Activation Energy

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I was talking with one of my nerd buddies the other morning and she brought up the idea of activation energy.  Since most people reading this haven’t taken a chemistry class this millennium, let’s review:  Arrhenius postulated the idea over a hundred and twenty-five years ago that basically it takes an influx of energy to get a reaction going.  Essentially, a chemical reaction needs a jump start, like you having that coffee in the morning to get going and then you are functional.  For a good article (where I stole the diagram) checkout Activation Energy: Why Getting Started Is the Hardest Part (

The reaction after getting over the hump can then keep going.  Like pushing a boulder up a little ridge and then it goes crashing down into the valley below to take out the enemy (an example of gravitational potential energy being converted into kinetic energy), chemical potential energy needs a little bit of influx to then unleash what it has stored up.  Like seed capital for a start up firm that then explodes, or investing money into a marketing plan that takes a few weeks to get going but then is cash-flow positive and self-sustaining. 

With building an Introduction Based Business, there is an upfront investment of energy in a few parts of the equation.  The first is completely mental, and involves you buying into the idea that getting paid with Introductions every time you create value is how you are going to build your business.  I was talking with a very successful businessman whose business has fallen off recently and he told me that he only asks for introductions from someone that buys.  I pointed out that means he is only asking about one in four of the people he is meeting with, and that is the reason his activity is low now and spiraling down because he is less effective closing due to scarcity mentality restricting his capabilities combined with a shrinking pool of prospects.  If you create value for a client, you earned the right to ask for Introductions and can get paid many more times than if you only ask those that buy.  Getting this individual to overcome his inertia requires mental effort, and is the influx of activation energy needed to start the process.

There is a secondary energy hump though: the relationship with the individual you are talking with.  You are going to have to invest in them to get something out of them.  You are going to have to lay out the parameters of the professional relationship and the exchange of value, you are going have to take the time and mental energy to understand them and assist them, and then you are going to have to take the emotional risk of rejection to ask for your introductions.  You have to work.  But you can also get them over the introduction threshold by making it very easy for them to introduce you when you ask.  One way is to feed them back a name from your discussion (“earlier you had mentioned so and so.  Tell me a little about them”), or ask for someone very specific (“I usually talk with my clients’ attorney, who is yours?”), or have a list of names and categories ready to go.  All work in getting the client over the activation energy required to start introducing you, and then the additional introductions beyond the first flow easier and easier in a sustainable reaction.

If you were to think about it, the idea that you have to give to get is not that outlandish.  Science for the win again!  So make the upfront investment of energy in yourself and in your clients to overcome the activation energy, to get over the hump, and see what the reaction is.

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