You’ve built great relationships. Maybe you’re an uber-connector and have thousands of connections who know your name and would pick up the phone if you called, or maybe you’re the type of person who only maintains a few, close connections.
Either way, your relationship deck is stacked with valuable names. They’re in your Rolodex, in your Outlook contact list, on Facebook and LinkedIn, and in piles of business cards haphazardly stacked on the corner of your desk. The problem is, those relationships aren’t turning into projects. Let’s discuss that.
Three pieces to look at quickly:
1) Which relationships you should monetize;
2) The damn good reason you’ve not monetized your relationships;
3) How to easily, comfortably transition from good will to good business
Which Relationships You Should Monetize?
Target your network “core.” I recommend you segment your entire network of contacts and connections on two dimensions: relationship strength and purchasing power.
First, label every contact in your network an A, B or C based on the strength of your relationship with them. People whom you know well get an A. A’s pick up the phone when you call or call you back if you leave a message. People who know you more than peripherally, but with whom you don’t have a close relationship, are labeled with a B. Everyone else—the poor sods who know your name but don’t have the pleasure of your friendship—are rated a C.
Next, tag every contact again with a 1, 2, or 3 based on their purchasing power. Ned, the Chief Sales Officer, has the position authority and budget to buy your services, so give him a 1. Sally, the well-respected operations manager, and Alex, from the Board of Directors, are powerful influencers who cannot personally make the buying decision; assign them a 2. Everyone else is tagged with a 3.
Your core is comprised of A1s, B1s and A2s. Those three groups, which collectively tend to be less than 20% of your entire network, are where you want to aim your efforts. The very best targets are, of course, A1s. They are buddies who can spend money. We like them! Over time, you improve your relationships with B1s, and you have your A2s introduce you to decision makers.
The Damn-Good Reason You’ve Not Monetized Your Relationships
Imagine a list of all the guests who attended your wedding. How would you feel about calling them for business? Pretty awkward, right? That sense of reluctance extends even to business acquaintances with whom you’ve never had a selling conversation. In fact, you would probably feel more comfortable offering your services to a total stranger than to some VP of Operations you’ve been chatting socially with for the past year. Odd, right?
Not really. In his fascinating book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely explains that we walk in two worlds—the world of social norms and the world of market norms—and act very differently in one versus the other. In the world of social norms we make friends, we do favors, we offer advice for free, and we find value in the act of giving. In the world of market norms we seek customers, we get paid for our advice and we avoid scope creep.
These two worlds don’t mix well, so we strive to keep them separate. Even minor intersections of the two worlds can cause discomfort. Think about when friends invite you out to dinner then order expensive drinks, and you wonder whether they’re paying or you’re splitting the tab.
Most of your relationships—even your business relationships—live in the world of social norms. You’ve never explicitly been in a selling conversation with them, and you may have even granted or received a small favor. That’s social norm-ville.
Mixing worlds can feel like stirring ketchup into your coffee—just wrong. That’s why it feels uncomfortable to chase down your contacts with the intent of asking for business. Fortunately, there’s a door between the worlds.
How to Easily, Comfortably Transition from Good Will to Good Business: “The Turn”
Since we instinctively want to keep the worlds of social norms and market norms apart, the key to shifting a relationship from one world to the other is acknowledging the separation and creating a non-threatening transition. I call this “The Turn” and it sounds like this:
“Would you be open to a separate conversation where we talk about your business, and explore whether my firm can help you achieve your goals?”
That’s it. That’s The Turn, and the exact language I’ve given you is your ticket. The question, “Would you be open to…” is non-threatening; it gives them the opportunity to decline, which is critical in a social interaction. By clearly indicating you want to have the new-business conversation at another time, you are acknowledging that it has to occur in a different context—the world of market norms. You’ve upheld and protected the separation. You’ve given your prospect a chance to get into the proper, market norms mindset, and you’ll both be far more comfortable with the conversation.
If you focus on your most valuable core and use The Turn to move from social norms to market norms, you will find fishing for new business in your current pond of relationships to be comfortable and rewarding. Do pay attention to timing, though.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Great article – I’m in a position where I want to talk about a new side business with my contacts and am not sure how to approach it. I like your idea of starting with ‘Would you be open to…’, that seems to be the way to begin the conversation casually.
Excellent article with great tips! Thanks!
And thank you for voicing your support, BJ!