Friendships, Not Partnerships, Win in the End
You don’t often hear the word “friends” thrown around in business conversations.
This endearing label is most often reserved for mid-week volleyball and Saturday hangouts. But as a CEO who has found modest success in creating meaningful relationships, I want to challenge the notion that professionalism and grit are the most essential characteristics of a successful business leader.
I believe that if you focus on befriending those who you meet, you’ll not only find business partners — you’ll enjoy the process.
Here are some of the most obvious benefits of making friends in business, and how to put this philosophy into action.
Why Friendship Rules Business
The best friendships are built on foundations of honesty, trust, and support — the exact same foundations on which equitable business relationships are built.
If I’m meeting you for the first time, I want to get to know you. Starting a conversation with our company’s history and capabilities seems unfitting and frankly — tone-deaf.
In my opinion, the business aspect of our relationship can naturally fall into place if it’s suitable for both of us.
Devoting time to non-business conversations may seem dangerous, but it quickly breaks down barriers and allows us to talk in a real, down to earth manner. It helps us acknowledge the elephant in the room: We might not do business together, but regardless, it’s wonderful to meet you.
How to Build Friendships in Business
Interested in the whole friendship thing? Here are my not-so-secret secrets.
Arguably the most important (and easiest) way to work on your friendship skills is to listen to your new acquaintance.
Listen to their story. Listen to their problems. Be genuinely interested in what they say.
I’ve seen many salespeople and CEOs get in the habit of dominating the conversation. The reality is, you should be doing the least amount of talking. On a similar note, some people seem to be listening but are actually waiting for their turn to speak. It’s noticeable and detrimental to building relationships.
If you truly listen to what your potential friend and partner says, you’ll be able to connect on a deep level, instill trust, and create innovative solutions for them down the road.
I get it. Salespeople are under pressure to hit goals and deadlines. This pressure can make them act in ways they normally wouldn’t. However, the best salespeople will ensure that the pressure doesn’t bubble up and cramp their authenticity.
They will make sure conversations feel natural and genuine.
The biggest thing to remember is that the people you’re talking to are getting 100 calls and emails a week from various salespeople trying to sell them products and services. If you can cut through this noise with a genuine interest in their problems, you’re already miles ahead of the competition.
When Things Go Wrong
When there is a disagreement with a friend, you hash it out and put it behind you. From that point on, your shared experience can actually strengthen your relationship.
The same applies to business.
It’s not whether or not things will go wrong, because eventually, they will. It is how you resolve the situation that can either strengthen or destroy a relationship. When things go awry, be upfront and honest. Explain how you’re going to fix it.
If you look at these unavoidable speedbumps as opportunities to strengthen your relationship, you’ll have better success at maintaining and growing them.
If you run a reputable business, this should be an easy thing to do. It’s simply fulfilling your word and delivering the best service possible. I like to mention this seemingly obvious point because I believe you’re only as good as your word.
Every other friendship-related benefit goes out the window if you’re not providing the best possible service.
Don’t overanalyze this philosophy and the steps required to put it into action. Rather, think of introductions and meetings like an opportunity to make a new friend. Ask yourself, “How can I help this person advance their interests?” No matter if that’s through my company’s offerings or in some unrelated way, we’ve taken the first step.
This simple method can help you make lasting and powerful friendships — which in turn fuel your growth, all the while making business more enjoyable.
And who knows, maybe your client will make next season’s volleyball team.