A recent Canadian survey found that doubling your number of real-life (as opposed to Facebook) friends has an effect on well-being equivalent to a 50% increase in income. Impressive. And it made us wonder if some of these same friends could also help generate a real-life increase in income at your PR firm.
It turns out that this can be the case, if you follow some simple rules.
The friendship has to be genuine to start. You don’t have to be the best of friends, and it’s probably better if you’re not, but the relationship must be based on truly liking each other and having a shared history, not on whether your “friend” was just promoted at a coveted tech or consumer brand company which could lead to a new account for you. There has to be a fundamental comfort level and bond that transcends business. Otherwise you may both feel uncomfortable.
Making the leap from friends to business partners must be finessed. First, ascertain whether your friend is comfortable with the idea, if only in theory, and encourage her to be candid. Then ask if she’d consider recommending your team or making an introduction, assuming there’s a potential fit. Don’t rush it; if she seems hesitant, ask her to think about it and let you know.
But be straightforward. Don’t play it coy. Be honest about wanting to have a conversation about a potential business relationship. Focus on the contributions your team could make and the relevance of your skills and experience. Above all, make it clear that if you had the opportunity to pursue the company, you’d be grateful for the chance regardless of the outcome.
Don’t look for special treatment. Aside from the expected pleasantries like asking about one’s families or vacation, once you are working together, make your business interactions all business. Avoid inside jokes or any comments that look as if you are trading on the friendship.
Ask for feedback. You should not expect or ask for special favors, but at the same time, don’t be shy when it comes to feedback on your agency’s performance if you do win an engagement. A simple “How’re we doing?” is enough to get the ball rolling.
And if you don’t get the business? Don’t let the friendship be affected. Make it clear that you understand that there are many factors at work and other company execs in the process. Be gracious and continue your friendship as usual, bearing in mind that another opportunity could always come along.
With apologies to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, If handled correctly, your transitioning friendship might just be the “beginning of a beautiful business relationship.”