Last night I heard a great talk at an ecademy networking event. It was by Richard White a sales trainer who has developed some great techniques for people who really don’t like selling. He talked about five rules for getting more people to refer you, even if they haven’t done business with you before. After some of the dreadful pitches I had to put up with at the last A4UForum event, I thought I’d be doing myself a favour by repeating them here.

1) Put relationsips first, business second
People will introduce people who they know, trust and like. A business pitch won’t get that across. Ask about stuff other than business and show an interest in the individual. Where they live, how they came to be at the event, who else they know there. Imagine you’re at a dinner party, not a business event.

2) Look for introducers, not customers
At any networking event, there are far more people looking to sell, than looking to buy, so whoever you are talking to is more likely to be better as a referrer, than a potential client.
Take an interest in them and who they know or deal with, rather than focusing on finding a deal. Your interest in them as an individual will be more memorable than the other 100 pitches they’ll hear that day.

3) Specialise
This one is really difficult as many of us have multiple skills we can sell, and are terrified about missing an oppurtunity to sell any one of them, but put it in the context of someone else describing you, and it becomes a lot simpler.
A great rule of thumb is ‘what will they say about you when you’re out of the room’
“He’s the guy who get’s you into Google”
“He’s the guy who does email campaigns”
“He’s the guy who builds shopping websites”
Many people in online marketing do all of these, but to someone outside the industry it needs to be boiled down to this really simple level. Noone will be able to refer you if they can’t understand what you do.

4) Use stories to spark people’s memories
This was really interesting! The stories Richard tells about his clients are about what they were like before he got involved. He talks about the guy whose business had dried up, not about the guy who has just landed a £1.5 million contract.
The story about the guy whose business has dried up will resonate with the people whoneed Richard’s services. The end result, winning the contract, is just a dream to these people right now.

5) Do the numbers
Once you’ve prepared your pitch, your stories and everything else , you need to get it out there.
If you meet 50 people you might get on with 10. Amongst these 10 there will only be 1 who will talk about you again. That’s a lot of conversations, but once you’ve built your network, your own sales efforts will take far less time. It’s like recruiting a sales force rather than doing your own sales.

I was really impressed with Richard, as were the rest of the room. He’s not a typical sales trainer at all, and the fact that he seemed quite nervous and occasionaly tripped over his words made him all the more endearing and trustworthy than some very polished presenters I’ve seen. Richard is a great networker and spends a lot of time with ecademy members and other networking groups. I’d definitely recommend him if you need sales but hate selling.