In a recent article published by Social Advisors, company President Charlie Van Derven suggests it is far easier and more productive to ask people to make “introductions” rather than referrals.
“The best referrals are unsolicited. They come to you as a result of the exemplary service you provide and the relationships you’ve built, not because you ask,” Derven said.
He goes on to suggest that asking for referrals can be a painful and awkward conversation, and that it is most often equally as awkward for those being asked. There are many reasons why people are reluctant to make direct referrals, ranging from a lack of knowledge (or confidence!) in your product/service to concerns about crossing ethical boundaries. Introductions, however, do not necessarily involve a formal endorsement, but rather carry a more social connotation.
To illustrate his point, Derven cited research done by The Oechsli Institute, an organization that regularly surveys affluent investors. They reported that 83% of the survey respondents said they feel awkward or uncomfortable when their advisor asks them for a referral, and more than 8 of the 10 people asked were turned off by the question.
On the other hand, the same 83% of affluent investors said they would be comfortable giving an introduction if asked directly.
So, the conclusion Derven says is to “do your homework and learn to whom your best advocates are connected. Then, instead of asking for referrals, ask them for personal introductions.”
LinkedIn for Sourcing Names
LinkedIn has an amazing amount of data on the connectivity and networks of your best advocates and clients. With some simple searches into the networks of your closest connections, you can quickly find the people that they know… and that you want to know.
Here are some of the steps suggested by Social Advisors:
- Review your “advocate’s” connections to find the best targets for an introduction. You don’t want to overwhelm someone by asking for too many. One or two at a time might work best.
- Pay attention to a portion of your advocate’s profile called Skills and Endorsements. If someone has endorsed your advocate for a skill, they probably know that person pretty well, increasing the likelihood of getting the introduction you seek.
- When asking for an introduction, try to get a feel for how well your advocate knows the target. Ask a couple of feeler questions to make sure that your request won’t be met with resistance. Hey, I see you’re connected to John Doe on LinkedIn. Tell me about him. How do you know him? Looks like an interesting guy, I’d love to meet him. What is a good way to meet John? If your advocate doesn’t offer the introduction, ask for it; what do you say I buy the three of us lunch one day next week, or would you be willing to introduce us via email?
Introductions are valuable because they are less likely to compromise your relationship with your advocate and because they most often result in conversations. These conversations give you an opportunity to assess the target’s situation and potential short-term or long-term need for your solution. While in some cases they result in the formation of a business relationship, in others they result in future business or even in additional introductions!