Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
I find asking for referrals and introductions from existing clients awkward and might give an impression that we are desperate. I tried hiding behind email requests but that resulted in nothing. What’s the right way to ask?
If asking for a referral makes you feel like someone is slowly ripping a large strip of bandage off your sensitive skin, relax. It’s much easier and not painful at all. You just didn’t know the most suitable approach. Before discussing how to ask we need to address whom to ask. The CEO is not always the best person to reach out to. For example, if a CEO had interest in your services or products. His company approached you. A few presentations and discussions later, you delivered, they’re happy. When you examine the actual users in that company or people who have interacted with you and your team the most, you’ll realize it was the operations director, not the CEO. Asking someone you didn’t build a strong bond with during the delivery phase is naturally uncomfortable and definitely useless.
Emails lack the warmth of the human connection and inboxes of many managers are flooding with unread emails. The phone is not smart because you can’t tell if your client is engaged or busy signing documents. Say the following at the end of a face-to-face short and positive meeting: “We’re expanding to the healthcare industry. Whom do you know in that sector that can benefit from our XYZ service?” Being direct, and more importantly, specific with whom you’re targeting will help your clients focus on their list of contacts. Most clients won’t mind the question if they like your business; they’re just busy and you need to make it easy for them to help you. The more you ask using this technique the more it will feel natural to you. And as the wisest Jedi, Yoda, once said, “Do or do not. There is no try”...and that’s just my two cents.
Our HR team is lazy. They’re not willing to do any social activities for the staff other than the boring annual open day. When we asked them to do more, they said, “No budget.” Is there anything to be done about it?
It’s possible that that HR team is not lazy but just doesn’t have the budget and/or the creativity to find simple ideas that are engaging to employees. If the company has some cash to spare or willing to part with, ask the executives for an increase on employees social activities spend and link it to a clear ROI. For example, find an online research report that shows how productivity increases and internal corporate politics decrease in an environment of socially engaged employees. The Internet is rich with such data. Use it to support your request. Although management may not be crazy about the idea, potential high ROI will encourage them to take the request seriously. Once approved, elect an annual employee representative to work with HR not to cause friction and to bring some ideas and employees’ insights.
If the company can’t or won’t spend more, come up with simple activities that are affordable and fun for the team. Take inspiration from TV programs. For example, if a group of employees is into baking, holding your own company Bake Off competition. If others are into football, design your own mini World Cup (without the FIFA corruption please). If some employees are into reading novels, have your own monthly book club. Maybe a Kuwaiti employee can make a session about the history of Kuwait, some social customs, words and phrases to non-Kuwaitis who are interested in knowing more about the culture they live in. Leave it to each group to arrange their own logistics of how, when and where make their activity come to life. Take the lead instead of giving up and looking for greener grass…and that’s just my two cents.
A prospect seemed convinced with our presentations and demos. Yet, no decision was made after weeks of following up. Other than asking about budget availability upfront, how can you tell if a prospect is serious or wasting time?
Being convinced doesn’t equal automatic decision-making. Decisions are affected by many factors. Some are related to the decision maker’s own character: his/her own beliefs that this product is the right one; how his/her reputation may be perceived internally if a wrong decision was made; how big or small the decision is – if it is his/her first big decision, hesitation is highly expected; his/her strength of character in facing criticism or resistance to using the product, just to name a few. Other factors are within the company: complexity of the purchasing procedures and processes; tactical buy-in from those who eventually will be the users of the product – maybe s/he is working on convincing the team to commit to the new product for the initial phase; priorities for the department or the company have shifted, and much more.
The mistake that many sales professionals make time and time again is that they go to the prospect eager to present the product or service and blow all the whistles and horns about the features and benefits while pushing for a purchase. You might think, “How’s that a mistake?” What makes their presentation and attempt to win the deal a mistake is that their selling process is incomplete. Without investigating about the actual prospect’s needs, decision-making process, timeframe, urgency, and budget availability, it will be extremely difficult to determine the validity of this opportunity. Also, any presentation without such insights will be generic to say the least. A little more asking, a little less babbling…and that’s just my two cents.
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Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.