Single Blog Title

This is a single blog caption

Selling In The “Friend Zone”

“I just don’t think I need a relationship first. I don’t need to be best friends with someone to attend a Tupperware party, etc.”

This is what a direct seller said to me, verbatim, in a private Facebook message after messaging me back and forth about her sales “strategy” for getting me to attend a Zoom call for her new business—hair products.

Apparently, this approach works for her. She revealed that her conversion rate was “really good” as she had already recruited 21 people in two weeks and sales were “decent.”

Her initial approach rubbed me the wrong way and only got worse as she responded to my questions about her tactics.

How it all started

She had never reached out prior to sending the following message:

“Hope you are doing well. I am hosting a virtual hair party this Sunday for 30mins with my amazing new products. If you can attend and if you are able to invite some friends to you will earn 20+% off your purchase and prizes! Would you have any interest in learning more?”

I ignored the message. Frankly, I couldn’t remember who she was or how we became “friends.”

The next day she sent me Zoom links and promotional pictures.

I responded with “???”

She said she thought she knew me from a networking group or maybe from a mutual friend, followed by:

“I started a new business and am having a short Zoom call tomorrow at 8 p.m. Was wondering if you might want to attend.”

Of course, as a sales trainer, I couldn’t help myself and asked why she thought I would want to attend. When I told her that her messages were completely out of context, she responded that she was also reaching out to small businesses and meant no offense.

I’m guessing because maybe she thought I would be a potential down-line salesperson for her team and her approach was to throw out a giant net to entrepreneurs looking for side hustles.

Don’t be random

I said I wasn’t offended and was simply letting her know that I thought her approach was spammy. I also suggested some ways to warm up her audience before randomly inviting people to sales pitches.

Obliviously, she responded with “just having a 30 min get together on Zoom – just something fun – no purchase has to be made.” followed by, “Honestly I don’t like it when people pretend to want to be my friend first and then try to sell me something later.”

What?!!! How does she not understand how, as humans, we feel the need to help our friends? Why would anyone want to buy from someone who is not being a friend?

Ahhh, now I got it! She wanted to skip the niceties and go straight for the sale!

And she kept responding…

She continued to say the following:

“Just figured we are all in the same boat and I have a really great product that might help people. That’s all.”

“Just trying to be honest. I have a great product and am trying to put it out there. Usually I could have in-person meetings but now that is hard.”

“I am more of an upfront person. I know that it is about establishing a relationship etc… but to me that seems deceitful.”

“I sell hair products and they work so I am just putting it out there – If I make friends along the way that’s a bonus. I really thought that as women in business we can support each other. That’s all.”

The conversation finally ended with her saying she didn’t think she needed a relationship first and that she wouldn’t invite me to any future events.

Relationships matter, especially in sales

Why, why, why would anyone ever think relationships don’t matter? We are wired for relationships. We want to feel like people love and care about us. And when we feel this, we are more likely to buy. No one wants to feel like the “means to an end.” What’s truly deceitful is failing to establish a relationship.

Clearly this person was stuck in her ways and doesn’t see the value of relationships. If she were open to it, I would have suggested the following ways to build rapport:

  • Do your homework about the buyer:
    Remember how you met, reference how you know each other and ask something specific about them.
  • Find a common denominator between what you’re selling and why they might be ideal clients:
    In this specific situation, she could have commented about my hair. Frankly, I have amazing hair and people comment about it all the time. Surely, she could have come up with some kind of hook connected to my personal situation.
  • WORDS MATTER! Be confident, especially with your words, in your approach if you’re going to be an “upfront” person:
    This seller used the word “just” (a weak word) a lot in addition to “That’s all.” This flippant style doesn’t make me feel like what she’s selling is important enough for me to take an interest in it.
    And my favorite: “Just trying to be honest.” If you have to try, I’m wondering if you’re honest at all.
  • Don’t make assumptions about or label your audience:

“Just figured we are all in the same boat.” And what boat is that? Find out what’s going on in your prospects’ worlds and let them tell you if you share a boat.

  • Niche yourself and become an expert in one area, not several, so that you can establish credibility.
    The woman messaging me is a real estate agent, wine consultant and hair consultant. Pick a path and then nurture your audience.
  • Don’t be lazy!
    You’re fooling yourself and making excuses if you think it’s deceitful to become friends before selling something to your friend.
  • Be open to feedback.
    If potential clients tell you how they want to be treated or approached, LISTEN! Meet them where they are.

A final word about the value of relationships

You can build relationships with prospects that are not ideal prospects, but they could be referral sources. Don’t just write them off and say “I won’t invite you to any future events.”

Practice Improvised Intelligence™ by focusing on making others look and feel good. It’s the quickest way to build a relationship.

Additional Resources:

MORE ABOUT GINA TRIMARCO

Gina Trimarco, CEO/Founder of Pivot10 Results and Carolina Improv Company, is a serial entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in marketing, sales, operations and people training. A Chicago native, she was recruited to Myrtle Beach South Carolina in 2007 to take over an IMAX theater after successfully turning around the one at Navy Pier. When the economy crashed in 2008 she opted to do something seemingly impossible to many by starting an unproven concept business instead of finding a new job. That business, Carolina Improv Company (CIC), has been #1 on TripAdvisor for Nightlife Attractions in Myrtle Beach, SC since 2010. Soon after that, she founded Pivot10 Results, a training and strategy company that helps businesses and executives shift from people problems to performance results. through soft skills training and coaching. She graduated from DePaul University and studied at Second City while pursuing her degree in Communications. Trimarco produces and hosts two podcasts: The Pivotal Leader is and Women Your Mother Warned You About. She also is an official Vistage Worldwide speaker and training content provider for Jeb Blount’s Sales Gravy University.

Leave a Reply