After you develop a relationship with a contact, don’t talk business until you’re absolutely certain that your contact will be receptive. If you feel that asking for help would kill the relationship, back off and live to fight another day. Ideally, by the time you ask for help, you will have given your new contact leads or connected him/her with your network partners.
When you’re ready:
• Be direct and totally honest
• Explain precisely what you need
• State exactly how your contact can help
• Inquire if your contact knows others who might help
• Point out what you have to offer
• Stress the importance of your contact’s help
• If your contact gives you a lead, request permission to use his/her name
• Ask how you can repay or help your contact
• Express your gratitude for your contact’s help
Most contacts are realists who understand the reciprocal nature of business. If they like you, owe you, or better yet, if they believe in you, they’ll be happy to recommend you. It’s good business and if you do well, it will make them look good. When you approach contacts:
• Try to get three leads. Expect your contacts to be cautious until they’re convinced that you consistently deliver high-quality work
• Be patient and persistent
• Ask for the chance to prove yourself and
• Take less, or nothing at all, to get your foot in the door.
Clarify in advance whether you contacts expect referral fees. If they do, clarify exactly how much they want. Quantify the amount or percentage they expect and make sure that you are both in full agreement. In some businesses and localities, referral fees are unethical. Since the rules vary from place to place, check out what’s acceptable where you transact that business.
When you get business via a referral, find ways to show your appreciation you’re your contact can’t or won’t accept a referral fee, consider giving a gift, a gift certificate, tickets to an event, a charitable contribution or perform extra or personal work for them to say thanks. Gestures of gratitude are greatly appreciated and are good business.
1. Write three icebreakers to start a conversation with a stranger.
2. Write three exit lines to leave a conversation that is no longer productive.
3. List the names of 20 people you know who could help you the most.
4. Compose a letter asking the 20 people on you list to meet you for 15 minutes.