Should you ever push products onto your friends?

Should you ever push products onto your friends?

You have a great product that you think your friends would love. But they feel that you're giving them the hard sell. What to do?

Q. How do I avoid a conflict of interest if I involve my friends in my business life? Where is the line between giving people information or selling them a product that I think could help them (knowing that if they become customers, I benefit financially), and taking advantage of our relationship to sell something? How can I keep my friends while also being true to my employer?

A. The line between friends and business prospects is a fluid one. In fact, some businesses are built expressly on eliminating this divide: think Avon, Tupperware, Scentsy, Stella & Dot or any in-home party-plan model, which encourages sales representatives to sell directly to their friends and broader circles.

But problems can arise if you think you're providing the people in your network with a valuable product or service, but they feel like you're giving them the hard sell. No one likes to be the target of an unwanted sales pitch - or feel that their friendship is being exploited.

You'll have to be careful not to be overly pushy about making sales, not to make friends feel badly for saying no to your pitches (or your suggestions that they tell their own networks about your products), and not to use guilt as a weapon to force purchases on your friends.

This is especially true if you're in network marketing, which uses parties to sell jewellery, clothing, or diet plans, among other products.

"If your business involves these kind of social sales, be ready for a lot of polite 'no' answers, and don't push too hard lest it ruin your friendships," said Christine Whelan, a clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the US.

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