Work Friendlier, Not Harder

hands friendly smile

There’s a self-help aphorism I keep coming back to that goes, “The universe will keep sending you the same lesson until you finally learn it.” Human nature is what it is; sometimes, even when you think you’ve learned a lesson, you may need to relearn it again.

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the harder you have to work to get someone’s business, the less it will pay off. The more adversarial the client thinks the relationship is, the more hoops you’ll have to jump through and the harder you’ll get squeezed, nickeled and dimed every time you turn around. It will get to the point that you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” A recent experience that reminded me of what I thought I already knew. But first, a little exposition:

Here’s a thing that some people don’t grasp about business relationships: they’re relationships.

Believe it or not, like every other kind of relationship, business relationships work best when both of you actually like each other and get along well. Sounds crazy, I know. But it’s true! Do business with someone long enough and the lines blur between the professional and the personal. You will talk to each other about life and family, sometimes more than you talk about products and profit.

Honestly, some of the biggest purchase orders I’ve ever seen came in after all we did was tell each other about our dogs. A good business relationship is a two-way street: both parties get something positive out of it.

Now, back to my story. Not long ago, an old business contact resurfaced. They’d been quiet for a few years but now had a new venture. So I reached out to them, partly to see if my products and services could be of use to them. Frankly, in the intervening years, I had forgotten what a pain they were. Within two or three follow-up appointments with them, it all came back to me. The concessions demanded. The ever-escalating asks. The lack of follow-up on their part, with just me doing the chasing.

Back in the day, it was definitely a one-way street: being asked for the moon, and getting little back in return. Author Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I’d like to think that I’m wiser as well as older, so recognizing the same patterns repeating I consciously disengaged. And the fact that they haven’t reached out to me since I disengaged tells me what I suspected: They just weren’t that interested.

Rather than beat your head against the wall, trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, there are better uses of your time and energy. Whether you’ve only known them for a month or more than ten years, look after the needs of clients who actually appreciate everything you do for them and are always happy to see you.