Premature Solicitation

Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know?  Michelle Villalobos, a BNI member in Miami, calls this “Premature Solicitation.” [Say that fast three times and you might get in trouble!]

I agree completely with Michelle, and I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times.  I was recently speaking at a business networking event and, before my presentation, someone literally came up to me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you.  I understand you know Richard Branson.  I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide.  Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

OK, so what I was thinking was:

Are you completely insane?  I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom I’ve only met a few times (here’s the story of the first meeting)so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I don’t know anything about and haven’t used myself?  Yeah, right.  That’s NEVER going to happen.

I am pleased to report, however, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response. 😉

I replied… Hi, I’m Ivan, I’m sorry–I don’t think we’ve met before, what was your name again? That surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.”  I explained that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a long-term strong relationship with the service provider first.  He said thanks and moved on to his next victim.

Networking is not about hunting.  It is about farming.  It’s about cultivating relationships.  Don’t engage in “premature solicitation.”   You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.

14 thoughts on “Premature Solicitation

  1. Great post. As someone who networks a lot, (and currently serving my BNI chapter as president) it’s great to have these reminders to slow down, listen, and get to know a person a bit better before soliciting them for referrals. You’re right on the money!


    Jonathan Flaks

  2. Premature solicitation definitely applies to job seekers too! As the former VP of Networking for a Seattle marketing association, and author of I’m at a Networking Event–Now What??? (on Amazon right now), I’d also like to suggest that a better opener for anyone is “So, what are you working on these days?” Followed by, “Do YOU need help with anything right now?” You’re definitely less likely to alienate others w/these.

    Sandy Jones-Kaminski

  3. I was presenting at an event last night where Tom Fleming & I were sharing the Certified Networker, and Tom spoke specifically on asking for a referral too early in the relationship…
    After the presentation, one of the participants walked up to me, and handed me a card. I asked her what she wanted me to do with it, and she asked for 2 referrals to contact sphere relationships (and she was proud, because she had been VERY specific in her referral requests). Last night was the first time that I had met her…
    She was experiencing premature solicitation.

  4. Premature solicitation! It puts me in mind of another common complaint – “assumed credibility”. Eddie Esposito VP of Referral Institute based in New Orleans explained this to me a few years ago. I would say though, before I was taught the right way to do things I am sure I have “prematurely solicited” so I am sorry to anyone from my past AND let’s embrace those who make errors like this. Networking is a learned skill and we all have to learn, some of us didn’t realise we were learning the hard way until we learned the profitable way.

  5. I like the term “Premature Solicitation.” My term for it is “Cold Calling in Person.”

    It’s absolutely NOT networking. Most of the annoying, ineffective, and downright offensive behavior that I see people do at networking events is because they are selling.

    They were never taught that networking isn’t selling. Oh… it can LEAD to selling, but the two should never be confused.

    Ivan – I very much like your response to the inappropriate sales approach. My friend who represents Sandler Sales Training would call that a “pattern interrupt.”

    The “salesman” expected that you would either numbly take his card or that you would say “sure!” By asking him for his name, you took the conversation back to square one, where it should have been in the first place.

    Thank you!

    Beth Bridges
    The Networking Motivator ™

  6. Thank you for your post. For someone new to the world of networking and selling it is an extremely good reminder. I have had some good tutors along the way so far. I have regularly been encouraged to keep the attitude that “it is better to give than to receive.” I have already seen the fruit of building relationships in that way.

    Joe Denner
    Alliant Leadership

  7. I’ve also read the posts on ecademy and frankly, I’m appalled at those who are trying to justify the “too-quick close”. As it says in many texts, a referral is sending somebody you care about to someone you like, respect, and trust. Forgetting to build the relationship into the Referral Zone (as outlined in my book coming out this summer – The 7 Levels of Communication: Go from Relationships to Referrals <– sorry for plug, but it fits this topic so well), can cost you more than just the immediate business. Getting a reputation as a cold-hearted closer will get you avoidance from those you need to meet – the connectors.

    Sandi and others articulated it so well. The objective is to help others (Givers Gain) achieve their goals and perhaps they will help you achieve your goals. Besides Dr. Misner's books which are excellent, a couple of great books are The Go-Giver and Go-Givers Sell More (released last week) by Bob Burg and John David Mann.

    Zig Ziglar said, "You will get what you want in life when you help enough others get what they want in life." Those who ask for the sale, may get one, but lose the relationship in the process and the relationship can be far more profitable and fulfilling. It is about victories not victims.


  8. I’ve been hit up for recommendations from acquaintances I know socially, but I really had no idea about the quality of their work. Some folks need to brush up on their networking skills.

  9. I am a connector and enjoy networking and introducing people to others. I must admit that it is annoying to be solicited for a referral prior to having a trusting business relationship with the requester. My experience of premature solicitation behavior is that the person appears competitive, desperate, and scared. When the business relationship starts on a note competition for perceived limited resources and expedience, my all sense of good will is extenguished. The spirit of generosity and reciprocity is highly valued and prevalent in cultures of cooperation and collaboration. Giving is part of a collaborative process, with all parties receiving value from the exchange.

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