I’m a really bad friend. I don’t return calls, forget to answer emails, cancel nights out and never follow up invitations.
Then I thought: so what’s wrong with adopting a formal approach to ‘Friends Management’, the same way I do prospects and customers? Actively scheduling followups and tickle dates etc as you would at work?
After all, a friend relationship is no different to a customer relationship – they’re both meetings of minds, between people who like each other, and you both want something out of it. (And if you reformat the idea for friends of the opposite sex, ‘tickle date’ can be much more interesting than merely contacting someone on a specified day.)
So on Jan 1 I started putting my ‘friends database’ into salesforce.com. From now on, I’ll be building ‘friend relationships’ in the same way as running a sales pipeline, charting the progress of a friend from first contact to breakup in analogous stages to customer acquisition & retention, as follows:
Identify new opportunity – see someone at the bar or gym etc you’d like as a friend
Initial contact – get name and other data from friend of that friend
Pre-approach – start nodding ‘hi’ to friend prospect when you see him/her
Initial communication – start chatting to friend prospect
Initial response – listen to friend prospect’s chatting
Fulfill initial response – smile brightly and press for further info to make friend prospect more responsive
Further contact – phone or email friend prospect to say hi
Analyse opportunity – see if friend prospect will add value to your friends database, for example, if he/she is a low-maintenance ‘work friend’ or potential Best Friend
Needs assessment – is friend prospect likely to be the sort of friend who’ll call you at 3am with a problem, or will the relationship be more equal?
Develop solution for customer – decide what kind of friend role this person would best fit into, for example the Sports Club Friend, the Drinking Friend, or the Friend who’s a Friend of Someone Else and you Only Know his/her First Name
Present solution – propose an informal basis for a friends relationship, for example a monthly beer session
Customer evaluation – guide friend towards deciding if you can deliver him/her a long-term value add, such as introducing them to your friends (if female) or being the cool person everybody wants as a friend (if male)
Negotiation – the informal banter that goes on when splitting a bill or buying a round – valuable ‘friends insights’ can be gleaned from this behaviour
Revised solution presentation – decide if the friend is turning out as you expected, and revise your own appeal to this friend if not
Commit to buy – after 2-3 months, assign the friend a category (Best Friend, Good Friend, Friend of Opposite Sex) as a basis for your future relationship
Deliver solution – maintain programme of contacts and outings
Follow up sales – learn about friend’s interests, hopes, and dreams, and be a good listener so Friend will consider the relationship worth maintaining!
As each Friend Prospect travels down the funnel towards Friend status, I will maintain momentum with a ‘relationship management programme’ of scheduled phone calls, text messages, emails, and face-to-face meetings, each planned to build on the existing relationship and offer the Friend Prospect value at each stage. Never again will I call someone up I haven’t seen for a while, and discovered they’ve moved house, got married, and had two children in the meantime.
And that’s what friends are for!