I’m a friendly guy.

Those who know me know that I start conversations all the time, with anyone in range of my voice. Elevators, buses, out on the street, anywhere. I’m a people person in that I am genuinely interested in other people and what they think and why. I’m often hit with some version of, “No wonder you are good at sales, you’re a relationship guy, and sales is all about the relationship”.

That’s not quite true, and there is a double edge to that sword that is lethal to sales success if you are not careful. Being likeable and sociable is a good trait to have in sales, but there is a huge difference between being likeable and needing to be liked. They key element of a healthy client relationship is trust, not friendship, or at least not the definition of friendship most people use.

Consider who your real friends are, and how they interact with you, compared to people that you are “friendly” with. There’s a huge difference.

Real friends tell you the truth, especially when you need to hear it. Friendly people try not to offend or disturb you.

Real friends care about your well being, and they care about it more than they care about if you like them in this specific moment. People you are friendly with often don’t want to take any risk for your well being, especially if it involves potentially making you mad at them.

Real friends will call you out when you are wrong. They may do it in a loving and supportful way, but they will do it. They value real friendship over politeness. Someone who’s friendly with you will let you get away with the worst of comments or behaviors. They are not invested in your success, just in their comfort level.

When someone tells me that “sales is all about the relationship”, it makes me think “Yeah, but what kind of relationship?”

I’m friendly with many, many people, but I have few real friends. Studies have shown that what prospects value most of all is honest and direct feedback. Yes, they enjoy being treated in a friendly manner, but they do not enjoy phony attempts at being their friend.

Your mission as a salesperson is not to make friends. My financial advisor isn’t my friend. Neither is my dentist. My AC repair guy and I are also not friends. I’m friendly with all of them, sure. The value they bring to me is their expertise and their knowledge. I value them even more when they are willing to stop me for doing something stupid in their area of expertise. I would hate for my dentist not to correct bad dental hygiene behavior because he doesn’t want to offend me.

You’re not an advisor if you allow your clients to make mistakes that you could have helped them avoid because you wanted to be “polite”. Only vendors do that. Vendors get replaced as soon as another vendor comes in 5% cheaper. Advisors are trusted and clients value that relationship far beyond paying the lowest price.

You do need a good relationship with clients to have sales success. That relationship doesn’t mean being friendly and affable as a core concept. Provide valuable advice based on honest assessments and feedback. That’s what real friends do.