Inviting Business – What to Do Before You Do and Two Simple Case Studies

striped_welcome_matSo, how do you make the offer without awkwardness?
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.
The-Heart-of-Selling-3D-Ebook-Cover-JPGIf 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. 

About Tad

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    Good food for thought, Tad. Yet, I notice it makes me a bit uncomfortable, because “selling” isn’t something I’ve had to do in my business. It has worked so far for me, but now as I step into new things – events and workshops… I notice this non-selling model won’t work.

    My old approach:
    1. I rarely “sell” my services. If someone I meet says, “I have a friend who needs a website, you should contact them.” I never do, but leave a card. I want their friend to contact me instead because I feel chasing people for work doesn’t work, people aren’t always ready for a service just because they talk about it with their friends, and I also can’t screen them through my website if it’s cold like this. My discomfort in cold calling also plays a role, however.

    2. I rarely talk about my work unless I’m asked or it comes up when meeting new people. For several reasons – yes, I don’t want to be pushy. But I also because I seem to attract a lot of work when I meet people and it makes me pull back because I don’t want to be overloaded in an already busy schedule. (haha, a good problem to have). Perhaps because I have a business that alot of people need, it’s an easier sell. However me not talking about what I do, or me making the focus the other person because I naturally fall into listener mode, or keeping quiet because I fear too much work… seems flawed and probably needs a different approach. Likely I don’t have the sales funnel complete, as you talk about, to offer more variety of things to people who check me out.

    But I’m not sure these approaches work for events and workshops, because as workshop facilitator, I need to be engaging. Darn, non-selling model will not work.

    Pondering New Approaches After Reading What You Wrote:
    1. I’m questioning whether what you wrote about empathizing, there is still an agenda when meeting people. Maybe I’m making having an agenda “bad”. Is it? I always assume yes, but maybe if your intention is to network when you go to events, then it’s authentic to your intention? Or perhaps the intention in what you wrote serves as a teaching tool, to show people what situations like this could look like? Wouldn’t it be more natural just to meet the person and get to know them instead of waiting for the opportunity to sell at the end?

    2. I like personal invites, if it’s in a friendly, to the point tone… not sales lettery, not copy and paste (or at least some personal touch added) and not long because I’m busy.

    3. Empathy makes sense. But perhaps also allowing people to see who you are opens their heart to you? I know I love hearing people’s stories. And if you’re excited about what you do, and talk about why you love it, that just naturally sells it.

    I did an event recently where I made a video that went with the writeup. I thought, if they could see my face, perhaps they could feel me and my intentions better (and I don’t feel strong in writing). I think it worked. In person, friends commented that my eyes would light up when I’d tell them about my journey and reasons for creating this event. And about the video – some attendees commented to me afterwards, that the video sold it to them (one commented that they saw divinity coming out of me, one thought I should be on TV, one thought it was “cute”). Perhaps if they see your heart, they will open theirs?

    Anyways, you asked for feedback, so there it is <3

  • Deborah Barry

    Reading Russell Scott’s story reminded me of times when I’ve been a prospective client. Recently I learned from a choir director that there had been a singing workshop this summer. I would have loved to attend – it was conducted by a person I dearly want to work with and it covered material that I really like! I was SO disappointed to have missed it!

    I found that I was actually a little miffed at her for not letting us know.

    Perhaps there are people who are disappointed that they aren’t being invited to work with ME!

  • cis

    Haha, I love the subtle, soft, non-pushy sale line at the end :-)

  • Dorothy Nesbit

    So much richness in this posting, Tad, and no sell, sell, sell… great stuff!

  • Tad, I love the bit about the host coming over and bragging on you. A lot of my success has been due to having other people endorse and recommend me, and in my work with clients, partner-based marketing is something I’m pretty quick to bring up. :-)

  • ha. thank you.

  • so glad you liked it dorothy :-)

  • partner based marketing. i like the title. would you be down to write a guest post on my blog about that where you share examples you’ve seen or what your clients have come up with?

  • right? i’ve had the same thing. nobody wants to be sold to, but people love shopping. we like to be in the know of what’s going on so we can choose something that might be a good fit for us.

  • hey kim,

    so many good thoughts. i love the new approaches.

    1) i don’t think having an agenda is inherently bad. though i do think that a) hidden agendas are trouble and b) the agenda to get to the truth is the only agenda that actually works (and, in business, this is the truth of whether or not there’s a fit). If people are coming from the hidden agenda to get me to buy from them, it will always feel gross. If they’re not attached to me doing anything but are curious about if there’s a fit, it will likely feel good. to me, ‘waiting for the opportunity to sell at the end’ assumes that our agenda is to sell. But if, throughout the whole conversation, we’re actually noticing if it feels good to us, if they’re a fit for us, if we can actually help etc. then that’s different.

    i also think that, in the first part of a relationship, i feel better if i’m coming from a place giving not trying to get something. so, when i feel a fit with someone, why rush it? I can take my time and offer value and follow up to see if there may be a match for us to work together.

