Predator or Good Neighbor?
Friday, July 27, 2012
Posted by: Cal Harrison MBA, CMC
strangers to your consulting expertise is often a challenge but introducing it
to people you already know can be downright painful. Have you ever wondered
what opportunities you might be missing because you don’t know how to speak to
your friends and family about your professional practice?
ever felt like a predator while trying to introduce your firm and its
capabilities to a personal friend or family member, you are not alone. Our
lives often turn into silos where one doesn’t integrate well with the other. We
talk about work with our co-workers, about family with our relatives, and about
neighborhoods with our neighbors.
But what if
the person that lives next door is an executive with a company just like those
that your firm assists? Should you risk the potential awkwardness of mentioning
your services to him?
Or what about
your kid’s soccer coach, the one with the accounting practice with many clients
in your most relevant sector. Can you possibly introduce your expertise to her
without making the next ten years of watching soccer an awkward endeavor?
point, it is important to establish the difference between an introduction, and
a referral. Although they have the same goals (needs discovery, positioning,
and qualification) introductions and referrals differ in terms of their source
introduction can be offered by anyone that is aware of your position as an
expert. It is simply the process of making someone aware that you exist, and
are an expert at something. A referral is an endorsement by someone that has
direct positive experience working with you on a relevant project.
friends and family can only offer introductions as they have never actually
worked with you on a relevant project (building your deck does not count).
Technically, if you were to ask them for a referral (a form of endorsement) you
would almost be asking them to lie on your behalf. Do you see where the
discomfort starts to sneak in?
They Introduce You? And Why Would They Not?
family and neighbors will introduce you to a stranger, mention your name to a
colleague, or tell you about a potential opportunity if two things are in
place. First, there must be some reward in it for them.
immediately thought about an extrinsic reward like money or material gifts I
suggest you focus instead on social rewards like praise, recognition, and most
importantly status. It is the
difference between bribing and encouraging. And here’s where your position as
an expert gives you a very tangible advantage.
or friends introduce a well-regarded expert, they gain a bit of the expert’s
status simply via association. This is a powerful social reward.
must be no downside.
that is not an obvious expert is of uncertain value to potential clients - and
quite possibly just a poorly-disguised unemployed person. This is a difficult
and potentially embarrassing introduction for the introducer to make.
As well, poor
sales skills demonstrated by the consultant - those based on persuading or
convincing, rather than assisting, can also raise the level of discomfort for
an introducer. Why would they introduce a consultant to their colleagues if
they are worried that the consultant will simply hound them for business in an
Just like a
regular sales call, most potential sources of introduction or referral will
never bear fruit - but don’t be discouraged by this. Recognize this as the
standard and carry on. It only takes one introduction to make it all
worthwhile. It’s just that it takes a lot of introductions to get to that one
Your Expertise Known Within Your Social Circle
inspire those that will introduce you, try and show them your expertise instead
of telling them about it. For example, a press release or story about one of
your prestigious speaking events in the media will get your friends and family
telling everyone they know that they are connected to John Doe, the expert
tactic to use is to tell a story to reinforce understanding. When someone
outside of your professional community asks you at a family gathering "So exactly
what is it that you do?” reply…
"I work for
ACME Consulting. We assist American financial services organizations evaluate
and train their sales force. So for example a typical project of ours is…”
You Have to be Direct
Let’s go back
to our soccer coach example. Here’s how you should handle that one. In a quiet
moment, at the end of practice, approach the accountant/coach and say:
know that you are aware that I am little Jimmy’s Dad, but I’m not sure if you
know that I am also a management consultant that specializes in assisting
financial services firms to assess and optimize their sales force. It is my
understanding that your company does a lot of work in that sector. Now I’m not
sure if your clients ever face sales challenges but if they do, and they ever
look to you for direction, please feel free to call me. I may be able to help
them, or else direct them to an appropriate source for assistance. Here’s my
card, and would it be alright if I forward you the occasional article that I
write on the subject?”
If you cannot
briefly, accurately, and confidently communicate your unique position in the
marketplace as an expert, you can be certain that your friends, family,
acquaintances and neighbors will not either. A wise old sage once told me:
"I make sure my friends and family
understand what I do, and for whom I do it. Then, if they decide they want my
assistance, I wait for them to come to me.”
Cal Harrison is the President of
Beyond Referrals, an international speaker, and a Canadian Business Press
award-winning author on the subject of selling professional services. His first
book The Consultant with Pink Hair will be available on Amazon.com in the
summer of 2012.