This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Last week’s tip about the friendly computer-generated message got me thinking more about the role that friendship skills play in business, and particularly in sales.

Most of us have a natural tendency to want to keep our professional relationships and our friendships separate, often working hard to keep a solid boundary between the two.

[Tweet “#TopTip2015 The buttoned-up #business persona is NOT going to attract clients; being a #trusted friend will.”]

That’s a bad idea if you’re in professional services.

In 2005, David Maister, one of the original authors of The Trusted Advisor, published an article advocating for the blurring of those very boundaries. Maister asserted a direct connection between your ability to make friends and your ability to cultivate business:

“The way most clients choose among professionals is essentially identical to the way people choose their friends,” he wrote.

More specifically, Maister suggested that when it comes to deciding which professionals to work with, clients will choose you if you can do four things:

1 – Put them at ease

2 – Make it comfortable for them to share fears and concerns

3 – Be trusted to look after them, not just their transaction

4 – Prove you are dependably on their side.

None of which transpires from the buttoned-up business persona that many of us are tempted to assume in the name of “professionalism.”

To be clear, there is a distinction between seeking BFFs and bringing your friendship skills to bear. The latter is essential; the former a nice byproduct.

Maister asserts there are people in this world who have a talent for friendship. Are you one of them? If you’re not, are you willing to work on that?

Make It Real

This week, develop your talent for friendship. Seek out conversations with three people with whom you know (or suspect) you have little in common. Make it your mission to find an overlap; any overlap. As Maister says, “Someone can be your friend if you have anything in common. You don’t need a majority of things in common.”

Learn More


Read more about the differences between buyer screening and selection, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or refresh on the power of listening (and how to do it well) in Chapter 6 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).