Career Growth On The Job

When Customers Become Friends: 3 Ways to Separate Business From Personal

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Traditional business models warn strongly against mixing business with personal life. Of course, this is for good reason. The waters get clouded when too many emotions are thrown into the mix.

However, the way we build professional relationships is rapidly changing — laying this old business model to rest. Social media and new marketing tactics revolve around putting business leaders’ and sales pros’ personal lives on display. Top marketing professionals use personal stories to connect directly with customers.

Medical sales jobs are no different.

These roles focus specifically on creating meaningful, long-lasting relationships with customers. It’s not simply about the sale. Now, it’s about who you’re selling to and how your relationships can have mutual business benefits.

The challenges within each relationship, however, are often complicated. Some customers don’t want anything beyond a salesperson-customer partnership. On the other hand, there are customers who become close friends with their sales reps.

As if medical sales jobs weren’t complicated enough. Now we’re throwing in out-of-the-office meetings, discussions of personal lives, and even incorporating families into the relationships.

Without proper care, these valuable relationships become dangerous. Following a few simple rules, however, will help you separate business and personal.

Here are a few tips to pull the two apart while keeping healthy friendships and customer relationships intact:

Know your limits and stick to them

Some people are simply better at disconnecting their business and personal lives. They can easily see where one ends and the other begins. When friendships are formed, these personality types easily navigate the waters without damaging either relationship.

Unfortunately, this is often more challenging for most people. Medical sales jobs require you to have a caring personality. At times, this caring becomes overwhelming for any one person to handle when balancing a business relationship that has passed into friendship territory.

The key to separating business and personal is understanding your own limits. If you struggle to detach your emotions from one situation to another, you’ll want to limit your time with customers who are friends. Keep the interactions simple and easily enjoyable.

Host personal gatherings with no business allowed

As a medical sales rep, it’s hard not to talk about business. It’s your livelihood! But when you’re friends with customers, it’s critical to take business completely out of the equation at times.

Now, I do not mean you should forget they’re customers altogether. It’s important to keep that in mind for boundaries’ sake. However, be intentional about keeping business talk out of your personal gatherings. For both you and customers, talking about sales is work. And where there’s work, tensions have room to arise.

Setting aside specific time to give your closest customers — and yourself — time together without any mention of business shows you value the friendship outside of work. As a result, their respect for you as a friend outside of the office and as a sales rep inside the office will grow.

Both of you will grow to understand the importance of keeping the sales talk to the office, making it easier to keep business and personal separate.

Follow the motto “This is business, not personal”

“This is business, it isn’t personal.”

What a tough pill to swallow. For starters, how can it not be personal when you take your sales job so seriously? And when a customer becomes your friend, this mantra becomes ever more challenging to follow.  

But the truth is — one day, even your favorite customers will say no or try to talk your price down lower than you can go. Their decision isn’t based on your poor cooking at last weekend’s bar-b-que or the fact that you made a horrible joke about their football team.

It’s simply business.

They’re focusing on what’s best for their business, their patients, and their bottom line. If you carry the emotions from a lost sale into your personal interactions, awkwardness and ill-feelings will destroy the once strong sales relationship you had.

When a tough situation like this occurs, be sure to ask for the specific reason behind their rejection or request for lowering the price. You’ll have more insight to improve your opportunity for future sales and you will improve your ability to rationalize with yourself to keep tensions low.

How do you separate business and personal when customers become your friends? Let us know!