5 ways to ask for what you want in business

A couple of weeks ago I helped handful of WeWork’s finest food tech entrepreneurs prepare their 4-minute pitch for Demo Day – an opportunity to pitch a panel of investors and industry professionals.  That day, I came across a challenge I’d never seen before. One of the pitches was TOO perfect.  “How is that possible?” I hear you cry.  Here’s how: there was no tension or drama to draw the listener in, and no call to action. And if people aren’t told what to do, they generally won’t do anything. I advised them to identify their greatest need right now – whether that be a contact, resources or staffing – and end their pitch with that. Small change, big impact.

If you find it difficult to ask for help, you’re in good company.  Most of us don’t ask for what we want or need for fear of coming across as pushy or on the take. While I completely understand this fear, the opposite is actually true. When a prospect has a genuine need or desire for your service or product, telling them exactly what they need to do saves them a huge amount of time and energy.  If they don’t have a need or desire for your product, they just won’t take those steps. No harm, no foul.

As a reformed non-asker, I’d like to share five tips that will help you ask for what you need and feel good about it.

1) Be clear on the desired outcome
When I was an agent and used to make cold calls, I always took a couple of moments to visualize the outcome I wanted from the call. It’s amazing the difference it made to my success rate!  Whether you’re picking up the phone, writing a newsletter, or speaking to someone at a networking event, it’s important that you’re clear on the desired outcome. Would you like to get a meeting, share an offer, or add someone to your newsletter list? Knowing what you want will help you tailor your ask, which leads me to number two…..

2) Be direct and specific
Few of us are mind readers and even fewer have the time for unclear or veiled requests.  Clearly and simply state what you’re looking for and ask if the person is willing and/or able to oblige. People will thank you for it.

3) Be gracious
No one owes you a thing, so always give people an out.  For example, when I meet someone at an event that I would like to stay in touch with, I send them a follow up email and ask if I can add them to my list. I them let them know that I send out a bi-weekly newsletter, what they can expect from it, and ask if they’d like to be added.  I end it by saying if they’d rather not get more email, I completely understand. Nine out of ten people say ‘yes’, but it they say ‘no’ I email back saying I totally get it and that I look forward to crossing paths with them in the future.

4) Ask for ONE thing per communication
I love the saying “a confused mind never buys”.  Limit yourself to one call to action per communication (email, conversation, newsletter etc) and then…..

5) Give them all the information they need to take action
If you’re asking someone for a meeting, suggest 3 dates and times, so all they have to do is pick one. If you’re asking someone to sign up for your newsletter, included a link so they can do it in one easy step (or better yet, offer to do it for them). If you’re pitching an idea for an article, pitch 3 titles.  What you want to avoid is involving the recipient to in a series of back and forth emails.

Could your business benefit from more effective calls to action?  Set up a free introductory call with me here and we can brainstorm solutions.

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