Friendships are a natural aspect of business. We work closely with clients and are bound to create a rapport. However, too much emotional interaction can cloud sound business development. Professionals need to keep a healthy separation from emotion and business.
I recently got a question from a service technician, Cheryl, who had just lost a large account to a competitor. She was writing an "I'll stay in touch and let me know if your needs change" letter in hopes that the client would return in the near future. She asked for some feedback on her draft. After discussing how and why the account was lost, we crafted a letter that spoke to those issues in an attempt to put her in the best position to re-engage the client in a timely manner. In reading the letter it struck me that Cheryl was lamenting the loss of the relationship and never outlined the business goal of how and why she and the client should maintain contact. One item that especially stuck out to me was that she had signed the letter, “Love, Cheryl”.
While I certainly advocate close customer relationships and forming a strong bond, I told her emphatically "no", it is not okay to sign it "love." Furthermore, the letter needs to be more on topic of the business ramifications. Cheryl needed to understand that this might be a personal communication for her because she had formed a friendship with the client, but technically it’s a business letter about a business event.
Cheryl was uncomfortable with sending a letter that seemed sterile to a client she had developed a bond with over years of working together. I agreed that she didn’t want the letter to be perceived as standoffish or uncaring, so I suggested adding a personal touch by delivering the letter by hand. Cheryl did so. This gave her the ability to tell them how much they meant as a client and how she valued the personal relationship.
Both Cheryl and the client agreed it was an unfortunate scenario that they had to move on but they would maintain lines of communication and jump at an opportunity to work together in the future. The letter provided a conversation starter to discuss the business impacts and how Cheryl might be able to help them in the future. Based on Cheryl’s action plan and how well she handled the severance, I have no doubt that she will be the first person the client calls when a need arises.
We’re not looking to be like mobsters in gang movies, “Nothing personal, it’s just business.” It’s great that Cheryl had developed the relationship to a point where she considered using “love” as a closing, but there is a real danger in the emotion usurping the business purpose. A client relationship should be a strong bond but never at the expense of business objectives.
Uncover the emotional gap between where your prospect is right now ... and where he or she really wants to be.