When your company sells products or services with a high price tag to hard to reach customers such as tech companies or the Fortune 500, relationships are everything. Cold outreach isn’t enough. The best way to open doors and close deals is through referrals and relationship building.
Joe Aburdene has been doing just that for over ten years. I interviewed him about how he’s built meaningful relationships while working remotely and fostered a network to get trusted referrals.
Joe moved from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles after college. He didn’t know anyone in LA, and as a result had trouble landing his first job. He worked as a bouncer and an extra in movies and TV shows until finally landing a job as a recruiter.
Through his experience job searching and as a recruiter, Joe learned about the importance of fostering strong relationships and credits his network for most of his successes over the past ten years since then.
In his current role as Director of Business Development at Lucas James Talent Partners, Joe sells on-demand recruiting process outsourcing and retained search to scaling technology companies. In his previous role as Director of Sales at vsource, he sold a recruiting software platform to a similar customer base.
Joe is very diligent and thoughtful about building relationships and making and receiving introductions.
While at vsource, Joe sold a 3-month pilot to a pre-IPO tech company. The customer loved the product.
Despite the successful pilot, as part of the company preparing to go public, they had to cut costs and weren’t able to sign on for an annual deal.
During the successful pilot, Joe built relationships with the customer’s Head of Talent and the primary user. They made it clear that they’d let him know when they were ready to re-visit the annual deal, so rather than just selling, Joe focused on relationship building.
It’s more difficult to build relationships in a remote world. Joe prefers happy hours where people can get to know each other in a more casual environment. People like doing business with people who they like personally, he says.
In a remote world, Joe recommends putting yourself out there first to show that you’re open to a more personal relationship. Beyond that, he’s found that consistency and thinking about people beyond immediate deals works best.
Whenever Joe reads an interesting article, he thinks about who in his network would be interested in it or have an opinion about it. Joe reads about his network’s industries, companies and competitors, not with the goal of becoming a subject matter expert, but rather to be knowledgeable enough to be able to ask his contacts good questions.
“People appreciate that someone listens to them, understands more about them, and is thinking about them beyond just an immediate business need”, Joe said.
Building relationships with his former vsource customer’s Head of Talent and primary user helped Joe get referrals to several more customers.
The main user introduced Joe to a friend who works at a different tech company who signed on quickly.
The Head of Talent moved on and started a consulting company where she partnered with some of the biggest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. She then introduced Joe to them. You never know where someone will end up in the future.
Joe emphasized how valuable relationships and trusted referrals are for landing the biggest and best deals:
“Everyone wants to believe there’s some sort of magical way to, with the right messaging, get to the audience that they want without having those relationships, but nothing really comes close to the value of trusted introductions and that’s why I invest in those everyday. We want those really hard to access audiences and it’s the only way to get in front of them.”
Joe treats every introduction he gets and receives like gold. “I put my name on every introduction I make and you can only go to the well so many times”, he said.