Written by Hamish Knox; President of Sandler in Calgary, Canada
Creating accountable, sales focused organizations in Calgary
Asking for introductions, from current clients or prospects, is anxiety causing for many salespeople because they’re running scripts like “you’re not worthy” or “they’ll think you’re not doing well and leave you” (actual quote from a financial services client).
With a little structure and a twist to your approach you can take the anxiety out of asking, for you and your client, and end up for higher quality introductions.
- Seek to give before you get– in his essay on “The Law of Compensation, R.W. Emerson said, “if you want more, give more.” Salespeople who seek to be a trusted adviserto their clients give them introductions first to support their business before asking to introductions. Giving before asking also triggers humans’ natural wiring for reciprocity, which makes the conversation about your client giving you introductions less anxious for them.
- Open their mind before you meet– your introduction ask will probably be unsuccessful if you spring it on your client at the end of your meeting. An unprepared client is unlikely to come up with something more than “I don’t know” or “let me think about it and I’ll get back to you” (they won’t). When you book your meeting say something to your client like, “part of what I’d like to talk about are who in my network might be a good introduction for you and who in your network might be a good introduction for me. Are you comfortable talking about then next week?” Your client will likely say “yes” unless they’re planning on firing you (and they may still say “yes”).
- Warm them up– I expect most salespeople won’t walk into their client’s office and say, “so let’s talk introductions!” even if they followed step 2. Before you dive into that item on your agenda review with your prospect your work together, specifically asking about results they’ve realized from working with you and how that’s supported them and/or their company. Warming up your client gives a mental queue that “this person has helped me. I want to help them.”
- Use a framework– once in a training session my clients were sharing their ideal prospect. One of my clients said, “anybody who…. Pays their bills on time.” Leaving aside the latter half of that statement no one works with “anybody.” We work with specific titles, types or categories of companies or people. If you’re selling B2C you may sell to specific neighborhoods or families with X number of children or individuals who participate in a specific outdoor activity. The more specific you can be the greater likelihood you’ll get introduced to an ideal prospect instead of an “anybody.” (For example, when I ask I’m seeking to speak with CEOs, Owners or Presidents (I call them “COPs”) with 2+ salespeople headquartered in Calgary). We recommend to our clients that they have 3-5 categories to share with their client because 3-5 usually turns into at least one. If your client is struggling when you ask them for who you could introduce them to ask them for their 3-5 categories, which could include “vendors for services you want or need.”
- Trap yourself to give and get– whether you currently ask for introductions regularly or not you might not be giving as much as you get. Set a goal for gives and asks (track introductions received too, but don’t set a goal because you can’t control if you get an introduction when you ask), declare it publicly (mine is 12 and 12 per month respectively) and track your results for at least 90 days. After 90 days review, adjust if necessary and focus on giving and getting introductions until it becomes a habit.
David Sandler said, “get out of the cold call business.” What he meant was to reduce your reliance on cold prospect attempts by leveraging your client relationships into warm introductions.
A focus on giving introductions takes you faster from “vendor” (commodity) to “trusted adviser” in the eyes of your client and a focus on asking for introductions stretches your comfort zone and creates more warm conversations for you to have instead of attempting to warm up a cold one in realtime.
Until next time… go sell something
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