This past week I got three requests for help. Asking for help is never impolite if it’s for the right reason. I’m quick to help people when I can. But when the request comes from someone who either I’ve never met or who I’ve met once, and they want my help growing their business for free, it’s impolite.
Let me explain. The requests all came from people I had never met or had met only once. One person wanted me to forward an email to my contacts about a workshop he was hosting, another wanted me to let my contacts know about her business and the third was from someone who contacted me about coaching, declined that and then a couple days later asked for help with one of the coaching areas we talked about for free.
Shock subsided, requests ignored, here are guidelines for asking for a referral, introduction, business help, etc.
Don’t ask strangers for referrals
As entrepreneurs we are all trying to grow our businesses. We would all love having people out there referring clients or workshop attendees to us. But here’s the thing, I’m only going to refer business to people I know, like and trust. I am not going to ask my contacts to consider your services or product if I don’t know if you can deliver or how you are to work with as a business owner. What if I refer my dear contacts to you and you end up doing a terrible job for them? I then lose credibility with my contacts.
In case it’s not clear what getting to know someone means, it means we have met at least a few times. I’m very clear on what you offer. And, I have seen you in action or I have met people who have happily worked with you. In other words, I have had a chance to build a relationship with you and I like and respect you.
Give before asking
People are much more likely to help you when you help them first. I have a colleague I respect who has referred two great clients to me and you can bet I’m actively looking for potential clients I can send her way.
Find a way to be helpful, not just so you can ask for a favor one minute after you’ve offered your help. Do it for good karma; to be someone others think of fondly. You’re much more memorable, in a positive way, when you give a hand up rather than having your hand out.
When you do ask for a favor it should be several months after you helped that person.
Don’t ask for free advice
People make their living by dispensing their wisdom, experience and education, whether a small business owner, doctor, lawyer, accountant, you name it. If we gave it away for free, well, our businesses would be no more. Now that’s not to say I don’t offer free etiquette and marketing advice occasionally, but when what you want would take hours over minutes you need to pay for it.
If in doubt, don’t
If you have to start the email by saying “This may be inappropriate…” it is!! Don’t send it. Two of the people who emailed me began their emails by writing something along those lines and then launched into the request. If you have to qualify the request because you’re not sure of how it’s going to be received or have even a teensy sense it may be presumptuous, rude, out of line, etc. that should be your clue to step away from the send button.
We all want to succeed, but be sure you succeed by giving more than asking.