Read on for a quick 101 in the art and science of warm introductions.
If your cold calls get the cold shoulder, know that the odds are against you. Just 1 percent of cold calls result in a meeting. And nearly nine out of 10 high-level B2B buyers don’t even respond to them.
What buyers really want are referrals from people they know. In fact, a referral kicks off the sales process for 84 percent of B2B buyers. Why the high rate of success? Because referrals from real-life connections warm up the buyer (hence the phrase “warm introductions”), softening the way for your sales team by starting the relationship off on the right foot.
But how do you know who to go to in your network for warm introductions to new prospects? And how do you do it without being obnoxious? Read on for my four tried-and-true steps.
Step 1: Take the Time to Evaluate Your Network
You might be tempted to shoot off a mass email or pick up the phone and start calling around for referrals. But sustainable success—without the risk of alienation—requires a bit more finesse.
If you want to make new, valuable connections, you should first identify your top priority targets. Run down your contact list and make a note of who is connected to good-fit prospects, like a buyer within a company you’re targeting. Your CRM can help you with this, especially if it’s equipped with relationship intelligence automation (RIA).
RIA tools, like Introhive, automatically collect, analyze, score and map all of your organization’s relationships.
Behind the scenes, RIA passively collects any information it can from inside and outside company walls, from transactional data to customer service inquiries to social media profiles and other online activities.
“With Introhive, we don’t have to worry about the engagement or adoption rates of our lawyers in CRM,” noted Director of Business Development & Marketing for Howard Kennedy LLP, Daryl Atkinson. “Instead, data and information collection happens passively in the background and our lawyers can focus their time on revenue-generating activities, not data entry. This has resulted in a much richer view of our relationships without requiring additional work from our legal team.”
Download the Howard Kennedy case study to learn more about their experience.
This relationship mapping gives you a more complete the picture of who your customers and prospects are. (Request a demo from Introhive to see this in action). So you’ll be able to see mutual connections and the degree of connection—“who knows who” and how well—based on numerous touchpoints.
That way you can narrow down your warm introduction requests to people who really know each other, and aren’t just distant LinkedIn connections, for example.
Step 2: Make Your Referral Requests Sizzle
You’ve identified the connection. Now what? Before you hit send on dozens of referral requests, it’s time to put in a little (more) work.
Up the likelihood that your contact will be receptive to your request by outlining your goal for the relationship. Provide specifics and context. Detail not only how the prospect fits within your business strategy, but also what value you want to bring them.
It’s a little extra effort, but absolutely worth it. Half of initial prospects end up being a poor fit. You don’t want to risk breaking trust or wasting time with a poorly executed request. And a little homework upfront can make sure your warm introductions are heavy hitters, not strikeouts.
Step 3: Huddle Up With Your Vendors to Map Relationships
Vendors are the unsung heroes of networking. More than 90 percent of B2B buyers trust referrals from people they know, and vendors know a lot of B2B buyers. But before you ask a vendor to open up their virtual Rolodex, make sure they feel like a respected, valued member of your team.
An easy place to start? Call them partners instead of vendors. This simple shift in semantics frames the relationship and changes expectations. Vendors do precisely what is asked and nothing more. Partners have skin in the game and strive to deliver what’s best for the team.
Beyond semantics, try sharing business goals, showing goodwill and loyalty, avoid the blame game, and try to treat your partners like friends. Vendors do your bidding. Partners are more likely to send business your way.
Step 4: Delight Your Network, Don’t Just Sell a Product or Service
In order to delight your network, you need to be adding value in every interaction. Share insightful blogs. Participate in and host speaking engagements and webinars. Publish expert guidance in eBooks. You’ll not only raise your organization’s visibility and authority, you’ll build up demonstrable value to show your contacts when you ask them for a warm introduction.
The Brevet Group has truly embraced this “pay it forward” philosophy.
“We give our prospects free advice, instruction, consulting and more, and ask for nothing in return,” said Partner of The Brevet Group Dan Perry. “We participate in webinars, have speaking engagements, push content out once a week, write a book every 18 months, and share our thought leadership on Twitter every day.”
In just nine months, this strategy netted the Brevet Group a quadruple increase in revenue and staggering growth in their contact database—from 1,800 connections to 38,000.
Heat up Business Development with Warm Introductions
The value of a powerful network cannot be underestimated. Perhaps Porter Gale, former Vice President of Marketing for Virgin America, said it best when she said, “Your social capital, or your ability to build a network of authentic personal and professional relationships—not your financial capital—is the most important asset in your portfolio… Seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests and values will provide a stronger foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own.”
Warm introductions can help you build a more powerful network and earn you more business. But it’s not as simple as asking contacts for a few referrals. The art and science of warm introductions requires evaluating your current network, crafting thoughtful requests, strengthening relationships with your partners, and providing additional value to your network.
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