“We all want to grow our business. And we often do that by spending quite a lot of money… But the reality is in front of us, we have all the new clients we need.”
Graham Eisner perfected his technique for asking clients for referrals without embarrassment on either side at Goldman Sachs, and has been teaching business owners how to do it to grow their business ever since.
At its heart, his method involves a simple but profound shift in mindset: a belief that people genuinely want to help. It turns out this is an incredibly helpful mindset when it comes to marketing your book, too – and Graham generously shares his pro tips in this energising and practical conversation.
Graham’s site: https://www.graham-eisner.com/
Graham on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Eisner_Consult
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge April 2022: https://alisonjones.leadpages.co/proposal-challenge/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/extraordinarybusinessbooks
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Graham Eisner, who has devoted 30 years to understanding the power of client referrals for businesses, first as a private client sales person at Goldman Sachs, and more recently as a referral sales coach and trainer, working with brands such as Barclays, Julius Baer and Deutsche Bank as well as smaller businesses.
And he’s the author of Just Ask! Seven simple steps to unlock the power of clients, generate referrals and double your business. So welcome to the show, Graham, how are you doing?
Graham Eisner: I’m very well Alison, thank you very much. Very good to be on the show.
Alison Jones: Yes, good to have you here.
So first let’s start with that title, which I know you and I talked about for quite a while, you know, what we’re going to call it. And it was… just Ask, just kept coming back to that, didn’t you? Such a strong, simple message. Just tell me why that’s so important.
Graham Eisner: Well, in my experience it’s amazing how many opportunities people have in front of them to find new clients and people really don’t ask all those people that really would be happy to help them. And you know, that’s in business, but obviously in personal life as well. And so it just makes a great deal of sense to focus on just asking.
Alison Jones: Why don’t we, I mean, what makes it so hard?
Graham Eisner: There are so many mindsets people have that gets in the way, they feel it’s an uncomfortable question to ask someone for something or if it’s to find a new client or something like that. They feel it’s a bit pushy. It’s a bit salesy. It’s uncomfortable. They wait for the right moment. There are so many things that come into their mind that they would just prefer not to go there, or if they’re in a meeting and even think they’re going to ask, they forget to ask, or the meeting gets too busy and they don’t ask.
There’s just so many things that get in the way from asking
Alison Jones: And it’s the stories we tell ourselves, isn’t it, that… you know, how this is going to come across.
Graham Eisner: Completely, what we tell ourselves about how uncomfortable it might feel. And then we also make so many stories up about what the client is going to be thinking, or the person we’re going to be asking is going to be thinking.
So put that all together, that’s so powerful that in fact we just don’t go there.
Alison Jones: And I mean, it’s sort of obvious, but just spell out for us why asking for referrals matters if you are serious about growing your business.
Graham Eisner: So we go out and we all want to find new clients. We all want to grow our business. And we often do that by spending quite a lot of money. Maybe it’s on advertising. Maybe it’s on bringing in new salespeople. Maybe it’s on taking people out to dinner, doing events whatever it is.
But the reality is in front of us, we have all the new clients we need. We’ve built up so many great contacts over the years that could be through existing clients, even could be our ex clients. It could be our friends, it could be our families, it could be our suppliers. There are so many people there that trust and have enjoyed what we offer to them. And those can lead to so many different opportunities.
And if we just take even our existing clients, they work with you, they trust you. And if we ask in a way that we’re comfortable because it’s a very, very professional ask, it’s a privilege for that person to want to work with you as well.
And so it can be very comfortable to actually ask at the end of the day.
Alison Jones: And I know that the answer to this is well, read the book because, you know, it’s all there, but if somebody is listening and they’re going, I hear what you’re saying, it makes all kinds of sense, but my toes are curling, Graham. I just can’t do it. What’s one thing that you would say to them to just to find a comfortable ask?
Graham Eisner: Well, I would say it is changing in your mindset that actually all the people that you know, really want to help you and it really is true. They really want to help you. And if you have that in your mind, even if you ask in a very, very simple way, I’d love to ask for help on one thing, just that, try that.
And I think as you reach some successes of recognising that people really do want to help you, that will give you the confidence to keep on asking and to expand and think really laterally about all the people that you’ve known in your life that really could help you.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. And it’s funny because it really changed my mindset reading the book and when your own toes are curling it’s contagious, isn’t it? But as soon as you get more relaxed about it, then it changes the whole dynamic of the conversation.
Graham Eisner: Absolutely.
Alison Jones: And what I love as well is the way that you have taken that open, relaxed, sort of expecting the best, understanding that people are there to be collaborative, to help, and you applied it to book marketing. Tell us a bit about that.
