The Dreaded “Friend Zone”

Has a prospect seized to make you a priority and the opportunity to close the sale is slowly dwindling? You may just have been ousted into the dreaded “friend zone!”

The percentage of salespeople hitting their quotas has dropped from 63% to 53% in the past six years, according to CSO Insights World Class Sales Practices Report. Has it become harder to form relationships with buyers?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Friend zone” as a situation in which one member of a friendship wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. Here are telltale signs you’re stuck in a business sense.

“I have a great relationship with my current provider.”
“I’m in the works in establishing a relationship with someone else.”
“They meet my needs, and we have great communication.”

These lines, and more like them, are what we hear when we engaged with a contact – one who has the power to say “no” but can’t say “yes.” And, decision-makers – who can say “no” altogether.

You may think that it is often a matter of price, but there are many factors as to why we get “no’s.”

One of the most effective ways of keeping out of the friend zone is by creating value.

This is done in several ways.

The first is by tying everything back to the customer’s business strategy. When we understand the goal of the customer, we can provide more effective support to meet their challenges. When they see that we understand their business as well as they do, they value us even more.

Creating value also means providing audience insights. Gathering information about the prospect’s audience, which customers are ideal and which to target, we sound like an ‘insider’ that understands the nuances of the customer’s audience. This means making better decisions about achieving their goals.

Your goal should be to establish a partnership with your prospect; one in which you help her improve results to achieve her goals. When she likes you, engages with you, and has a good rapport with you, you gain an advantage because you gain the opportunity to spend more time with her. This gives her an opportunity to get to know you, and fall in love with you.

So, how do we make the customer fall in love with us?

For a customer to fall in love with us, it requires a bit of “romantic seduction.” And, this art requires careful planning. Designing a customer experience is one of the most seductive ways to do so.

Leading sales reps understand the importance of building loyalty. Throughout the journey from which a prospect becomes a customer, the experience has to be there – it has to delight and ‘Wow’ the prospect. The only way to ensure this is to map out the customer journey to know in advance what each touchpoint will look like, and deliver an experience with every single interaction.

The sales team is different from any other department in your organization. Your salespeople are the frontlines of your business, acquiring new customers and engaging with them. They understand that each customer is unique with their own sets of challenges. That’s why you need to provide value by showing them that you identify their uniqueness. And, by demonstrating our expertise, we can gain their trust.

We have several choices: first, we can create a relationship of opportunity, or, we can be deprived of that possibility. The goal, undoubtedly, is to build a relationship; that’s why you need to create a strategy to get closer to the customer.

Do so by:

Understanding what drives value for the customer.
Have a strong understanding of the value you provide.
Identify customers and segments and create value relative to the competition.
Create a win-win price.
Invest in your most valuable customers.

In conclusion…

The adage “the customer is always right” is no longer true in the modern marketing landscape.
The reason for this is that the customer could be not only wrong – but they could have crossed the line altogether.

The customer is, however, always human. Keep this in mind to help you develop and communicate empathetically. Be open and honest, and actively seek feedback from your customer to improve your own processes.

Standing outside of the “friend zone” means having an entirely different relationship; one that is “intimate” in the sense that there is real loyalty between you and the customer. We need to focus on their needs for both sides to be happy.

Start by creating a real partnership with a customer; one that is intimate off the bat.

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