It seems in the world of business, there are two camps of people: those who push their goods and services down your throat, oblivious to whether you actually need or want them, and those who sheepishly suggest that you might potentially, possibly, someday find value in their goods and services, if only you would eventually read their minds and intuitively “get” what they were trying to telepathically communicate to you, in the first place.
Rarely do you find the person who can eloquently, simply state what they’d like you to do and why.
Recently, I received an email from someone who needed my help, but struggled with this very issue. This individual had assembled a team of professionals to create an innovative jobs initiative geared toward the un- and under-employed. His email was a synopsis of the organization and a couple of documents he had prepared, with the intention of securing a federal grant. He asked how I might be able to help.
I replied that the documents were well-written, but could use some minor editing. Once the organization received funding, there would be an opportunity for social media, press releases, media pitches, etc., but those should wait until the new company won a grant.
Simple, straightforward response, right? I thought so, until I received another email, along the lines of this: “Thank you for your feedback. Could you tell me which of those areas you’d be equipped to help with?”
I re-read the response several times before it hit me: (potentially) grant-funded startup organized by highly-skilled, but (mostly) under- or unemployed individuals, looking for very cheap, or ideally–volunteer–help. Why hadn’t he said that in the first place?
Whenever you are reaching out to other people for help–whether for volunteer expertise, mentoring, funding, whatever—you absolutely cannot afford to be vague. Eloquently state your case and say what you mean. If you need free professional help, cut to it. Simply say something like this: “We’re trying to get funded, and while I’d love to pay your fee, we can’t afford it. Might you be willing to donate maybe ten hours a month to our organization in the area of your expertise?”
You have a 50/50 chance of your contact responding either way. If they say yes, you get want you want. If they say no, ask them to refer you to someone who might be able to help. Whatever you do, don’t waffle. Tell them what you need and know that you have a right to ask for it.
And in case you were wondering, I responded to the email by saying I’d be happy to help, for this here fee, thank you very much. To which my contact didn’t respond, because apparently, that wasn’t quite the answer he’d hoped for.
What about you? Do you freeze up when asking for what you want? Tell me in the comments below, or let’s talk about it on Facebook.