Part 1 of a 2-part series
No matter what profession we pursue, we’re all in the relationship business. Whether you are a consultant, a captain or a cognitive computing engineer, your area of expertise is a means to an end. That desired end is relationship impact. Referrals are the on-ramp to new relationships. Regardless of the form “new business development” takes for you, fundamentally, referrals are the platinum standard that increases your productivity, reduces sales cycles, and speeds your time-to-impact, leading to growth.
In Part 1 of this pair of posts, I’ll let you in on the secret of connecting seekers and solvers for relationship impact, internal to an organization or as an outside advisor. In Part 2, I will share a five-dimension assessment framework that will allow you to evaluate your current performance in connecting seekers to solvers.
Start with helpfulness in mind
Think about why and how your business relationships are better off because of you. Roughly a third of that impact is due to your performance: how well you do what you do. Another third of your impact is due to your exposure to the market, which opens up new opportunities for yourself and others. The remaining third is a result of your influence; the more diverse your portfolio of relationships, the broader your market influence footprint.
Each of these components complements and enhances the others, increasing your net helpfulness. With this as a backdrop, we are all essentially hubs and spokes in a vast network of relationships.
In every conversation, seek to understand, “What can I do to help you?” There are many ways to follow this line of inquiry—“How can I be an asset? What’s taking you entirely too long to accomplish? What frustrates you?” Then consider yourself as a candidate for the position of value-based solver.
What I’m uncovering with these questions is that which they need, cannot get elsewhere, which then I can bring to the table. But what they are seeking may not be something I can solve. As we have this conversation, in the back of my mind is the question, “who do I know in my portfolio of relationships who could be an asset to this person?” I’m doing a mental inventory of the authentic and relevant solvers I may know. If someone doesn’t come to mind right there and then, I can certainly think about it and consult my “digital rolodex”—LinkedIn, Salesforce—to find an appropriate solver for this seeker.
If I do that consistently, I start to build a reputation that “If Nour doesn’t have the answer, he will know someone who does.” Either way, my broad portfolio of relationships puts my helpfulness on display.
Connecting outside advisors
As a consultant, business referrals accelerate your path to awareness. They reduce your client acquisition cost, because you’re not spending a lot of cycles identifying and getting in front of an economic buyer. The connections you make are typically more profitable relationships, because “How much?” is not the initial inquiry. You further benefit from credibility by association with the person who introduces you as a solver to a seeker. Your initial due diligence process is less about noise, and more about an impactful signal.
For the seekers receiving a referral to a solver external to the company, the benefits are similar. The connection is coming from a trusted source that has relevant knowledge and credibility earned through their repute and past performance. Referrals dramatically reduce the seeker’s research cost, timeline, and resource allocations. Successful outcomes achieved by working with outside advisors build institutional confidence in the value of fresh perspectives and independent expertise.
Connecting internal resources
Now look at seeker and solver relationships inside an organization. Opportunities may be projects, job openings, or promotions. When a solver is referred to an executive peer seeker, the same benefits accrue as outside referrals. As with external referrals, internal referrals accelerate time to traction and perceived credibility. You quickly learn more about the opportunity and the fit of seeker to solver. Successful outcomes achieved by working with inside referrals build organizational strength, as silos crumble and cross-pollination occurs.
Every way you look at it, referrals, recommendations, in essence, connection of seekers and solvers is a huge assets to those who choose to invest in their functional and strategic relationships (see the Relationship Economics book for detailed descriptions of the three relationship types most of us develop).
Imagine a culture of seekers and solvers
Referrals fundamentally reinforce two points I’ve made for the last decade. First, there are three types of relationship builders: Givers whose altruism seeks no return; Takers who only call when they want something, and Investors who understand that you have to make deposits before asking for withdrawals from a business relationship.
Second, there are three fundamental laws in relationships: Gratitude, thanking others for kindness received; Reciprocity, understanding that If I refer someone to you, at some point it should trigger your desire to return similar value; and Generosity: If I help you, at some point you are going to pay it forward. You will be motivated to help somebody else.
What if all of us nurtured our business relationships as Investors who regularly behaved with gratitude, reciprocity, and generosity? What if we continually looked for opportunities to connect seekers and solvers?
In over a decade of consulting, there have been times when I’ve been very good at this, and times when I have slacked off. I’ve certainly seen other people do it phenomenally well, and I’ve seen people do it really poorly. We’re all somewhere on a spectrum.
There are some rules of engagement, how to do this effectively. And that will be the topic of the second post in this series. I’ll explore that spectrum, and the opportunity for you to look inward and grade your performance, or simply consider where your growing edges are—and where to focus your next self-development effort.
In the meantime, in every conversation, seek to understand, “What can I do to help you?” Then consider how you might connect a seeker with a solver.
Broaden your portfolio of relationships to increase your net helpfulness to Seekers and Solvers.
Connecting Seekers and Solvers is equally beneficial in reducing cycles, cost and resources for outside advisors and the executives we connect with.
Internal referrals, like referrals to outside advisors, increase efficiency and effectiveness for both Seeker and Solver.
David Nour is an enterprise growth strategist and the thought leader on Relationship Economics® —the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, The Nour Group, Inc. has attracted consulting engagements from over 100 marquee organizations in driving unprecedented growth through unique return on their strategic relationships. Nour has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possesses, large and small, public and private. He is the author of several books including the best selling Relationship Economics— Revised (Wiley), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger) and Return on Impact—Leadership Strategies for the age of Connected Relationships (ASAE). Learn more at www.NourGroup.com.