Chief Marketing Officer
Cold calling and email outreach campaigns offer a very poor return on effort in business these days. We’re all so overwhelmed with requests for attention that most unsolicited overtures get tuned out or turned away.
In a B2B environment especially, a “warm” introduction has become by far the best way to get your message heard — and potentially slip a foot through the door. Buyers who are referred by a friend or colleague are 4 times more likely to buy, and referral leads have a 30% higher conversion rate than leads from other channels, reports Review42. But just knowing about this approach isn’t enough. Obtaining good introductions, and making the most of them, takes skill and strategy.
Copper’s VP of Sales, Sam Moorhead, has given this strategy a lot of thought, and has refined his approach to warm introductions over the course of his career. He recently shared some ideas and advice to help guide your B2B sales efforts.
What is a “warm intro?”
Simply put, a warm introduction is a connection made by someone you know to someone they know. It could be anything from a simple email, to a friendly phone call, to even arranging an in-person meeting.
One thing to keep in mind is: The warm-intro process involves (at least) three people: the asker, the asked person, and the target person. So you might have a very close relationship with your connection, while they have only a slight acquaintance with the person you want to contact. Or it could be the other way around.
In practice, there are several “temperature” settings — and the closer the relationships, the warmer the intro. Needless to say, the ideal situation is to draw on two fairly close relationships. Say your long-time friend is a Marketing Director who has a close colleague at the company you’re targeting for your software product. Your close relationship with your friend and their close connection with their colleague make for the perfect warm-intro scenario.
But in order to maximize the chances of an ideal scenario for a warm introduction, building a network of strong connections is essential.
As Sam explains it, “Any authentic relationship has to involve a give-get. If you know someone, but have never given them anything, it will be hard to get something of value. So increasing the quantity of your connections is important, but increasing the quality of those relationships is even more so. And that’s especially true when it comes to warm introductions.”
The perfect warm intro is a win-win-win. You get a new contact, your new contact finds out about a service or product they need, and the connector strengthens their relationship with each of you.
To make that happen, here are some things you can think about in advance:
Best practices for the warm intro
Preparation is key for making the best use of warm introductions, Sam stresses. A good strategy begins with thinking about these questions:
- Fit: Do you have something to offer that will provide real value to the target? When you’re involving a third party, it’s especially crucial not to waste anyone’s time.
- Timing: Is this the best moment to approach the target? Think in terms of the calendar, the sales cycle and the maturity of your value offer.
- Choice: Which of your connections would be the best person to make a warm introduction? It might not be the first person you think of.
The same thing applies if a referral isn’t ready for a solution — or you’re not ready yet to meet their needs.
In companies with a very long sales cycle, receiving a warm introduction may be just a starting point. Something to build on over time. But for more transactional companies, an introduction at just the right moment will pay extra dividends.
When it comes to choosing the best connection, Sam suggests taking a careful look at your options before making a decision. And he cautions not to narrow your focus too much. “You might have a connection that knows your target person — but doesn’t know you very well. Maybe you only had a couple of conversations, or haven’t talked in a long time. On the other hand, someone in your organization might have a closer, more current connection. It could take longer to set up the introduction, but the result could be much more positive.”
There’s one other best practice you won’t want to ignore: Approach your connection in the right way. Be specific about what you’re asking for, and what you have to offer. This way, your contact can decide whether this particular intro is in their own best interests — and they’ll make sure to provide the most effective introduction when they agree to it.
Keep in mind that when you ask for an introduction, you’re asking your connection for a favor. Which makes it extra important not to jeopardize your connection’s relationship with the third party. If you’re making the wrong ask, your connection may do you the favor of providing an introduction, but it won’t do much good — and it might backfire.
Getting started with warm introductions
Startups and new sales professionals often don’t have a deep pool of contacts they can ask for introductions. And it takes time to create authentic relationships.
To help speed up the process, Sam suggests that you "think creatively. Look for communities to join, and networking opportunities that go beyond LinkedIn.” Keep in mind that business networking doesn’t just happen in person today; there are plenty of opportunities to forge meaningful business connections virtually also.
As new networks grow, warm introductions become part of the process — and best practices pay off over time.