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How to ask for what you really want in the business world

By Young Entrepreneur Council

In business, your greatest assets are often found in the relationships that 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 interview or partnership to succeed, then you’re pretty much digging your own 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 (whether a “yes” or resounding “no”), you take the pressure off of yourself and the other person. 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 spot, a press mention or a sale, is to build a relationship first. You can get 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.

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Doing business with people you like is way easier, and it tends to yield better results for everyone involved.

When you’re building these 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 built a good relationship with someone before you ask for anything. But when you do start asking, you’ll want to think about what’s in your request for them.

Are they getting a free piece of 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 them an offer they can’t refuse

This is the “pitch” part of asking, and it can be done any way you feel comfortable with. You can ask in an email, a quick phone call, or by carrier pigeon. Just keep your message short and to the point, and consider how it’ll land with your recipient. If they’re busy or they have someone else handling inquiries, make sure to account for that in your communication.

Here’s a sample pitch email for a podcast interview:

“Hi Jan,

Like I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of your work and was just listening to your podcast episode about growing tomatoes. I wanted to see if you were up for interviewing me about worm composting, because I know you haven’t covered that on your show before and I’m sure your audience would learn a lot.

Either way, I’m always sharing your latest episodes with my audience and I’d be happy to collaborate on an episode if it sounds fun!”

Ask clearly, and follow up politely if you don’t hear back

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. Or, as is often the case, the email gets lost and forgotten in a busy inbox.

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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.

I can’t wait to hear about your ability to ask for what you want in business and how much it’s going to improve when you start practicing.


This article entitled “How to ask for what you really want in the business world” originally appeared in e27.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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