We are all aware of the idea that through only 6 consecutive contacts we can reach anyone else in the planet. A 'degree of separation' is a measure of social distance between people. You are one degree away from everyone you know, two degrees away from everyone they know, and so on.
What about the quality of the contact?
Logic would suggest that the closer you are to knowing the contact personally the more helpful it would be. However, emerging research suggests that when it comes to influencing others, it is not your contact that matters, or, indeed, their contact but the conversation that happens one stage further on.
So if, for example, you were looking to encourage someone to buy your product or service, then your immediate sales discussion will apparently have less influence than the advocacy of your customer’s contact. Or put it another way, the conversation might go like this:
“I’m looking to get some financial advice – do you know anyone?”
“ A chap I know always raves about a company called XYZ Ltd – you might want to give them a try?”
Is this really true?
Although it depends on the skill underpinning a sales conversation and the weight that the information recipient places on the provider of the information there is some common sense underpinning the argument.
First, we all have a natural (and healthy!) scepticism when we are conscious of being sold to direct. Flee or fight tendencies dominate.
Secondly, we also can detect and are dubious of the unbridled enthusiasm of someone who has just been sold to – who are they trying to convince that the product is great, us or, more likely, themselves?
So why are we more prone to the sucker punch of the third degree? Is it that this contact seems to have an element of objectivity? Why would they lie – they have nothing to gain?
So what can we learn from this?
The truth is that third hand advocacy is powerful and we can make sure we benefit from it in a number of ways:
Chris Lorimer is an
experienced consultant who has helped many organisations to grow through his unique 4 Ps approach.