Long ago. An acquaintance newly arrived in town.
Me: “Who would you like to meet?”
Him: “Oh, I don’t know. Anyone you think I’d like.”
As I reflect on the discussion now, I still feel like I need a shower. In another friend’s words: “Eeewww Uck!”
Why? The “acquaintance’s” request was barely a request. Passive. Needy. Dependent. His request left the ball entirely in my court. In his view, it was MY job to figure out to whom I should introduce him and MY responsibility to determine who fit the profile of “anyone you think I’d like.”
I should have been more compassionate, new in town and all that, and my first thought was, “Eeew, uck, I can’t think of anyone.”
And this feeling arises again when sales people ask for referrals saying something to the effect of, “I’m glad you’re satisfied with my service, who else do you know who could use it?” It’s the same “eewww, uck!” It leaves the responsibility entirely in the hands of new customers who, at this point, want to take showers and scrub with pumice. Eeeew. Uck! Chances are good, they say, “I can’t think of anyone.”
What if, during the course of a dinner, the “acquaintance” had shared stories about his passion for community gardening and the idiocies of buying tomatoes trucked 2,000 miles or more when they could be grown locally or purchased from local growers, all to the point that I’m really digging his groove? He then asks, “Hey, are any of your friends into this community gardening deal, or are you aware of any community gardens locally?”
My brain would immediately search for people and places and think of a half-dozen that I could share with him, and I’d love to introduce him. Why would I be willing to do this? Because:
- He would have narrowed the field of search in my brain from “anyone you think I’d like” to “people passionate about community gardening” – a much easier search and much easier selection.
- He would have established his credibility with me – I would feel both safe and enthusiastic about introducing him to people who shared similar passions.
- His entry into my network would raise my standing in that network.
- I would have something to say to my friends and network – “Hey, I want you to meet this guy who just came to town – he’s just nuts about community gardening and I think you’d enjoy his stories.”
Which is why, when asking for a referral it’s much better to come from the strength of our expertise or the problems we solve for our clients rather than from our products. There’s a huge difference between saying,
“I’m glad you’re happy with the loan we’ve just closed for you. Can you introduce me to other dentists who may be looking for financing at this point?”
“We’ve had a good discussion about theft in dental offices. Are there any of your dentist buddies whom you think might be vulnerable to the same theft issues or might welcome a conversation about this?”
The first one is “ewww, uck” creepy, leaving all of the responsibility on our client’s shoulders, clearly indicating “I want to go sell something to somebody.”
The second one is thoughtful, helpful, and credible. It is aligned with conversations dentists have with each other. It gives the dentist ammunition to call his buddies and say, “Hey, I just talked with this banker about theft in my office; he helped me see some issues I just wasn’t thinking about. I think you should talk to him.”
That… is a good introduction.