How to Ask a VIP for a Favor

It's always a bit awkward to ask for favors, especially from people who are considered industry leaders. Here's how to do it the right way.

learn more about Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jacqueline Whitmore

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A smart networking strategy is to meet and connect with a few VIPs. These individuals have the potential to be powerful allies. Their success, connections and reputation can help you grow your business and achieve your personal and professional goals.

Before my first book, Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work, was published, I needed to procure endorsements in the form of cover blurbs. I admired Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America. As I considered whom I should ask, I noticed in the newspaper that Mr. Valenti would be in West Palm Beach to speak at a charity luncheon.

I realized it was my opportunity to ask for his endorsement of my book. Even though the ticket price was expensive for me at the time, I made a reservation to attend. To ensure I was present and prepared, I arrived early. To have the best chance of meeting Mr. Valenti and giving him a copy of my manuscript, I went in search of someone who could introduce me.

Related: The 3 Qualities of Likable People

After I picked up my nametag, I approached the coordinator of the event. "Would you be so kind and introduce me to Jack Valenti?" I asked. Though I didn't have a shared connection with Mr. Valenti at the time, the program coordinator served as my "connector."

She obliged and suggested I approach her and Mr. Valenti as soon as they entered the room. Instead of taking my seat, I waited near the door so I wouldn't miss my opportunity. When Mr. Valenti walked in with the coordinator just before the luncheon began, I walked over to them. The coordinator introduced me and I was able to give him a copy of my manuscript.

A few weeks after the event, I followed up with an email. Within minutes, I received the first official endorsement for my book from someone I greatly admired.

If you want to ask a favor from a VIP, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Do your research. Read everything the person has written. Learn more about his career and his passions. Check his website or blog frequently, sign up for his newsletter, "Like" his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter.

Don't rush the process. If you want to cultivate a relationship with a VIP, don't ask for assistance or favors prematurely. The best way to meet a VIP is through another connection or referral. A personal introduction ensures you have been vetted — someone who knows and trusts you already.

Related: 6 Types of People Who Are Really Hard to Talk To

Address correspondence correctly. In every letter or email, be sure to spell the recipient's name correctly. If you omit his or her name altogether, it's a giveaway you have sent the request to a list of people and it's unlikely you'll receive a response. Show your admiration and respect by personalizing your message.

Add a little reminder. VIPs are extremely busy and meet a lot of people every day. Don't assume the person will remember you. Instead, briefly remind the person how you met or if you share a mutual acquaintance.

Flatter his work. When do you do something for someone, they are more willing to help you. If you have read his latest book or purchased one of his products, mention it. If his work or advice has made a difference in your life, tell him.

Related: 5 Ways to Be a Better Listener

Be specific. When you ask for a favor from a VIP, make sure the request is clear. Give him or her all the facts and pertinent information. Tell her exactly what you'd like her to do in a concise message. If you don't, you may not get a response.

Set a deadline. It's a good idea to give a VIP ample time to complete your request. If the favor is time sensitive, or you need an answer immediately, let them know. Give the VIP a specific deadline. Otherwise, you might miss out on an opportunity.

Send a thank-you note. Even if you receive a negative response, send an email or, better yet, a handwritten note to thank the VIP for their time and effort. Let him or her know you appreciate the response. If his advice or actions were helpful, explain how your situation turned out.

Related: How to Write an Unforgettable Thank-You Note

Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).

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