Followers, Friends, Fans or Foes – The new ground rules for Relationship Management in Sales

Surrounded by the barrage of social media and the evolution in the ways and means by which people can both connect with and contact people, it is not surprising that old and reliable relationship terms like “Friends” are being redefined. You decide, is this following and traditional definition of Friends still true and accurate of the Facebook Friends with whom you are connected?

Merriam‑Webster Definition of friend.

  1. a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person.
  2. a person who is not an enemy <friend or foe>
  3. 3: a person who helps or supports something or someone.

(Underscoring of words is mine for emphasis)

It should therefore be of no surprise that when you experience the escalation and multiplication in the number of “friends” and the ease in which it can happen, and then apply this following and general principle to those resulting relationships, their sales value immediately plummets:

The more of anything you can accumulate easily, the less in value it becomes.

Or, it’s reverse

The less there is of anything and the more difficult it is to obtain, the more valuable it becomes.

Because these realities are now impacting sales relationships; a new and redefined category of ‘friends” is emerging. And although you cannot yet find it in the dictionary, all of us in sales know from experience that it is real. Everybody has their own name for this new non-level of friendship, but they all pretty much mean the same. Take your pick: fictitious friends, artificial acquaintances, fair-weather fans, noncommittal contacts and on and on…. And adding to that, the ease by which you can now “un-friend” someone, there are nowadays “throw-away friends,” or people who are seen as “dispensable” which result in initial friendships not being taken seriously or seen as temporary. So what does this entire jumbled relationship mess mean to us sales professionals?

The Good:
The innovative social technology combined with the lower resistance of people’s willingness in meeting new people, have produced increased opportunities and new paths by which you can enter into people’s lives. It is now easier to get that initial appointment; because you can run through and leverage your contacts until you end up on the doorstep of the person you want to meet. This is an opportunity for those who are taking social media seriously and becoming smart in how to use it to their advantage.

The Bad:
But once you connect, there is a new level of cynicism through which you must quickly work through to prove yourself worthy of being taken seriously. Regretfully, what this new contact you’ve just made is probably thinking when they first meet you is, “OK buddy, you’ve got my attention, now make it worth my while or move on!” The clock begins to tick against you and the expectations are steadily rising for you. (How to maneuver through this thick wall of cynicism and make it work in your favor is the subject of a future article.)

The Ugly:
The role of the future sales professional is under dramatic reconstruction. It can only go one of two ways: 1) the sales person will be replaced by the internet or a call-center, or the sales person’s value will need to be elevated to a new level of revered thought-leadership. There is no in-between. Sales professionals will be facing a binary conundrum. It will be an “up” or “out” situation in which we will find ourselves. But, one thing is certain and of which you can be assured, things WILL NOT STAY THE SAME!

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17