Life after startup – how I got way better at asking my network for help

No need to beg, but asking nicely is a start 🙂

A surprising question

“So what would be a breakthrough introduction I could make for you?” I ask one of the superconnectors that attended one of our previous events.

Suddenly he goes quiet. “Eh.. wow that is a really good question, I haven’t really been asked for a while”

Somehow this question really caught him by surprise.

Then he thought for a bit, and suddenly he shifted from telling me about the surface of his business to really diving into what was not going well.

He was going through a major restructure of his company and he needed to get in touch with a completely new type of customer.

And all of a sudden, there it is, a perfectly justifiable request for an introduction that I was more than happy to make.

Superconnectors need just as many introductions

I have started to make it a habit to end most of my conversations with superconnectors with the same question and every time more or less I get the same surprised reaction.

Superconnectors are people that genuinely enjoy connecting others, but are not really used to asking for much help themselves.

So why is it so hard to ask for help? Here are the lessons I have learned with superconnectors, when it comes to asking for help.

Why I also sucked at asking (and still sometimes do)

As an entrepreneur I have always been of the mindset that all company problems are for me to deal with.

In most cases this served me well, and it gave me a broad set of problem-solving capabilities.

From learning how to sell products that nobody seemed to want yet, to turning a company around in hard times, to firing even the best of people when it seemed to negatively impact the company. All unpleasant but crucial in moments of crisis.

However because of this ability to deal with crisis situations, I also created a tendency to isolate myself in moments that important decisions needed to be made.

Meaning in good times I would be more relaxed and open, and in hard times I would put my guard up and hunker down on a problem.

But when it comes to asking for help through an introduction, the only thing that should matter is how close you are to achieving your mission.

So if your network can help you overcome those obstacles: always ask, regardless of whether the company is smooth sailing or in a crisis.

3 things I do now to get more focussed help

1 – set a very clear overarching goal and honestly explain an underlying critical challenge

For instance for us the next quarter goal is all about putting our event on the map through channels that go beyond our events.

In our mission to engineer breakthrough moments, curation is everything. But really good curation only comes from sufficient scale.

Our critical challenge has been that the event communication alone is not enough to get us to the scale and reach of a platform like for instance.

So far our biggest communication topic have been our ongoing events, which work very well, but when there are no events that also stops our communication.

2 – Have intermediate smaller milestones

A smaller milestone to go beyond our event communication is to test with a small campaign.

We have plenty of materials now that we shot from events and testimonias, interviews etc.

Now it is time to turn this into a coherent campaign somehow.

So probably we will need an expert in PR and marketing.

3 – Request very specific intros, ideally these are following 3 properties: a job title, a place, a time

Finally it is time to refine the Ask (what we like to call the Critical Ask).

An ask is only good when it clearly states who you need, with what geographical focus and specifically when.

So for instance:

I want to speak to a PR expert in Rotterdam that has experience with campaigns in Europe and the US (the area we operate in with superconnectors) by next week, as I will be traveling there.

A very specific ask helps your network really narrow down their search.

Also they will feel way more satisfaction knowing that they know exactly the person you need.

Putting a timing component on it helps increase urgency. For instance: if you happen to visit a particular place on a specific day or you are about to do something that could be relevant to that person (you organize an event for instance).

The good news for the scenario above: I have found the PR expert and I am meeting with her next week, wohoo!

The best Help, is given to the best questions

Help, I have learnt, is something you can constantly give, but also constantly ask for.

The better you become at pitching your Critical Ask, the faster you will also meet the right people that help you get just that one step closer to your mission.

So what are you waiting for? Start introducing others, analyse other people’s asks and practice the art of asking.

Because the best help, is given to the best questions.

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