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Friend or Foe?

They say in all aspects of life and at all ages, we are selling ourselves. In business it’s a necessity to sell our products or services in order to survive. The cliché that “everyone sells all the time” is very true no matter what your role in an organization.

We hear from sales consultants frequently about how you need to network, go to associations and other events and get involved. Build relationships within those organizations in order to sell and get business.

It’s 100% true that it’s much easier to get business from a friend than it is to get business from a stranger. Some businesspeople like to work with friends in good times and work only with friends in bad times.

I’ll push back in the other direction, as selling or buying with a friendship angle can have many pitfalls from the clients’ side. Today in business, many count on their association attendance and socializing abilities and put business competency and customer service on the back burner.

Who you know is important but there are many successful businesses, if not most, that don’t rely on this sales strategy to be successful. I truly believe that people who are poorly trained or companies poorly run will typically gravitate to this strategy as it’s easier than the work required to run a high-performing company.

You see this at just about every trade show and association event: companies giving away gifts, schmoozing, buying drinks and people hired by organizations just because they are reasonably attractive. These folks want to be your friend and sell you everything they have … even if you don’t need it.

I get turned off when someone tries to sell me something which is in their best interest and not the best interests of my organization.  Is that a form of deception?  Maybe. “How can you tell if a salesperson is lying? His lips are moving!” This joke becomes even more cynical when you add a personal relationship into the mix.

We hear frequently here at PBI about how a new client used a particular vendor through this association or that event, got to be friends and now use their services or purchase their products. Unfortunately we also hear too often that the level of service is substandard or the product is poor.

The damage can be the same if you hire a friend and the company behind them is incompetent. From my own experience, the damage is usually worse as people tend to put off firing a friend or holding them accountable due to the personal relationship, and delaying the inevitable allows things to spiral further out of control.  

I’m not saying not to hire friends and acquaintances, that’s not realistic and an imprudent strategy. I am saying that when the level of friendship supersedes the level of service, it’s time to take the advice of not doing business with this particular friend.

If you are going to hire a friend or acquaintance, at least set clear ground rules up front. Make sure both sides understand what’s expected and that poor service won’t be tolerated. Let them know beforehand that friends or not, the expectations are no different.

Having clients or hiring vendors based on their abilities and maintaining that relationship for many years with excellent customer service cannot be beat.  Friendships come and go, and so do poorly run businesses.  Make sure you’re not mixing friends and business with a friend in a poorly run business.  

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations.  Send him a friendly note at