Want Something From Someone? Do the Work for Them.

What's the secret to winning people over? Simple: Make it as absolutely easy as possible to say yes.
Want Something From Someone? Do the Work for Them.
Image credit: Nigel Parry
Magazine Contributor
Editor in Chief
4 min read

This story appears in the April 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Here’s a great paradox of entrepreneurship: We barely have enough time to finish our own work — but to truly succeed, completing our own work isn’t enough. We must do other people’s work, too!

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? But let’s not forget how necessary it is.

I’ll give you an example.

I recently received an email with a great subject line: “From one podcaster to another.” I’m a podcaster! I like podcasters! So I opened it immediately. The sender explained that he wants to be a guest on my show and then offered a broad, bullet-­point collection of information about himself — companies he’s been involved in, “fun facts” about himself, general topics to discuss, and more.

Related: How to Make Someone Want to Do Business With You

Why was he telling me all this? Some info seemed possibly relevant to my podcast, but most of it wasn’t. (Turns out, for example, he’s a “burrito-eating champion.”) Then, intriguingly, he came clean at the end: “I have not listened to your podcast,” he wrote. “But I am not a complete idiot and I have looked it up. I love the premise and think I can really add value.”

Now I understood why his email was so random. He had no idea what would resonate with me. He was selling a product but hadn’t researched his customer. Therefore, his solution was to offer a large buffet of details — and hope that I’d sift through it myself. It’s like he was saying: “I won’t invest my time in you up front. But I expect you to invest your time in me.”

That’s a bad deal. But let’s cut the guy a little slack, because I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of this, too. At some point, surely, we’ve tried to win over a customer, a potential partner, an investor, or someone else, and failed — because we expected them to get to know us, instead of the other way around.

Related: 8 Crucial Tips to Win Every Business Proposal You Ever Send

That’s why I said above: If we are to succeed, we need to do other people’s work for them. We must obsessively understand their needs and interests. We must know exactly what they’re looking for. And then we must deliver ourselves and our services in a way that’s customized to them — so that, in a fraction of a second, they understand why we’re an opportunity that can’t be missed.

If this guy wanted to be on my podcast — or any podcast! — then step one should have been understanding the show. Listen. Think. Identify patterns and opportunities. Research the host. Look at the back catalog. Then customize a pitch, highlighting only the information that matters, and packaging up an idea that’s so compelling, it’s impossible to turn down.

Why don’t people always do that?

I have a theory. We know ourselves so well, we forget that others don’t. We are rightly focused on building great things, and it doesn’t occur to us that, to other people, we may be total strangers with a totally random idea that makes totally no sense. Then we’re left to wonder: Why aren’t people buying? Why aren’t they investing? Why aren’t they banging down my door? The answer is, because we expected them to do all the work in learning about us. We didn’t do their work for them. And we should have.

Related: The Pandemic Created New Opportunities. Here's How to Find Them.

Great marketing and storytelling is a start, but I challenge you to go further. For whoever you want to reach next, ask yourself: If this person did hours of research on me and decided I’m a perfect match for them, what would that look like? Now do that work. Figure out what they want. Know their pain points. Find the connections.

It makes sense if you think about it. Wouldn’t you be thrilled if someone did your work for you? Wouldn’t you be grateful for the hours saved? That’s the thrill you’re about to deliver. And you’ll be thrilled in return.

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