Graham Eisner: I have a philosophy, I’m going to try and sell a million books, of this book that I’ve written. And I know that everyone says you are only going to sell five or ten thousand, but I’m really open to every single opportunity that there is. So for me, as I just said previously, anyone I know is someone that definitely could buy my book or could help me.
So, one thing that I did was I wrote to probably 700 people, 750 people. It was personalized with their name, but obviously it wasn’t necessarily an email that was written for everyone, I did adjust it. Asking people to help me to promote my book either by getting on the Amazon bestseller list that was pre it now having come out. But even now I’ll be writing to people and that will be helping to keep the momentum going.
And it was amazing how many people that came back, that I haven’t spoken to for 20 years, 25 years, 10 years didn’t matter. They were friends, they were old business colleagues, I don’t mind. And the response has been fantastic, that people who are willing to help and buy the book.
So that has led to a number of people that have bought the book. And for me, all those people become advocates of the book. So I’ve had many people that come back and said, I’ve been reading it, it’s been helping me. And then my Just Ask is to ask them in a really nice way, whether they would help me by writing something on their LinkedIn profile, let’s say to actually buy my book.
For me, that’s all then about making it as easy as possible. So I have all the steps laid out. So it literally will take them two minutes of their time, it’s completely easy. And they’ve been doing this and now that gets me to reach another 2,000, another 4,000 people. I want to get 400 people to do that. That’s a lot of people that will reach a lot of people.
So that’s sort of one strategy I have. You know, LinkedIn Premium means that you can write to roughly 150 to 200 people a week to try and connect with you. Now, obviously the message that you put, I put it in such a way that will mean that they will want to connect with me and everyone out there listening will have their own sort of specialism. But let’s say you can find that route and you can increase those people following you and really just do that constantly.
What I’m doing then is having been connected is I will then ask them, saying just in case it’s of interest, here is a link to my page. And I believe that will lead to, you know, a lot more sales of books.
I’m also going to send out for free a number of copies to those people who I know are influencers and know a lot of people. And I will then just ask them receptively, to build the momentum and help me promote my book.
I know someone who became a bestseller in South Korea and a bestseller in Holland by getting on a podcast over there. So my intention will be to get on any podcasts I can in English speaking countries, outside of the UK.
We just never know. I think I come from this point that everything is an opportunity. And any of these, you know, friends of mine are, they are opportunities, and they’re really willing to help. I can continue if you’d like, but you know, something like Tik Tok is something that I’d definitely look to, it’s becoming very, very big in the business world to really gain a great deal of people that would become interested in my book. So there’s that whole route. That’s just some initial ideas.
Alison Jones: It’s brilliant because when you have that kind of getting over yourself out of the way, when you’ve changed your mindset, all those opportunities are opportunities rather than sort of issues, say toe curling things. But also we know that books sell because somebody has recommended it to you. It’s that horizontal trust stuff, isn’t it? You, as the author could be putting out adverts, putting out paid ads on social media, talking about how great your book is: of course you would say that. What’s so powerful do you think about that tapping into that kind of horizontal trust network?
Graham Eisner: I think it’s everything, you know, we all know that due to social media and Facebook and trust and likes, it’s the way the mind works. And that’s why these companies become successful. And they will, what I want is that at least someone has gained that initial bit of trust that they will look into the book and then possibly buy, it’s getting them over that first hurdle.
There are so many hurdles and I feel that this jumps many of the hurdles by just getting right in front of them immediately. And that’s what I want to do. And then I think for me, I just like to think as laterally as possible, even if it’s an accountant, let’s say helping with my accounts eight years ago, I’m going to write to that person. Because that person, I never know who they know as well. That’s the other thing, you know, they then send it out to their people. And then that opens me up into the world of getting some opportunity I didn’t even know about. And it’s come from someone that was trusted and liked.
Alison Jones: And this has been your philosophy in business, it’s philosophy with the book now. Tell us some stuff that comes out of it. Because I can imagine, as you say, when you’re looking at life as a sort of whole series of possibilities, really odd things come from left field, really odd opportunities that you hadn’t seen happen.
Have you had any of that happening?
Graham Eisner: With the book I have actually got on to some podcasts that have absolutely, I obviously didn’t know that I was going to have any chance of getting onto and we’ll see where I’m going to go with those. I have got in contact with people that I really did not think they would reply and they’ve replied and they’ve been really favorable and they’re going to introduce the book to all their followers. And so this is just starting to open this up.
So you know, at the moment it is just been just phenomenal how this is opening up and also using LinkedIn. What I’m realizing from LinkedIn is the random people that are coming back to me as I’m building my brand and building the sort of Just Ask possibilities and the book being out there. I’m just getting random people coming back to me, that then is leading to opportunities.
