As a freelance trainer, your wider network can help to fulfil a number of roles in your professional life – it’s the source of opportunities, mentors, coaches, referrals, colleagues and peers.
As a result, you’re likely to come across a reason fairly soon to reach out and ask someone in your network for help, advice or a favour of some sort.
In this week’s blog, I wanted to talk about steps you can take to make sure that your request is met with a resounding ‘yes’.
- Maintain a relationship
Generally speaking, people are happy to help each other if it’s within their power but we can all be wary about requests that come from people we hardly know or people who only reach out when they need something.
A sure-fire way to secure help from within your network is to maintain an ongoing relationship with people you are likely to reach out to in the future. No-one likes to feel used – instead, it’s important to show your contacts how much you value them at all times, not just when you need something.
- Forewarn people that you might need their help
If you know that you might need to reach out to someone in your network in the near future, it can work well to send them a quick email giving them a ‘heads up’ that you might be in touch again soon and why you will contacting them.
For example, if you’re about to make the jump from part-time freelance training to full-time and you’re likely to be looking for referrals for bigger contracts, you could ask your network in advance to keep an ear to the ground for you.
- Personalise your request
Whether you ask for a favour via email, social media, in person or over the phone, you should always personalise your request. Be clear about what you’re asking and why, and let the person know why you have specifically chosen to reach out to them. Avoid sending out group emails unless everyone in the group knows each other and can see how they all relate to your request.
- Be specific
These days, most of us are time poor. When you ask for a favour, it’s helpful to be specific about what you need from the other person, whether it’s a referral, a piece of information or advice about a situation.
My advice is to do everything you can to help the other person meet your request so that it takes them as little time as possible.
The easier you make it for someone to fulfil a favour, the greater your chances of receiving the help you need.
- Highlight the value of helping
If you do need to ask someone for a favour, it’s a good idea to pinpoint any benefits for the person whose help you need. For example, let them know if you hope it will open up a new business opportunity or benefit one of your contact’s clients in some way.
- Ask if they need help
Another good approach to relationship building and asking your network for a favour is to send out an occasional message checking how your contacts are and asking if you can help or support them with anything. This shows that you’re happy to give as well as to receive.
If you have connections who you think share a similar audience or would be a good fit for each other’s businesses, you could offer to make an introduction. It may not benefit you instantly but I think the goodwill such actions foster pays dividends in the long run.
- Follow good LinkedIn etiquette
LinkedIn currently has more than 364 million users, making it the largest biggest network in the world. As such, it can be a fantastic tool for reaching out to people within your network to ask for their assistance.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with LinkedIn, however, is to confuse ‘online’ with ‘impersonal’. It can be truly irritating to receive generic template messages to connect or a request for a favour before an introduction has even been made.
For this reason, when you reach out to connect with someone via LinkedIn, I recommend clicking the ‘Add a note’ option to your request so that you can personalise your greeting. Remind the person where you met them or, if you’re reaching out to a stranger, why you would like to connect with them.
If you want to ask a contact for a favour, try to spend some time building up some rapport with them first rather than diving straight into your request and, as in any other situation, let the person know if they will benefit in some way from helping you.
- Keep your request professional
Asking someone in your network for help should always be done in a polite and professional manner. There’s nothing worse than a pushy, demanding request. Instead, keep your tone positive, to the point and pressure-free.
- Follow up
If someone in your network steps up to help you, always send them a quick thank you email or follow up with a phone call. This is a great time to ask them if there is anything you can help them with.
People will also appreciate receiving a quick update about how their support has helped you.
Even if someone isn’t in the position to grant you a favour right now, it’s still good form to send them a quick thank you for taking the time to reply. You can always ask them to keep you in mind in case circumstances change.
Above all else, I think that if we can show that we’re happy to help people in our network, a kind of karmic reward will come back to us in the future.
How do you feel about asking your network for help? Do you reach out to your contacts or does asking for a favour make you feel uncomfortable? Has anyone ever asked you a favour out of the blue? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.
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