Do you seal the deal with a hug?

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?

6 thoughts on “Do you seal the deal with a hug?”

  1. Now that I think about it, I have several clients who hug me every time they see me which is usually a few months between meetings. I never initiate, but it’s never weird. It’s always other women – never men.

    Maybe it’s a southern thing – hugs are like handshakes in the South!

  2. What about kissing, or, more like “bussing” like doing business in Europe or with Europeans…including co-workers and boss?

  3. I lived in Hawaii for a while and found my Sales Manager and male coworkers on more that one occasion kissed a female customer on the cheek. This is also a common way that women greet eachother in Hawaii and is considered friendly and polite, much like in Europe. Personally, I would only do this if the customer were female. Here on the mainland US, I would never hug a male customer. If a female customer were very friendly, like what Jill describes above, I would be comfortable hugging her.

    I think it is important to refrain from being too familiar during business interactions as it can weaken your bargaining power or resolve. Being too familiar with a customer in a business environment can affect the level of respect your customer recieves from his or her employees or coworkers and affect your sale as well. Friendships with customers outside of work should remain sepparate from the business environment.

  4. I think this is a business specific thing. I am a sales manager for a healthcare equipment company. When our equipment improves the quality of life of a patient, yes, I have received hugs from the wife of the patient and from social workers or nurses that ordered our piece of equipment. Saving lives and improving quality of life issues are pretty awesome events.

    I have worked with the same manager for 12+ years. We are a team and good friends. Hugs are usually the order of the day during trying times of personal strife, holidays and celebrations. Maybe, I have been fortunate to have those kind of relationships in my professional life.

    I, also, own a very large Amway Global business. In that context hugs are always given and received. It is that personal of a business. There are people that I have been involved with their lives for years and haven’t heard from in a long time. they always come to me when we meet and they expect to get a hug.

    There was one time, where the hug was out of bounds. It was a Christmas party (eve of Christmas Eve) and I asked if the office manager would like a hug. She said yes and it was side ways hug (arm around the shoulders and light squeeze). Well, I had a sexual harrassment suit filed against me. I immediately terminated the contract believing there were more issues than I wanted to deal with.

    Bill King

  5. I definitely hug my customers. Both male and female.

    Also, in Mexico, it is very common to hug and give a peck on the cheek.

    You have to do what is comfortable to you. This, of course, depends on your background and personality.

    I am a hugger, my clients know this and it is never taken the wrong way.

  6. Hugs are personal, period. I find it tacky (and sexist due to the fact that is mainly more normal for a woman be either on the giving or receiving end of a workplace hug) that some would assume that a hug is alright. If there is a personal relationship with a prospect or a customer, a hug is acceptable because the PERSONAL relationship exists. If it is a professional relationship, i.e. no outings etc that are not in some way tied to work or have an professional end goal in mind (i.e. that golf outing, nice dinner party, etc) then a handshake is appropriate.

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