Beware of the Salesfriend
Throughout our lives we have best friends, work friends, gym friends, girlfriends, boyfriends and a whole slew of other other friends that come, go and often stay in our lives. These are good relationships. We love these people.
And then there’s the salesfriend.
The salesfriend is someone you think is a real friend but is really only interested in your wallet. And how to get hold of it.
Salesfriends invite you to lunch, friend you on Facebook and call you often. When you haven’t seen them for a while, you’ll get the ‘I miss you’ message and the ‘call me!’ message. When you finally reconnect, there’s always that request to buy something from them or give them something for free.
My first experience with a salesfriend occurred while searching for a new house. I didn’t have an agent and was just looking at random houses listed in the paper or attending Sunday Open Houses. At one of these Open Houses I met an agent who seemed to know exactly what I wanted in a house. Let’s call her Joan.
Joan and I got along so well that the next day I signed her on as my buyer’s agent and we began spending an afternoon each weekend looking at houses. My husband often joined us on the house hunting trips and we got along so fabulously that Joan often brought her husband as well.
Eventually, we found our dream house and went through the often frustrating settlement process – all while Joan and I talked about the four of us getting together after the settlement for a cookout, or she and I going shopping, and a multitude of other items for our ‘to do’ list.
The settlement was on a Friday and we moved in that weekend. I called Joan the following week to see what she was up to. She never called back. I emailed her. She never responded.
In fact, I never heard from Joan again.
Joan was a salesfriend. Nothing more.
I’ve had other experiences since then, none as blatant though, and none that didn’t take me as long to recognize. Here’s just a few:
- The guy who expressed for years what great friends we were until I caught him using my name to get past gatekeepers. When I asked him to stop, he screamed into my voice mail about how I wasn’t a very good friend.
- The woman who called me her BFF until I stopped buying cosmetics from her.
- The man who asks me to lunch so he can ‘pick my brain’ about how he should market his business…..you know, since we’re ‘friends’.
- The gal who constantly calls me looking for referrals – who I’ve never done business with and have no clue if what she sells is any good
I can guarantee that you’ve had at least one experience like those above. And if you are like most people, you hope it is your last. Here are a few tips to keep you from falling victim to the salesfriend again.
Don’t BE a salesfriend
Sometimes we can become so involved with our own business relationship cultivation process that we become salesfriends ourselves. Don’t pretend to like someone just to get a sale or business lead.
It’s hurtful, rude and disingenuous. It won’t do much for your business either. For example, although I loved the house I purchased and the process went relatively smoothly, I never referred anyone to Joan.
Define the relationship early on
When invited to breakfast, lunch or dinner for the first time, there’s nothing wrong with asking ‘why’. In fact, I’d highly recommend it. There’s nothing wrong with an invitation to listen to a pitch – it’s a necessary part of the sales process. But pretending it is not a sales meeting is simply rude.
Also, I recently changed my outgoing VM message to request the caller’s name, phone number and reason for calling. If I don’t get those three things, it is unlikely I will call back. The reality is that I get approximately 30 phone calls a day. Too often I get messages such as these:
“Hi Jeannine, it’s Bob Smith. I just need to ask you a quick question. Call me when you get a chance.”
“Hi Jeannine, it’s Sally Jones. Please call me asap.”
“I received your contact info from a friend. My name is Tim Smith and I’d appreciate it if you could call me back some time today”
In the above scenarios, the callers were either people I had never met or people I had met only once or twice. Bob wanted me to recommend his services although I had never used Bob’s services or knew anyone who had. Sally wanted me to buy face cream that was on sale that day only. Tim wanted to sell me a car wrap with my logo.
Don’t be afraid to be blunt
Most of us are instinctively polite and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But with salesfriends it’s better for everyone all around if you are blunt up front, even if it means bruising an ego or two.
Be clear that you are not interested in purchasing what they are selling or that you only recommend those you’ve done with business with. Be clear that ‘picking your brain’ will result in a bill for the consultation even if its over lunch.
Don’t confuse ‘notworking’ with ‘networking’
The former is believing that hitting up your friends for business or referrals is networking; that those you know somehow ‘owe’ you new business or business leads.
The latter is developing business relationships based on verified good business practices, and mutual trust and respect.
Off you go now….time to get rid of those salesfriends.