You might have a really good relationship with a senior person, for example the HR Director, General Counsel, CFO, etc but feel the need to build a relationship with the CEO or Chair to help win a big strategic project. But how best to do this?
It can feel awkward making the approach. A direct approach might upset your contact. They may think you see them as having insufficient authority or influence. Or they may think you’re trying to cut them out of decision-making. Either way, this would spoil the strength of your relationship. Not worth risking this since you’ve probably invested a lot of time building it up.
But asking your contact to recommend you in some way to their boss is risky to them. What if the boss isn’t impressed by you? That wouldn’t reflect well on your contact.
The answer lies in providing benefits to your contact in making the introduction, perhaps by helping your contact look good or making their life easier.
So let’s see how this might work.
A Practical Scenario
Let’s assume your firm has developed a new methodology which could save your client’s organisation lots of money.
Your contact is interested and confirmed that it fits with their strategic objectives.
You have asked who will be responsible for agreeing to go ahead with the project and the CEO has been mentioned and you don’t know the CEO.
So, the challenge is how to persuade your contact that the 3 of you should meet.
I want to recommend a meeting with you and your CEO so I can explain this to him.
Since this is a new and customizable methodology, I find it’s easier for me to clarify any details than asking you to explain our entire approach in detail.
Let me know how to best to accomplish that.
Might I suggest a meeting between the three of us (me, you and your CEO) so that we can discuss the approach?
Since this is a new and customizable methodology, this would be an easier way to clarify any details rather than unfairly asking you to explain the solution to your CEO in detail.
Comparing the two scripts
The scripts seem similar. Both ask for the meeting and explain why. But Script 2 is an improvement. It is less arrogant and pushy.
Here are the key improvements:
- The word ‘suggest’ works better than ‘recommend’. It is more deferential.
- ‘Explain’ sounds patronising and ‘discuss’ more neutral.
- ‘Easier…for me’ is self-centred and not client centric. ‘Unfairly asking you…’ contains the client benefit and is respectful.
- ‘Let me know how to…’ is demanding, whereas ‘Your thoughts?’ is respectful and reinforces your belief that your contact’s views are important to you.
Now this issue becomes do you phone or email to have this exchange? What do you think?
Also, what about considering drafting the email for your contact to send to their boss. That might make their life easier and be appreciated.
Onwards and upwards!