A common theme both when I ran agencies and when speaking to my current clients is when a contact enthusiastically says ‘I’ll happily recommend you’ or words to that effect.
Weeks and months then pass by and no further introductions are made. Too much time has passed to bring it up again and you’re kicking yourself for not getting that new conversation with someone who might help grow your business.
Whilst it may seem like your contact is merely paying lip service, the likelihood is that they had every good intention to put forward your name, recommending you to a colleague or potential client or sending you the details of someone who might benefit from your services. But once they put down that phone, or left that meeting, they promptly forgot, or prioritised something else.
I’ve covered enough in previous articles on the never-ending workload for clients to conclude that actioning recommendations will never be the top of the ‘to do’ list.
That said, recommendations can be a fantastic part of your growth – we already know that recommendations mean you’re in a better position to win new business and perhaps avoid the lengthy pitch process altogether. So, how exactly do you keep the momentum going?
- Be less British
The thought of ‘pestering’ someone for a recommendation (even if they suggested it) makes many founders’ toes curl, but if you truly believe that the offer of a recommendation or introduction was an authentic one, then there are a few ways to keep the momentum going…
Make mention during the conversation
‘Thanks for the offer of an introduction earlier – were you thinking of any specific people or projects?’
‘Thanks for the offer of a recommendation, what was it that we did that you think added value and who do you have in mind that might benefit?’
Follow up, quickly.
Don’t let the conversation go stale, instead email your client, or contact them straight after your meeting or call and thank them for their offer of a recommendation or introduction. If you didn’t manage to get a name or contact details during the call or meeting itself, then let them know you would love to be put in touch with XYZ and XYZ company. If you’re timely in your asking, there’s more likelihood your client will quickly forward on your details or make the intro before moving on to another task from their to do list.
2.) Understand WHY someone wants to recommend you
Almost always, recommendations or introductions are made because there’s something in it for the person who is doing the recommending. Motivations could be anything from:
- Bragging rights – ‘look who I know’
- Makes them look good – introducing a great business or service to someone they want to impress
- Improving their network
- Increasing their visibility to someone they also want to work with
- Defensive – perhaps by introducing you they are expunging a threat to their own business or position
By understanding your client’s motivation, you’re in a better position to get more recommendations. You might shrewdly refer to their motivations in your conversation or post chat email, e.g. ‘I think you’ve done an incredible job on this project, and as far as the offer of a recommendation I’d love to chat to XYZ and let them know about the great results we’ve had to see if we can make it happen for them too.’ – instantly your client knows that you’ll be showing them in a good light if they introduce you.
3.) Always be one step ahead
Make recommendations an intrinsic part of your account planning.
Know which people within an organisation you’d really like an introduction to and who you might be able to sell your services to, that way when your contact offers a recommendation you can say ‘thanks so much for the offer of an introduction to your procurement team/XYZ company, I’d love to speak to Sue/John/Aria [insert name] if you wouldn’t mind putting us in touch?’.
4.) Make it EASY.
The bottom line to making recommendations/introductions happen is to make it as easy and frictionless as possible for your client to – as Nike would say – just do it.
Think about what could you create for them (once you know who they were thinking of) that would remove any friction and that would help them get what they want from the recommendation. Perhaps it’s sharing a case study, an article, a summary of your business or any number of other things.
If you’ve done a great job for someone and they offer to spread the word, uncurl your toes and be brave (and timely, and knowledgeable and, of course, thankful).