I was reading an analysis the other day and they quoted a study saying a third of entrepreneurs plan on investing more in training, specifically sales, in the economic uncertainty. And we all know that in uncertain times and recession, investing in skills and sales are the best investments possible.
Yes, we are all in sales. We are sales entrepreneurs, and that is not a dirty word. Greed is not necessarily good, but healthy esurience based in mutually beneficial and sustainable capitalism is good because all involved benefit. That is exactly the relationship we try to build with our clients, a symbiotic partnership where we help each other and actually enjoy being in the other’s presence because we each need the other to win. So let’s delve into the idea of symbiotic capitalism and how it will help you build an Introduction Based Business.
Building an Introduction-Based Business
My goal is to have you invest some time to learn how to build an Introduction-Based Business on the foundation of capitalistic exchange but without money changing hands. This is actually a principle as old as society yet for some reason most advisors and agents don’t do it and as such struggle for consistent success in getting introductions.
The social contract is defined by dictionary.com as “implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits.” From the earliest tribes to the current hyperconnected economy, this social contract for the exchange of value between and amongst us is what prevents the world from deteriorating into chaos and is the basis of capitalism. Now this all sounds high fallutin’ and esoteric, but let’s boil it all the way down to the basics and language you can apply today.
Most contracts are basically formalized agreements, an “If…Then” (Boolean logic statement) on paper. So create an If/Then agreement with your potential client right from the beginning. “If I create value for you, then you will introduce me to other people that can benefit from talking with me.” The Sandler Sales methodology calls this an “upfront contract,” and in New York where I reside verbal contracts are legally enforceable. More importantly, it creates a moral obligation between the two parties.
Creating Value for Clients
“If I create value” is a nebulous statement of what you will deliver, but value is like beauty in that it is in the eye of the beholder. A throwaway idea for you or me could be incredibly valuable to the client, such as:
- Having them increase contributions to a Roth 401k to take money outside the income tax system (this is hundreds of thousands of dollars to them).
- Getting them to draw up a will and other basic legal documents.
- Having them take pictures of their kids and establish current IDs to document just in case.
- Reviewing and having them update beneficiaries on employer-sponsored plans, especially post-marriage or divorce.
- Reviewing Social Security distribution options with them.
- Introducing them to someone to help them stop smoking (or some other bad habit).
- Putting them in touch with other professionals (attorneys, accountants, HR pros, etc.).
- Referring them to a driving instructor for their teenager. Or a healthy cooking class for them. Or any other expert that improves their life in some way.
We don’t receive monetary compensation for any of these suggestions or introductions, but the clients get great value. Other examples I have personally done recently include being an accountability partner for training for a half marathon or talking through the psychological and logistical concerns around divorce. Our experience and knowledge is worth more than we realize, even if you charge a fee. Every single person I sit down with gets tremendous value from the time (and hopefully a few laughs, which have physical and economic benefits too) so I DESERVE to be paid for my time and the value I gave.
Taking Credit When Credit Is Due
Of course, you need to have the client acknowledge that you have created value. I am blatant about it: at the end of the meeting I ask straight up “Was this helpful?” And they have to say yes because it was. I then drill down a little more and ask “What was the most valuable thing to you today?” They then proceed to lay out exactly the most valuable and impactful part of the meeting, thus solidifying the fact that I delivered my end of the deal. Don’t reinvent the wheel, literally steal my language because it works and works well.
Then I simply respond with “Good, as we agreed about an hour ago, IF I created value THEN you would introduce me to others that could benefit from talking with me.” You aren’t trapping them in a Columbo gotcha moment, you are merely reminding them of the moral contract they entered into freely and that you have fulfilled your end of the bargain. Then make it easy for them to pay you for how you have helped them by giving them names of people you want to be introduced to. I give them a list from their LinkedIn profile and then brainstorm for other people I want to meet. It really is that simple.
Now it might seem weird that you get paid with names (and numbers so you can contact them), but in the late 1990s everyone thought “eyeballs” created value for dot com companies, or in the early 2020s “tokens” were the mystical storehouses of wealth. At least introductions are understandable and have a century-long history of proof of value. From Heubner through Granum to Hegna and Templin, generations of insurance and investment salespeople have realized the value of getting introductions for providing value beyond the sale of products.
So coming full circle to my opening statements: you are an entrepreneur, so you are by default a capitalist thus believe and know that you should be compensated fairly when you create value for a client. As a capitalist, you always deserve to be paid for helping clients as you aren’t a not-for-profit business or charity. And instead of looking for the next internet-based marketing sales system to have a gazillion eyeballs and internet leads, invest the time to practice the basic referral language you were taught when you first entered the business. Like gold, that prospecting language holds value in rough economic times. Invest in yourself as a salesperson and you won’t regret it like you did that cybercurrency or buying stupidgreedy.com.
Joe Templin is the NAIFA New York Membership Chair, a 4 Under 40 Winner, and author of Becoming an Introduction Machine. He has a daily training email you can subscribe to here: Financial Services Daily Drip - Every Day Excellence (everyday-excellence.com)