So, you know, I’m obviously at the beginning of my journey, as you know, I launched it a month ago, but and also what I think, what I feel excited about is this isn’t a journey that has to be on launch.
This is going to go on for me for the next five years alongside all the other things I’m doing. The content of my book is not going to change. And I think the power of it is never going to change. So I can just keep doing this and we’ll see.
Alison Jones: It’s very energizing, even just listening to you actually, because I think people often look at marketing as a, now I need to kind of gird myself because I need to go and do some marketing and it can feel quite a tough thing, you know? And it’s wonderful actually, to hear somebody just getting so excited about it and where it’s taking them.
To me it seems like a brilliant demonstration of the luck surface area principle, where, you know, if you’re doing something interesting, talking about it kind of is an exponential way of growing the chances of something good happening to you.
Graham Eisner: Absolutely. I think for me, it is exciting and the feeling of, the other thing to mention is, you know obviously, your group is being helpful, very helpful to introduce me to a number of different people, but there’s a world out there of articles and newspapers and my intention is to get in touch with everyone.
I never know where the luck’s going to come from. I suppose that the phenomenon of this is make your own luck. And when you actually get someone coming back and saying absolutely what a great idea or I’d love to, it’s such a fantastic feeling and it gives me absolute confidence that I know I can make this happen. It’s just going to take time.
Alison Jones: It’s so exciting. So when you were actually writing the book, did this apply there as well? Did you get people involved in the writing or did you sort of lock yourself away and then it was the marketing of the book that really sort of spring-boarded the Just Asking?
Graham Eisner: Yes, in the writing, I did more ‘do that alone’ kind of writing, obviously getting advice along the way, but I think one thing I would say that if I did it again, is this phenomenon of LinkedIn Premium and really getting my name out there earlier. I would have done that.
And I also would have just connected with hundreds of people before. So my LinkedIn account, I have a thousand, I would have 10,000 by now. And all those people for me would have genuinely been possible buyers of the book. So I absolutely would have done that. And I think I would have, you know, even looked into connecting myself with more people before.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s great, hindsight is 20-20 vision, as they say, isn’t it?
Graham Eisner: It’s not a problem because obviously I’m just going to do it over time, but I would have done that.
Alison Jones: Yes, and books do have a long shelf life.
Well, one thing I was going to ask you was your best tip for a first time author. So you’ve given us loads of really, really practical stuff already. But if, you know, if somebody said, what’s your single best tip for writing and marketing a business book successfully, what would you say?
Graham Eisner: Well, I would say take a big white paper and really laterally think about everyone you’ve known in your life, all your friends, all family and family connections, all your connections through business and think that everyone wants to help you. And if you could put something together, an email, something that’s friendly and obviously they’re going to respond to that.
And make your own luck and I think be really positive and I think you’ll be amazed how easily it will be to promote yourself and get yourself out there.
Alison Jones: And as you say, success breeds success, doesn’t it? Once you’ve done it successfully a couple of times, I mean, genuinely what is the worst that can happen? You know, maybe somebody doesn’t answer an email, maybe they’re too busy, but they’ll probably say it nicely. It really is you’ve got nothing to lose. Have you?
Graham Eisner: Absolutely. I mean, to be honest, as I say I wrote 750 emails, I probably had 200 replies and buy the book. All those 500 didn’t, I’ll still get back in touch with them because it’s not that I think that they didn’t want to answer. I actually still believe they want to buy the book and will still want to help me, but it’s just a question of recontacting them in a different way.
So now the book’s out, I’ll approach them in a different way to try and help me.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. And I always ask people for a business book recommendation as well. So apart from Just Ask! obviously, what business book would you recommend that listeners have a read of?
Graham Eisner: There’s a book called Busy by a business psychologist called Tony Crabbe that I really like. I think it makes life easier for anyone and there’s no need to be or assume we’re busy. We can get out there and be more efficient and achieve more in life. I really liked that book.
Alison Jones: It’s a great book and Tony’s been on this podcast actually in fact twice because he did Busy @ Home during the pandemic.
Graham Eisner: That’s true.
Alison Jones: That was his project wasn’t it, it’s a terrific book. Yes, fantastic recommendation. Thank you.
And Graham, if people want to find out more about you, more about Just Ask! If they want to go and buy the book now they’ve heard you, where should the go?
Graham Eisner: Well the book is on Amazon or through…
Alison Jones: …and everywhere.
Graham Eisner: and they’ll find me on www.graham-eisner.com or LinkedIn Graham Eisner is probably the two most easiest ways to find me.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. Thank you. I’ll put those links up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com.
Thank you for the massive injection of possibility, potentiality, can do, just asking. Loved it. Thanks.
Graham Eisner: Brilliant. Thanks Alison very much.