As entrepreneurs, we can’t do everything ourselves. Those who don’t learn how to seek out help, delegate and collaborate will find themselves tired, frustrated and stunted in their pursuit of success.
The good news is that technology has made the ability to make connections, to ask for help and to get help even easier. The bad news is that because the bar of access has been lowered, behavior has also been lowered.
Here are six ways in which you should absolutely not ask for help if you want to be successful in getting that help and in preserving your valuable relationships:
1. Don’t ask at the 11th hour.
People are busy. Just because you can’t manage your time well doesn’t mean that others should have to drop everything to meet your deadline.
If you are asking for help promoting a new product on social media, check in on availability a few weeks prior and then send a reminder a day or two before your launch day. If you are asking for something big, like a book review or blurb, giving days or even a few weeks is an imposition for someone who is busy. Being respectful of other’s time is a must in enlisting their help.
2. Don’t be vague.
Most people are happy to help if you tell them what you want them to do. However, the onus is on you to figure out how they can be helpful.
Unless you are paying someone for strategy, be specific in how they can be helpful and focus on just one thing, whether it’s an introduction, a recommendation, or sending an email to their customer base. The more specific and focused that you can be, the better.
3. Don’t make people jump through hoops.
If you are asking for someone’s help, make it easy for them to not only say “yes” but to do the task. Don’t ask them to go to a website, read up on it and select from a list of times that you are available to talk. Send them the pertinent details and asks in a clear and concise manner or send them pre-written copy so they have the least amount of objections and the smallest possible imposition on their time.
4. Don’t make inappropriate asks for the relationships.
If you don’t know someone and haven’t worked with the person, asking him or her for a reference is inappropriate (although it seems to happen frequently, courtesy of LinkedIn).
Also, asking for someone to provide a substantial introduction when you don’t know each other well is also making an ask that is an imposition bigger than what the relationship justifies. Spend time investing in the relationship before you ask for something that is too substantial or you may burn that bridge for good. You can invest in a relationship by doing small things like sending relevant articles their way, big things like referring the other party customers or helping them with a project, or simply by building a connection over a series of coffee meetings.
5. Don’t Leave out WIIFM.
While people may be helpful for the sake of being helpful, you can improve your chances by tuning into everyone’s favorite radio station “WIIFM”-- aka “What’s in it for me?”
Is your new book helpful to their client base? Can you possibly return the favor on a marketing endeavor down the line? Can your services really help a contact of theirs and engender goodwill from the recommendation?
While not everything has to be quid pro quo, explaining to someone upfront what they get out of helping you shows that you care about them and also helps them get to “yes” more quickly.
6. Don’t be a jerk.
Say, “thank you” when someone has been helpful. Your mother should have taught you that!