    2) Amen sister

    3) Empathy isn’t possible, i don’t think, when we have an agenda to sell people. Empathy requires being present and loving someone as they are. It requires us to really take them in and try to ‘get’ them – to feel into ourselves and when we’ve found a similar thing. Antithetical to empathy is the notion of trying to ‘fix’ someone (selling could be another way of saying fixing).

    And i find that, when I feel a real connection with someone… and I think i might be able to help, the words often find themselves. And they don’t need to be perfect. I can stumble a bit and it’s okay.

    Thanks so much for taking so much time on this :-)

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    Thanks Tad!

    It’s uncomfortable looking at how you carry yourself and approach people, but I think it’s worthwhile. Instead of not selling, because it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s just realising it takes practice.


  • totally. sometime i think the word ‘selling’ is the problem – i think that’s why i use it so seldom. it seems to imply ‘convincing people’ to do things which is so the antithesis of how i think it needs to be done.

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    It’s a word that sure has alot of negative connotations. “Sell-out”, sell your soul, sell your body. All are taking precious things (your integrity, your essence, your body temple) and having little regard or respect for them. So not only is it showing disrespect for others, but it also doesn’t feel good because you are disrespecting yourself.

    However, what happens when you throw different cultures in the mix? This is a very modern Western approach to business. What about places where haggling is the norm? It’s expected to play the game, and the game is made of deceiving eachother. (hiding your interest, hiding feelings, hiding fair price, etc.). I imagine in Egypt or India, a satisfying purchase looks different, and perhaps driving a hard bargain feels more satisfying because you played the game well?

    It’s the oldest cultures, that seem to still practice bargaining the most, so the “convincing” part of selling is pretty ingrained into humanity.

    I don’t think all people have conscious malintent if they are coming across “gross”. There is alot of navigating through people’s stuff (culture, upbringing, emotions, history, lack of awareness, not knowing there is another way, or self-deception). And I guess you decide how much of it you’re okay with.

    I like the idea behind the word “inviting”. And I notice my clients
    want to use other words like “offerings” instead of services or
    “exchange” instead of fees. But, haha, is that just posh languaging? :) Or perhaps more so, you mean instead of “convincing” being the underlying intention of selling, make it “inviting” instead.

  • Words are so funny. i think it’s good for people to use the words that feel good. and i think you’re right. there’s a big cultural level going on for sure.

  • Certainly, Tad. What word length would you like?

  • Madeleine Innocent

    I get a lot of quick requests that go something like this – “I have just spend $1000 on my cat’s vet bills with no result. Can you help?”. When I say yes but it would require a consultation (for $100) as health is complicated and I need to spend time working out the problem, that’s the last I hear from them. I guess they think holistic health should be free. Not sure how we fund our ongoing training or put food on the table. Can’t figure that one out. Don’t know how to deal with it, so just let it go.

  • madeleine, my guess is that they don’t yet trust you or feel safe enough. $100 may be too big a leap for someone they’ve never met. you might consider developing some ‘pink spoons’ –

  • Whatever length works best for you, truly.

  • Madeleine Innocent

    Thanks for the reply Tad, I do get that. But they are in crisis (I presume) and it takes time to work out how to help them. In individual health care, there is no quick answer. I think pink spoons are great when there is not a crisis and I do have them on my websites. Maybe I misinterpret the crisis.

  • can you name the top five crises in which they come to you? What are the top five things going on with their pets when they hit that crisis point?

  • Madeleine Innocent

    Mmm, I’d have to go back and check the emails for the exact conditions. But it is always a condition that vet’s can’t solve but holistic health care can. But their faith, even with failure, is still rooted in medicine. I guess the animal is doomed to suffer because the person can’t change their mind set quickly. I’d love to help them fast track their change.

  • my suggestion: create a ‘crisis guide’ for each other those conditions. this could be a video or an ebook that guides them on what exactly is going on with their pets condition and what they can (and can’t) do on their home to deal with it. educate them. help them understand the situation and how you can help. build trust with them by educating them on what they can do immediately. put them on youtube so people can find them too. I commend checking this out:

  • Madeleine Innocent

    Thank you Tad. I wondered where you were going with that. That’s great advice and I will act upon it.

  • Madeline – would you be open to me writing a blog post about this? Or would you like to write a guest post about this conversation and what you come up with?

  • Madeleine Innocent

    You’re welcome to write about this. What I come up with may take time, especially if you want positive feedback from people I have helped. But I can write about it sometime when I have something useful to say, if you like.

  • wonderful. i’ll write about it. may i link it to your site? I’d love it if you kept me posted on this :-)

  • Madeleine Innocent

    No worries. The site where I get most enquiries from is