Customers as friends

Do you consider your customers to be your friends? This week, I am helping facilitate a sales training class in Dubai, and we discussed this as a group. In the Middle East, where relationships rule, it is very common to consider your best customers close friends. Much time is spent learning about one another before sales transactions occur.

In different parts of the world, there are varying degrees of relationship-building time required before the sales process can move forward. In the Northeast United States, a very hectic work style may not allow much time for “getting to know” one another before the dialogue of “rates and dates” occurs. In the Southeast United States, more time is typically needed to gain a greater understanding of each other before committing to business details.

What happens when these customers no longer give you business? Don’t they then become just “friends,” and wouldn’t this require you to rethink the amount of time you are spending with them during normal business hours?

A salesperson that I know was very good friends with a customer, and unfortunately, this client lost her job. The hotelier maintained the relationship (and friendship) while many of the client’s former hotel friends disappeared during the unemployment. When she acquired a new, even better role, she was no longer loyal to her so-called friends who abandoned her.

Is it okay to be friends with your customers? 

Please share a comment about the importance of relationships in doing business in your part of the world.