn’t like a dependable person? This quality (or the lack of it!) will be magnified when you attempt to do business with someone.
Dependable = Professional
When someone knows they can rely on you, they trust you. That’s what a relationship is all about: trust.
When friends trust each other and know they can depend on one another, it’s a powerful thing. The last thing you want is to be the flaky friend no one can depend on!
When a client knows you’ve got their back, they feel a deeper connection. They know you’re looking out for them, just like a friend would.
Ways to invoke dependability:
- Do what you say and say what you do. In other words, follow through. It sounds simple, but is truly one of the hardest things for people to do.
- Be considerate in notifying your client about any unforeseen hurdles you’re having in a project. Comfort them by letting them know you’re doing everything in your power to resolve the issue or move the project along.
- Let people know when you’re running late, or give them advance notice when you need to reschedule. Ideally, you wouldnever need to reschedule, especially at the last minute.
- Meet your deadlines. If you say you’ll have something ready by a specific day or time, have it ready. Period.
A generous person has lots and lots of friends. Generous people don’t give because they expect something in return; they give because theycare.
Good friends are like that too. Think about some of the best friends you’ve had in life.
Were some of them generous? Did they help you when you needed it, even if you didn’t ask?
Generosity = Caring.
This is a major key when it comes to prospecting. (I’m reminded of DJ Khaled every time I say “major key!”) At its base, turning strangers into friends and friends into clients is about giving. Those who are full of prospects and run healthy businesses are generous with their knowledge and time.
People appreciate that, you know! Watching someone go out of their way to help when they don’t have to leaves an incredibly strong positive impression on strangers and friends.
Ways to invoke generosity:
- When someone has a problem, offer some ideas for potential solutions. This can be links to useful articles, an introduction to someone who can help, or simply a mini-brainstorming session on the spot.
- When you’re out with someone for coffee, lunch, or dinner, pay for them. It’s a kind gesture and people are grateful for it.
- Overdeliver anytime you can afford to. Add an extra small feature, report, session, or whatever else it looks like to overdeliver in your business. Those little details count!
- Promote people. Share that course, article, or product that helped you. Give feedback. Connect people to others.
Friendship is simply better.
If you aim to truly befriend your people (regardless of whether they’re contacts, prospects, or clients), you’ll have a much healthier business. Your doubt, hesitancy, and shyness to reach out to your people may not go away, but you’ll be able manage it all much better!
Reach out to someone you’ve been wanting to reach out to… right now. The feelings that stand in your way may still be present, but reach out to them anyway. That’s what friends do.
That’s the power of friendship.