You may have contacts with whom it would be appropriate to openly discuss your interest in doing business. You might feel comfortable simply saying to a contact, “We should look for ways to work together.” Or “I would love to have an opportunity to work with you.”
One client volunteered for the PTA at his children’s school. Through his efforts, he developed a friendship with a qualified target. They were always friendly when they saw each other at PTA meetings. But our client didn’t know how to make the conversion to a business relationship. So we recommended that he call the contact and say, “All of these years that we have known each other, we have never discussed the possibility of our doing business. I’d like to talk with you about how we could do business together.” His contact said, “Absolutely.” They scheduled lunch and ultimately referred business to each other.
Ask for Permission to Bring up the Subject
With some people, you may be able to discuss the issue of doing business by asking for permission to raise a subject. One of our clients used this technique effectively by taking a friend to lunch and discussing their families and other personal interests. And then he would say, “I’d like your permission to change the subject. It occurs to me that you and I are in businesses that may be mutually beneficial. May I bring up a subject concerning business to see if it is worth pursuing?”
Reveal Your Feelings
Another technique involves revealing your feelings about the idea of doing business. In talking with a contact, you might say, “There is a subject that I have been meaning to bring up with you, but I have felt a little reluctant because I am concerned that you would feel as if I am imposing on you. If you don’t think that it is a good idea, don’t worry about it. You have a company that we could be providing services for. And I would like to explore how we might do that.”
By expressing your concern about imposing on your friends, you take away the risk of appearing manipulative or of being an imposition. Because this technique involves revealing your honest feelings, we call it the “full-disclosure technique.”
For more marketing tips, check out our book Selling in Your Comfort Zone.