5 ways to ask your network for help
Starting a conversation is one of the easiest ways to expand your network. Add value, add your expertise by sharing one or two items of interest that will make you memorable.
One of the most interesting aspects of my work with business owners is to see extremely talented, smart and accomplished leaders hesitate to ask for what they want from their network.
And I use the term "network" loosely, as it could be people they've worked with for years or people they just met yesterday.
Yes, it's human nature to be cautious and to consider carefully what you are asking for. You do not want to overstep your bounds.
Do you avoid asking because it feels too salesy? Or are you not sure how to ask?
I know I personally used to hesitate from asking, but I now only pause, since I have figured out how to ask by sharing my expertise — which I know will help other people reach their goals.
Here are five ways to reach out:
1. Make a specific request
Many people I work with want to do more speaking. Ask people in your network if they are on the boards of associations or organizations and might need a speaker. Tell them what you are doing and that you have the experience to be able to give a great speech or that you've spoken to a Rotary already and you want to do more speaking in 2016. If one person in your network introduces you to one person, then you have expanded your network.
2. Ask for an introduction
This sounds so basic, but we don't do it. And I don't care for the LinkedIn introduction feature. I prefer to ask my network directly by phone or email if they will connect me to a person that I know they know. I tell them what I am looking for and I ask them to introduce me. I always give them the opportunity to say no, but almost every time they say, of course I will connect you. This is using your voice to reach more people.
3. Ask for exposure to their networks
Many people work in organizations or associations where they post weekly or monthly blogs. Ask to be a guest author and post your content in a newsletter that goes out to your target audience. People read emails from their associations, but may not read an email from an unknown person. By posting a blog you are stepping out and saying what you stand for and can share your expertise. Again, a great way to increase your visibility.
4. Ask for a new client
You've probably been asked about your ideal client. Can you answer the question? Can you answer it quickly? Can you be specific? This is a great question to ask your network. So for example, if you're meeting with your accountant, you can say, "I'm looking to expand into the manufacturing space, do you know anyone who runs a business that I could call to learn more about the industry?" So, you didn't ask for the account. You asked for more info and that makes it easier for your accountant to make the introduction. In fact, he or she might want to join you for a lunch or a quick meeting.
5. Ask what you can do for them
People talk about reciprocity in networking. To deepen the relationship, take the time after a meeting or a networking event to call the person who made the referral to find out more about what he or she does. Ask, "How can I help you, and what do you need?" Often, people are so startled that you genuinely want to help that they will ask you what they can do for you. And then you ask for an introduction or for them to keep you mind if they hear of anyone who needs your services.
Starting a conversation is one of the easiest ways to expand your network. Add value, add your expertise by sharing one or two items of interest that will make you memorable. Ask for what you want, and please be polite when you ask.
Cathy Paper is president of RockPaperStar, which coaches, develops and markets select business owners, authors and unique speakers to national status. The 91-day RockStar Plan impacts marketing plans, career coaching, and business development. Her clients include Harvey Mackay — the No. 1 New York Times best-selling Author of "Swim With The Sharks" — Riley Hayes, Best Buy, and Paramount Studios.
As seen in American City Business Journal. Click to see other articles.