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Go Slow—Become Friends

Good relationships will help you build referral partnerships, win more clients and bring them back time and time again.

By Jeffrey Gitomer

Billy, go out and make friends with Johnny,” your mother used to say. Wow, mothers were smart. They understood the fundamentals of becoming connected: Make friends first.

As friendships blossom into relationships, report cards on their strength and quality pop up from time to time, especially when things go wrong. In sales and customer relations, the quality of your relationships will determine the outcome of events when there is a problem or an issue with cost, quality or service.

The power of the friendly relationship
I’m not saying that if you have a great relationship you can ignore important issues and skate by; I am saying that a great relationship will act as a buffer and allow all problems and issues to be resolved harmoniously. And just to put “the power of the friendly relationship” issue to rest, it is also the single biggest factor in bringing clients back to you.

The rules of business are not as tough as the rules of relationships. Relationships are hard to develop, take time to mature and must be nurtured along the way. But once they are developed, they are the most powerful force in the business world.

Big proof: Look at the customers you wish you had. The main reason you can’t get them is that someone else has a better relationship with them than you do.

Here are the key words and thought-provoking realities that will lead you to rock-solid, rich relationships:

  • Give value: You strengthen relationships by giving value to the people you’re building them with—not by telling them facts about you. For referral partners and business clients, for instance, give them leads or put them in front of contacts who might lead to business for them.
  • Tell truths: You build relationships by telling the truth, even if it hurts or embarrasses you.
  • Beat goals: Have an achievable plan. Win big. Develop self-confidence by winning bigger than you expected. Self-confidence is attractive. Clients are especially attracted to it.
  • Get more knowledge: Have as much knowledge about your relationships as you do about your company and your products and services.
  • Have answers: Be a resource. Get to the point where they consider you a source of information rather than a salesperson.
  • Tell stories: Stories help people relate. Tell them one, and they tend to tell you one back. Stories are personal. Stories are revealing. Stories are truth.
  • Tell how: Explain how you have built relationships with others and tell how you will do it with them.
  • Find links: Part of the relationship-building secret is to break the ice. Find something in common—a link that ties you together. Nothing like growing up in the same town, having gone to the same college or having worked for the same company! Gathering information lets you know where to start.
  • Use links: Find the stuff that helps referral partners and business clients build their business, and surprise them with it.
  • Get personal: Use personal information in a creative, sincere way.
  • Be there: Stay in front of your clients without an agenda (asking for the sale). Just earn the sale with valuable information they can use.
  • Be friends: Perform acts of friendship as well as acts of business. Have fun. Do nonbusiness things with your clients and referral partners.

Here are some special clues for building a successful relationship with your clients:

  • Secret clue: Need additional information on a potential business client you’re trying to link up with? Easy. Call his sales department—they’ll tell you everything.
  • Relative clue: Want to know more about what makes relationships succeed or fail? Look close to home for the answers. Your mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and spouse and kids have all the answers you’ll ever need.
  • Friendship clue: After you study your family relationship characteristics. Study your friends and the way you communicate with them. Notice something different in the way you communicate with best friends as opposed to businesspeople? It’s relaxed, more truthful and less manipulative—try that with your clients.
  • Reality clue: How you treat others is determined by how you treat yourself. Are you qualified to build a relationship? Do you possess the characteristics of giving first, professionalism, self-esteem, self-confidence, honesty and integrity—qualities that are needed to make relationships work?

The real secret
If you think you have it all together, think again. You must work on yourself as much as you work on those you seek to relate to. Looking for a way to evaluate your capabilities? The biggest judgment you make each day is the one in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning. Reflections don’t lie.

Want a great checklist and self-test to check your personal improvement? If you’re brave enough to take the test, it will reveal exactly where you are on the personal growth chart. Go to, register if you’re a first-time user and enter “lifelong learning” in the GitBit box.

(Excerpted and adapted from Gitomer’s latest book, The Little Black Book of Connections (Bard Press, 2006). Copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey Gitomer.  All rights reserved.

Jeffrey Gitomer is an author and speaker, with best-selling books such as The Sales Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling. For his free weekly e-zine, “Sales Caffeine,” and other sales resources, visit




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