In sales, there is something better than the freebies you get at every event: Warm introductions.
If you ask any C-level executive or above, they are 10 times more likely to respond to your email or phone call if you have been referred by a person they like, trust, or respect.
Most outreach emails with no context generate a 1-2% response rate.
I find that my warm referrals normally receive a 40% response rate, which is conservatively 20 to 40 times better than a standard email. The 10X number I quoted above is the bare minimum you should aim for when starting new relationships.
Despite the efficacy of this technique, why are our results consistently sub-par?
There are three primary reasons.
1. Over-reliance on sales automation platforms
The technology industry -- just like the consumer market -- is subject to repetitive cycles. A new product can improve the way organizations influence prospects in the short to medium-term, but as adoption increases, its unique benefit evaporates.
Technologies like e-signing and auto-dialing were all the rage; now they're considered a standard part of the stack rather than a new edge over the competition. Sales automation platforms are the latest iteration of this trend.
In the right hands, these tools have utility. However, as sales leaders often neglect training and best practices because they're besieged by other responsibilities, inexperienced sales development and account executives do more harm than good at 95% of the B2B companies I've come across.
A churn and burn approach -- where sales reps send mediocre emails to hundreds of prospects at a time -- creates a nightmare for future expansion when companies look to improve their growth curve.
Companies are forced to pull the emergency lifeline to the marketing department, who are tasked with resurrecting the firm’s brand reputation from the Silicon Valley graveyard.
By this point, referrals aren’t just impractical: They are unattainable.
2. Sales reps with malnourished networks
In this day and age -- where the average tenure of an inside sales rep is 2.4 years -- most individuals don’t have a book of business they can leverage as they move from organization to organization.
Furthermore, younger reps are not taught how to network. They approach networking opportunities in such an artificial way that decision makers can see the intent of a sale a mile away.
How many times have you been at an event and someone appears all too eager to start talking about their product in the first two minutes, instead of taking time to connect with you at a personal level?
3. Confusion over how to ask
Continuing the point above, reps simply don’t know how to ask for a referral.
Just as they don’t know the right way to cultivate their Rolodex over time to create genuine connections for future deals, it takes practice to perfect the art of sending the right email.
We often send requests asking for introductions out of the blue with no context and no subtlety.
Let me share my secret.
How to get introductions warmer than cookies
To foster warm introductions, here's the three-step process I use.
First, I add each high-priority person I speak to into an email database. I send a personal update to this database approximately every three months. I want my contacts to think about me from time to time. In addition, in every email I invite them to share their news with me; I reply to every response personally.
When I do reach out with an ask, they feel like they know me more than ever and I know them -- turning what's normally a nuisance into an enjoyable task. A few rules for this include:
- Make sure this newsletter talks more about you and less about your business
- Only add people who you consider your personal advocates and friends, i.e. you have done business together long enough they feel personally connected to you
- Let people opt out easily. Holding subscribers against their will does more harm than good. In fact, everyone who unsubscribes is helping you. They are explicitly revealing that they aren’t as close to you as you believed.
- Use more visuals than text. Images, GIFs, and videos have a greater impact than words.
Second, I strive to be authentic when I meet people in person. I ask them about their interests, use genuine compliments, and position myself as a fun and engaging person. At the end of the conversation, I ask, "What is the best way to keep in touch so we don’t forget about [X agreement, Y topic for follow-up]?”
The final step is send emails that are likely to convert. I have five baseline criteria:
- Mention something relevant to them you read recently on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, such as, “I saw you just moved to Austin, congratulations.”
- State the importance of the introduction to you and your career, such as, “This deal is make or break for me this quarter.”
- Ask what you can do in return and make some suggestions, such as, “I see one of your sales reps is trying to break into X account. Could I help in return with an intro? Is there anything else I could do for you?”
- Give them a pre-written template and invite them to make edits, such as, “I wrote an intro email which could be helpful -- please feel free to use if convenient.”
- Thank them in advance. This adds an emotional trigger, influencing them to take action.
Here's an actual email I sent, along with the response. For context, John is a marketing leader at his company, and I am requesting an intro to the VP of Sales.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to contact me if you would like to see more of my most successful templates.
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been republished here with permission.
Originally published Apr 20, 2018 4:46:00 PM, updated April 20 2018