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Selling to friends?! There are very few topics that make my clients recoil in disgust faster than tapping into their friend circle for clients, but I’ve learned this subject comes up and time and again with my high-touch service providers.
For example, one of my clients looked around at his peer group of highly-accomplished gay men and identified that most of them wanted to feel more connected to themselves, their relationships, their work, and the world. So he created a first-of-its-kind coaching program to help them step more fully into life, purpose and impact…
…which meant he had to invite his peers, colleagues and friends into a sales process.
Another client spent years as an administrator in the financial services industry. When she realized how much need there was for solid financial information and support for women and other under-represented groups in finance, she became a financial advisor…
…an industry that very much relies on selling to one’s “natural market” (i.e. friends and family).
Both of these clients have enormous capacity to help and support their friends — and yet they both experienced degrees of confusion, anxiety and resistance around selling to their closest ties.
But here’s the deal. If you truly believe in the gifts you bring, if you deeply know that you can help your people, who are you not to try?
When done right, selling to friends is overflowing with love, grace and integrity. If you’re inspired to sell to a pal, here are my top 3 pieces of advice:
1. Follow your sales process. The No. 1 mistake you can make when selling to a friend is to become too relaxed and laissez-faire about the whole thing. The temptation is to treat the sale like a casual hangout and not like a business deal, and that’s a mistake. When we get too relaxed, we don’t set expectations, we don’t diligently book follow-ups and we focus too much on not being “a pushy salesperson” and not enough on concretely connecting the dots so that our friends see the value in what we’re offering.
2. Stay curious. With friends, we run a high risk of making assumptions about what’s working, what’s not working and what they really need. Do a proper discovery. Even if you think you know, invite them to open up about their pain points, challenges and deep desires. Uncover all the ways you can help. If done right, these conversations can bring you even closer together as pals.
3. Set clear boundaries. Approach these deals with transparency and sincerity: You’re really passionate about what you do, and you’re curious if you might be able to help — but be clear that your friendship comes first. My approach is generally to ask if my friend thinks it could be beneficial to hop on a call and explore whether or not I might be able to better help in a professional capacity. I say we’ll keep it to one call, and if we then decide to explore further, we’ll be very clear when we’re wearing our “friend” or “business” hats.
If you’re still feeling resistance to selling to friends, it’s time to ask yourself a tough question: Do you believe in what you’re selling? Beyond that, are you inspired and motivated by what you’re offering? If so, there should be part of you leaping out of your seat to share the results you bring with the people you love — so keep practicing.
Oh, and let’s not forget — read the room. If your friend is a “no” (verbally or energetically), move on swiftly. Over time, as they see more and more of your amazing results, they’ll likely be back!
Got more tips on selling to close ties? I’d love to hear them! Share in the comments below.