When Asking for Help, Remember These Tips

I recently launched an online coaching program to assist families going through divorce. I’ve asked everyone I know to spread the word, but most people ignored my requests. What can I do to get results?

It depends on how, when and whom you ask. More often than not, people ask the wrong way, with pleas steeped in desperation, which leads recipients to turn a blind eye. That you need help, that you’ve worked so hard or that your business might fail is your concern, alone. Avoid phrases such as “I’m anxiously trying to spread the word,” “I’m in dire need of your support” or “I’m sitting on all this inventory.” If such words sound familiar, you’re not alone. All of those tactics are common—I get them weekly—and none of them works.

Instead, when formulating a proper ask, focus on the people you hope to attract and how whatever you want to promote will also help them or their audiences. In short, be prepared to answer this question: Why should anyone help you? In your case, “By sharing my new program, it’ll help your followers ease the pain and minimize the stress of divorce” hits the mark.

Never dangle the prospect of pennies on a referral program—like offering a teeny monetary tip. That simply reminds people that your real motive is to make money and that you’re not motivated by wanting to assist those in need. You seek promotional assistance, not sales support.

Good times to ask include when someone has complimented you on a project or initiative: You have his or her attention, so it’s a great time to say, “Hey, I’m working on something else that might interest you—something that will help a lot of people.”

Occasionally people offer to help, but for whatever reason, we’re too sheepish to accept it. Be ready to pounce when an opportunity arises.

Remember, the timing must work for the person you ask—and not just for you. Take two minutes to check someone’s Facebook status: Two days after I posted my father’s obituary from The Miami Herald, I received an email from a woman who said she followed my work daily and needed my help. If she truly followed me, she would’ve known her timing was off. In that vein, simply taking a moment to check social updates might reveal a vacation or any number of preoccupations that may warrant delaying your request.

And even though we assume every communication can be accomplished via text or email, a personal phone call is often a trump card when asking for help. If you do email, make each request personal; most people ignore mass requests. And when you request social media support, provide suggested material that fits the platform—fewer than 140 characters for Twitter or an ideal image for Instagram.

Before you ask, check the individual’s feeds to determine whether this person would normally share information like yours with his or her audience. I routinely field requests for help from people who clearly have no clue what I do. Why would I share unrelated material with my followers?

Follow up if you don’t hear back. You don’t have to be a pest, but there’s nothing wrong with letting contacts know you value their time and support.

Finally, always thank people for considering. When they deliver, let them know you appreciate their help and if they ever need anything from you, to shout.

What if you’re not asking for promotional assistance, but for something you want? Find out how to ask for (and get) everything you want with 6 strategies to master the process of requests.


Tory Johnson is CEO and founder of Spark & Hustle, a weekly contributor on ABC's Good Morning America and a contributing editor of SUCCESS magazine.

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