The Value of Trusted Introductions
When I consider what has helped me to create success in my career, within my sales consulting practice and within the various leadership roles I’ve had, the value of trusted introductions is near the top of the list. This has taken the form of introductions from current clients to decision-making peers in their network, sponsoring high-level events that will put me in the presence of my key decision makers, meeting with community leaders through my non-profit work, and key partnerships.
I’m not alone. According to a Sagefrog report, referrals rank as the top source for quality leads with nearly two-thirds of B2B companies. My anecdotal research aligns. When I conducted a recent event with a firm that provides a premium private client wealth advisory service, I asked the group to visualize a service they themselves used often. Then I asked them to detail the steps they took in how they came to the decision to use that service. Over 80% of the audience relied heavily on an introduction to start their decision-making process. In addition, the growth of their current client base can be attributed to trusted introductions.
This article will focus on how to get trusted introductions. Whether you’re a sales leader or an individual sales professional, introductions can accelerate your sales strategy and sales prospecting success.
Introductions are Vital to Sales Strategy, But They’re Often Under-Utilized
We know that introductions work because we’ve used them successfully in our own decision-making processes. We know that introductions increase our initial credibility and can lead us to decision makers and key stakeholders much more quickly and easily. We know a conversation with a warm introduction is often more energizing and productive than one that begins with a cold outreach.
Even though we know this strategy works, it often goes unused or under-utilized, primary due to fear of rejection, fear of appearing opportunistic, or need for a process and accountabilities. I’ll offer some strategies to integrate into your sales development process.
The Goal of Strategic Introductions: Earn Access and Provide Value to Decision Makers, Influencers, and Stakeholders
Introductions are about first impressions and initial conversations, with the added credibility that comes from the connection being made by a trusted source. One element of your introduction strategy is identifying who you would like to meet and how you might be connected to those individuals.
- The network of your current clients: who are they connected to that are in potential decision-making or influential roles?
- Who are the business partners or suppliers of your clients? These aren’t just in their network, but people they do business with where you might be a valuable resource.
- Can you leverage an introduction into another segment of a current client? In your larger clients this might be another geography, subsidiary, or business unit.
Whether you’re a sales leader or an individual sales professional, introductions can accelerate your sales strategy and sales prospecting success. @amyfranko #modernsellerClick to tweet
Introduction Strategies to Improve Your Sales Prospecting
- Peer forums. This gives you a platform to be a connector of people to one another and to new ideas. These are by invitation only, where you bring together your current clients and prospective clients who in a decision-making capacity. It becomes a consistent way for you reach out to new decision makers with value, and it provides an environment for you to bring unique thought leadership. A peer forum can also be a revenue generator, whereby clients pay a fee to be part of this exclusive group.
- Direct requests and passive introductions. Both strategies can work, but my preference is to ask for a specific introduction to an individual decision maker or influencer. When I know who my clients or those in my network are connected to, or I have a specific organization where I would like to be introduced, I can then have actual names to request an introduction. If I don’t have a specific name, another approach I use is to share who my ideal client is and what problems I solve for them. This can work with networking partners, and of course with my best clients, I would love to work with more clients just like them.
- Purpose of the introduction. When I request an introduction, I aim to be clear on the purpose and the value of having a conversation. My purpose strategies include: a peer-level networking, a specific need or triggering event where I have expertise, a marketing or thought leadership opportunity, or with an existing client it’s often to learn more about areas of the organization where my expertise could be a fit.
- Clarity on your brand. When someone doesn’t know you but they’re being introduced to you, that initial credibility needs to be backed up by your brand value. For example, I work with CEOs and sales executives of growth-oriented companies on sales performance. That ranges from strategy, to skill development, and to innovation around a specific problem or challenge. That clarity can help others to visualize the value in a conversation with me, and they can also easily find my thought leadership on these topics.
Weekly Activities to Add Introductions to Your Sales Process
- Linked In / Sales Navigator Lists. With your key clients or influential people in your network, build a curated list of their connections who might be a fit for you to meet.
- Local business book of lists. In your local geography, there are likely lists of top organizations that are curated in a variety of ways. This is the reverse of the above strategy, in that if you have key focus accounts, you can then see how you are connected into them. You can then craft a more specific introduction request.
- Be selective with your requests. Let’s say for example I have a client where I’d like to expand into another area of the organization. I will do my own homework to identify 3-5 possibilities for introductions. I’ll then ask my client who might be the best fit, or if they have other input. That way I’m asking for one introduction at a time, versus the risk of over-using my social capital by asking for several introductions at once.
- Quarterly introduction focus. Like any strategy, an introduction strategy requires focus. A good starting point is the number of clients you need overall, and then the number of quality conversations you’d like to have each month. A subset of those conversations will be with current clients, and a subset of those will be with prospective clients. Introductions then have a place in reaching that overall goal. For example, if your goal is to earn 10 new clients this year and your close ratio is 30%, you’ll need 30 prospective client conversations. If you have a warm path to those conversations, you’ll improve your odds of reaching the right decision makers and earning their business in the future.
Would you like to accelerate your sales growth? We can help.
Don’t let your competition get an advantage. We can help. If you want to know how to improve your sales growth strategy, or you’d like an outside perspective, let’s talk. Contact us to schedule a conversation with Amy.