Sunday, January 23, 2011

Creating Relationships–Offer Before Asking

I’m always amazed how many people out there still forget a golden rule when it comes to creating new relationships – the golden rule of asking “How may I serve your needs?” instead of overwhelming someone with a list of demands before a relationship has even been created.

I had someone reach out to me recently because they had a strong interest in a particular slice of my network.  The person, whom I did not know but who had found me via social media, politely described her intention and need.  She wanted to solicit my network to increase the business of her company and in order to accomplish this, wanted me to pass on to her the names and contact information of everyone that would be of value to her.  There was nothing in it for me (not that there always has to be) but the fact that the request was so one-sided in benefit stood out starkly.

Imagine a stranger calling you on the phone and saying politely, “I would like to call all your friends and family to see how they can help me grow my business.  Would you be kind enough to give me their names, relationship to you and phone numbers please?”

I’m sure you’d hop right on that, wouldn’t you, being delighted to provide this information to a complete stranger with no idea how the information would be used, what impact this person might have on them and no insight as to what your relationship with these people might look like after the stranger had worked their “magic”.

Yeah … right.

I replied with an explanation of how I don’t give my network contact info to strangers without context for how the information would be used.  However, I did indicate that if she could offer a different model where we would collaborate; helping me to understand what she wanted, how she operated, how we could craft something that benefitted all parties for the value of the respective contributions, how her intention would benefit my network, etc., then I would more than delighted to have a dialog with her.

Her response was “a no thank you” regarding collaboration (making it clear that my thoughts regarding a one-sided collaboration were right on) to which I replied that she gave up too easily.  Her reply was that she would reach out to me in the future with the same ask.  Knowing what I know now, perhaps she shouldn’t waste her time unless her approach to collaboration changes.

The dialog highlighted something interesting.  When one attempts to create a new relationship, one shouldn’t open with a message that says “I don’t care about you, I have a need that looks like this”.  This is the surest way to turn someone off and guarantee a failure to engage with that person.

When the same person turns down an offer that transforms a a “what’s in it for one person” into a “let’s explore something that creates a win for everyone”, then that person is not destined for sustainable success, either as an individual or as a collaborator-wanna-be.

They fool some of the people some of the time but eventually either exhaust the list of people who will listen to them or learn the hard way that collaboration with a foundation built upon an understanding of respective needs, styles, and values is far more beneficial.

When one sees that the path to success is through someone else (either a long-time acquaintance or a new contact) consider making an offer to them first.

Find out what “turns a person on” personally or professionally.  Is there something about their values-set, their style of execution, a particular element of Life, a project of importance to them or some other aspect of their Life where you can provide assistance to them?  Do they drop “bread crumbs” that signal how they like to engage with others?

Find out what these are FIRST and bring value to their Life, who they serve and what is important to them.

Good people, feeling that what is important to them is important to you also, will respond in kind with an offer for assistance for something important to you.

Everyone wins.

If you don’t take the time to find out what is important to them, then they feel that they don’t matter or they are being used.

And they are probably right – not a great way to create a new relationship or strengthen an existing one.  It is in fact a way to kill a relationship that otherwise may have born fruit for everyone involved.

The next time you need someone’s help (especially in a new relationship), ask yourself this before approaching that person.

What is important to this person?

What are their values?  How do their values align with mine?

How does this person prefer to be engaged in a relationship?

What turns this person on or off?

What gifts do I have that can help that person move towards their Life goals and objectives?

Too much work?  Then you weren’t in it for a mutual collaboration in the first place, were you?  Maybe the objectives you are trying to achieve for yourself are not important enough that you would be willing to invest in someone else to achieve them.

However, if you strive to understand the answers to these questions (and the others that may arise as you answer these), then you are ready to reach out and make an offer to them.

Not an ask.

You are ready to say “Hi, my name is so-and-so, you have an interest in such-and-such and I believe my gift / talent in the area of such-and-such can help you.  Would you be interested in hearing more about how I can help you?”

Conversely, nothing kills a dialog faster than receiving a message from someone seeking help that implies “I’d like to care about you and your interests but I don’t - I am more important”.

I would think that creating relationships is a lot more fun and impactful than killing them.

Don’t you?

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Creating Relationships – Offer Before Asking”, please click here.

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