Have you ever hugged a prospect or client? If so, did it help close the deal?
I ask because I came across a recent blog post discussing the pros and cons of hugging in business relationships, and how to determine when or if it’s appropriate.
At first I thought it was a joke, because I would never consider hugging a prospect or client. But as I read the post and subsequent comments more closely, it became clear that, for some people, this is a real dilemma – particularly when the line between business and friendship becomes blurred.
Maybe I’m just not touchy feely enough, or I keep too strict a separation between business and personal, but I’ve never found myself in a sales situation where I worried that a handshake was too impersonal. Nor have I ever had a client swoop in to hug me, no matter how long we’d been doing business together. I just can’t imagine being in that situation.
So I asked my LinkedIn friends for their opinion: Is there room in the sales process for hugging? Turns out, they’re just as conflicted on the subject as me!
Some, even those who admit that they are not generally gregarious say they have found themselves hugging clients.
“It’s not all the time and it’s only if the client initiates the hug,” wrote one gentleman. “But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I guess it would depend, too, on the industry. But whether you’re happy about closing a deal or finding a job, why stifle that happiness?”
Another, however, said she has never hugged anyone in a business environment, adding that “if someone tried to hug me I’d, well, get totally freaked out. I even try to keep smiling to a minimum because it has happened that male business partners have gotten the wrong idea, so hugging is doubtless out of the question.”
We also received some very sage advice from one man who says he has hugged business contacts regularly in Africa in the Middle East, but never in Western Europe or North America where business is less personal. He also says he’s never hugged a member of the opposite sex in any country to avoid a harassment suit and a slap from his wife.
Finally, he writes that while he never has himself, “some of my friends in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe have negotiated deals naked in a sauna. Definitely no hugging allowed in this situation.”
I have to agree with him on that one. Where do you stand on the great hugging debate?