How do we invite people to do business with us without being pushy?
How do we make it feel like a warm invitation where it feels like an open door with a welcome mat without the pressure to enter.
We’ve all been in the boat where we have something to offer and we want to bring it up but we don’t want it to be pushy, gross or awkward.
Often this results in us not bringing it up at all.
Which results in us being broke.
It’s an important question, but, I want to suggest that, hidden inside this question, are a number of assumptions.
The biggest assumption is that we are meeting someone for the first time. And that is the wrong time to make any kind of offer.
Offers work best when they come from a place of real connection and some form of relationship. It might just be a few minutes if the vibe is right but there needs to be some connection present before we make any kind of offer. Another way to say it is that people must feel that we get them. They need to feel that we genuinely empathize with them and their experience.
A simple way to do this, which I learned from my colleague Sharla Jacobs, is this: after someone has shared a struggle that you could help them with… don’t give them advice. Just say something like, “Wow. How is that for you?” and let them vent a bit more. Empathize. Hear them. Try to get what it must be like to be in their shoes. Let them feel really ‘gotten’. This will have them relax and feel much more open to you and anything you might have to offer. A little empathy goes a long, long way.
Secondly, you can ask them, “How do you want it to be instead?” and, again, really listen. You’re just getting a sense of your context.
Thirdly, you might ask them, “If I had something that I thought might be able to help that, would you want to hear about it right now?” They might say yes. They might say no. But it’s good to get permission if you have any doubt about their openness. Sometimes that can open beautifully into a conversation about what you do. Other times, you’re at a cocktail party and it’s not the right space to go into it.
But we often misunderstand how long it can take for a genuine sense of safety and trust to be built between us and a potential client. We secretly hope it will happen with minutes but, sometimes it can take weeks to years. That’s the reality. And, if you make an offer to someone who doesn’t feel safe with you or trust you… well… that likely won’t go well.
There are a number of steps we need to go through to get from being a total stranger to someone being excited to work with us. Robert Middleton brilliantly speaks about this in his analogy of how marketing is like baseball. You just can’t skip bases. These things take time.
What can build safety and trust dramatically faster is working with hubs (i.e. being endorsed by those who your potential clients already love and respect). If you’re at a party and you meet someone by the punch bowl and get to talking, that’s great. But if the host of the party then comes over and says, “Oh my god! Tad is the best person ever! I’m so glad you’re finally meeting him!” and then raves about you… that’s better. That person will instantly relax and feel more safe around you because someone they respect respects you. This seems obvious but most of us don’t weave this principle into our marketing. And you can read my best blog posts about that here.
So, working strategically with hubs is a key way to build trust quickly.
How do you approach and connect with these hubs? In a low key and classy way.
Another approach to to make sure you have a thoughtfully designed business model or sales funnel. My colleague Mark Silver speaks a lot about how the first journey of marketing is about us giving to them. This often takes the form of giving them free samples of our work so they can feel if it’s a fit or not.
After someone has expressed their struggles and you’ve made space for them to share how that’s been for them and what they want instead you can start by offering them something free. Maybe you email them a blog post, a link to a video. Sometimes I’ll just give people a free copy of an ebook I sell. The key is to start with giving, not selling. If they like that, then you can take a next step. And, if your sales funnel is well designed enough, that may not take a lot of effort.
But safety and trust is not always enough.
And this is really my point.
You can build the coziest vibe in the world, and have people want to spend money on you and work with you and still be broke.
At some point, you need to make an offer. At some point, you need to invite them to work with you. This might seem obvious but I have seen countless people become incredibly well known and loved in a community and yet secretly be broke (when everyone assumes they’re thriving) because they would never make any meaningful offers. There’s so much collapsing that happens.
How to craft a good offer? That’s a topic for another time (though you can read related blog posts here).
But, whether it’s via email or in person, we need to put ourselves out there and risk rejection. Which is hard because the whole notion of marketing feels so gross to most people.
Luckily, there are ways we can invite people to work with us that are very low key, down to earth and non-pressurey. Marketing can feel good.
The main idea here is to just invite people to work with you. Simple as that sometimes.
But how? What words do you say?
What I’ve found is that when there’s connection and trust built and we’re coming from a centered and composed place, the words find themselves. And they’re usually fairly direct. Nothing fancy.
CASE STUDY #1: Workshop Invitation
I wrote about an actual example of this that happened to me recently in a blog post about how to invite people to your workshops. The personal invite is so often missed (because we don’t want to come across as pushy).
CASE STUDY #2: Meet Up Group Follow Up
My colleague and client (and dear friend) Russell Scott and I were chatting about it recently and he was feeling a bit flummoxed with how to create more business from a regular living room get together he hosts called his Wisdom Circles. It was such a beautiful, intimate and warm event and the last thing he wanted to do was to turn it into a pitch fest. So, we spoke about it and realized there was a specific approach he could use that would likely result in many people working with him that would also feel good to everyone involved. You can read more about that here.
Sometimes it’s just this simple: a direct invitation.
No funny business. No tricks. No stealth marketing tactics. No hard closes. We can make this more complicated than it needs to be. First we create connection and safety and then we just open up a conversation to see if there might be a fit. It’s really just that. Objections tend to show up when people are feeling pressured by us.
If you have any stories of this in your work, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
And if you’re looking for more help with how to invite people to work with you, I commend checking out my Heart of Selling product where you can learn the basics of how to invite people to work with you (and rebook with you if they already have) without any of the awkwardness.