Friends key to relationships

“Clients become friends and friends become clients. Wash, rinse and repeat.”

This from LexBlog Network member Deborah Wood DuBois, Senior Marketing Strategist at Minneapolis’ Winthrop & Weinstine, commenting on Facebook to my post yesterday on how to begin networking as a professional on Facebook. The point being that networking on Facebook nurtures relationships and friendships.

So timely for me. Earlier today, I wanted to find out when my Dad started his steep decline with Alzheimer’s.

Knowing I blogged about one of my last “good” conversations with my Dad, I searched for my post about his comments on the importance of relationships in business, the subject of our conversation.

I found the post from July, 2010 and was struck by Dad’s comments about the importance of your team members getting to know your customers as friends. Getting to know their intersts, their families and doing things for them outside of business was the key to establishing those friendships, per Dad.

Coming home tonight I couldn’t help but think of clients as friends. When practicing law, with a few exceptions, I always considered my clients as friends. I knew about their interests and their families and enjoyed talking with them.

Other lawyers warned me to look at clients differently as they may turn on me later. But I always defaulted to trust and friendship.

With LexBlog, the importance of relationships and friendships remain the essence of our business.

When LexBlog President Kevin McKeown (@kevinmckeown) joined the company seven years ago, I wanted sales. His reponse was to not worry about sales, worry about relationships. Once we establish a relationship with a prospective client, a sale will follow, per McKeown.

Visting clients in New York City last week, I found it easier than ever to sit down with legal and business development professionals at the largest law firms in the world. What I once found a little intimidating, I not only felt at ease with, but I enjoyed it.

We discussed personal matters, including children and spouses, work in progress, network upgrades, and ideas for further projects.

It was if we were old friends. The wild thing is we were – at least for me. ;)

Over the years, I made the point of spending time traveling to meet with clients, whether at their offices or at conferences. I enjoyed helping them where we could and getting to know them as people.

My Dad used to chase his salespeople out of the office telling them they could never build real relationships with customers without going out and spending time with them.

He had his salespeople keep an egg timer on their desk. It was a reminder for the salespeople that the phone was no subsitute for meeting with people. Phone calls should be kept to a few minutes. I can only imagine what Dad would have thought of email.

Dad wasn’t doing business during the days of the Internet. One time he told me that he and his golfing buddies, the ROBs (retired old bastards),  thought people would be better off without the Internet. Their thinking, apparently, that talk, meetings, reading, and writing led to people to people relationships — not “communication” through a computer.

Tonight I wondered what Dad would think of Facebook, blogging and the like. Would he come to appreciate that Facebook enabled business people and professionals to get to know customers and clients, their interests and their families? To view Facebook as a place to establish and nurture friendships?

Of course Facebook, blogging and other social media are no substitute for meeting face to face. But Deborah, I, and many lawyers are beginning to appreciate that they are all about building relationships — and ultimately friendships.

Here’s Dad’s comments in full from my phone call with him on July 10, 2010.

  • Ah, relationships are what it’s all about.
  • Relationships are the key to any business’ success.
  • Getting to know your customers as friends is what you need to do.
  • Once your customers know you as a friend, and you and your team know your customers as friends, you and your customers are all working together and going in the same direction — that’s the name of the game.
  • Taking the time to get to know your customers, their interests, and their families and doing special things for them aside from business establishes those friendships.
  • You need to have people on your team who know the value of relationships and know how to develop friends in business. You then need to retain as many of those people as possible.

Thanks Dad.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Firat Sola