Friend or Client? When You’re Too Close for Business

There are some clients that are going to be straight to business, and straight to the point. There are other clients, though, that will want to pal around, and will want to mix business with pleasure.

While it’s okay to have a good rapport with clients, things get a little tricky once they start calling you just to chat, or wanting to meet you for coffee. Suddenly the dynamic changes–as does your relationship.

Without the right boundaries, your business relationship can quickly fall apart. This could mean losing money on favors, cutting rates and even working for free. After all…who wants to charge their buddy?

To avoid this, you are going to want to set boundaries. 

From the get-go, the nature of your relationship with your client should be strictly professional. If you need to wine and dine them to close a deal, fine. But, you shouldn’t be inviting them to your wedding.

I’m not saying that if you meet someone and really hit it off that you can’t become friends. Just don’t let every friendly interaction confuse you into thinking that you’ve made a new buddy.

You’ll also want to stay firm.

If you have a price in mind when you go into the business interaction, don’t change the price point because you both like the same baseball team.

Stick to your guns, and make sure that your client understands that no matter how much you have in common, they still have to pay full price. You shouldn’t give discounts because someone is a Cubs fan!

Finally, you’ll want to stay AT LEAST business casual.

These days, most younger business people want to keep things somewhat loose. Instead of stuffy interactions, they want to be able to loosen their tie a bit, and discuss a business deal over a couple of beers.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you also won’t want to lose yourself in it.

Stay professional when you are going out with your clients, and at the very LEAST, keep things business casual. You shouldn’t owe any apologies the next day for bad behavior.

Lighthearted interactions with clients and potential client will help you to build a strong rapport, and will allow you to connect on a human level. If you get too lighthearted, though, you’ll lose track of the reason for the entire interaction–to do business.

When you are doing business, it’s okay to be friendly…just don’t try to be everyone’s friend.

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