I am in the fortunate position to be able to receive a lot of asks from people. I get asked for help sponsoring or lending my name and contacts to projects and businesses. I get asked to sit on advisory boards. I get asked to guest post on this blog. The list goes on and on. From this experience, I have realized that most people have no idea how to ask for something.
So, while this may seem completely harsh, I feel the need to share five things with you to potentially save you a lot of time and effort (and hurt feelings when people don’t respond), as well as to save those that you target a ton of time and effort.
I don’t care about what’s in it for you and nobody else does either. You can spend paragraphs telling me about your latest project and how amazing it is and how you will benefit, but if you are looking for my help, you are missing what I care about. I care about what’s in it for me. Everybody does. It’s human nature and also a good vetting point for how we use our time. If I am not getting something out of it, I am not going to prioritize it vis-à-vis all of the other opportunities that I have. If you are looking to build a business off of my name, profile, contacts and effort, I should probably get some real benefit too, don’t you think?
What’s in it for me has to be of value. So, when you tell me the benefit, think about whether it is really a benefit to me. I am on national television 2-5 times every week, have my own daily radio show on a top station in the country, write for major print outlets, etc., so if your pitched “benefit” is that I get exposure, you have to really have an outlet that gets exposure. If your blog gets 10 visitors a week, that may have been a benefit for me when I was first starting out, but it isn’t today. Understand the difference.
Also, realize that there are many different forms of currency. If you are cash poor, what else can you offer? I appreciate the effort from those who may not be able to offer me exactly what I need, but at least try to come up with something of value or an array of suggestions.
Make it brief. Everyone is busy, so make your pitch to the point. You can follow up at the end with supporting materials/life stories, etc., but get to your point quickly. If I have to read five paragraphs to even be able to begin to understand what you are asking for, it’s a non-starter.
Build a relationship first. I am extremely loyal and will go out of my way for those that I care about and who have been supportive. So, if you want something from me, your best possibility of success is to be someone that I know. That could be someone who retweets me constantly, who responds to my email newsletters on a regular basis, who posts comments on this blog, etc. and has been doing it for a while before the “ask”. And another hint- this is not quid pro quo- you should be supportive because you want to, not because you have an expectation of getting something. You aren’t entitled to support just because you have done something. That being said, most people are more willing to help those that they have relationships with.
If all else fails, use humor. If you are really clever, once and a while, you can get through on your charm and humor alone. However, I wouldn’t rely on that tactic as a be-all-end-all.