In business, your greatest assets are often found in the relationships you’ve developed with other people: your clients, your peers, and those lofty influencers (who are normal people, after all). Every one of them can be considered an ally.
But how do you connect with those people in the first place? Well, whether your goal is to get a guest post published, land an interview, or establish a business partnership, the important thing is to learn how to ask for what you want in business — and do it with grace. Here’s how.
Ask, but don’t get too attached to the result
If your entire business is relying on one media interview or partnership to succeed, then you’re pretty much digging your company’s grave. The person on the other end of the question is definitely going to sense your desperation. Clear your mind of any “attachment cobwebs” before you make your request.
By keeping things relaxed and being open to whatever outcome arises, you take the pressure off. This gives you the freedom to truly approach the topic as an opportunity that should be taken if it benefits both parties and avoided if it doesn’t.
Invest in relationships first, ask second
The best way to get something, whether it’s a speaking invitation, a press mention or a sale, is to build a relationship first. You can be strategic about who you want to build relationships with, and people certainly do that, but you can also go where you feel the friendship and the pull.
Doing business with people you like is way easier, and it tends to yield better results for everyone involved.
When you’re building relationships and introducing yourself to new people, focus on them and providing value in any way that comes naturally for you. Once you’ve established a reputation as being both friendly and helpful, any future requests will be met with a lot more enthusiasm.
Acknowledge what’s in it for them
Ideally, you’d want to have a good relationship with someone before you ask for anything. But when you do start asking, you’ll want to think about why it’s beneficial for them.
Are they getting a free quality content, exposure to your audience, or something else in return? If you’re going at it from a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense for the other person to enter into a commitment that doesn’t end up affecting them positively in the long run.
So make sure your proposition includes a real, sincere benefit to them, and put yourself in their shoes before you make the ask.
Make an offer they can’t refuse
This is the “pitch” part of asking, and it can be done any way you feel comfortable. You can ask in an email, a quick phone call, or by carrier pigeon.
Just keep your message short and to the point. If they’re busy or they have someone else handling inquiries, make sure to account for that in your communication.
Ask clearly, and follow up politely
After you hit send, you’re probably going to hit refresh on your inbox a dozen times. But if you don’t hear back from a request in a week or two, it’s probably a good idea to follow up. Sometimes people go on vacation, declare email bankruptcy, or just plain get busy.
Your follow up can be short and sweet, and you can reference your first message. But make sure you don’t add any new pressure. Keep it light and watch what happens.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Nathalie Lussier is an award-winning entrepreneur, international keynote speaker, and founder of AmbitionAlly – a company designed to rethink the work world for ambitious women. She’s also the creator of the free 30 Day List Building Challenge for entrepreneurs who are ready to scale. A version of this article originally appeared here.
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