A is for Ask ... or Don't Ask

***After you read this post, be sure to visit me at my new home here.***

I recently received the following request message from a connection on LinkedIn: 

"I am sending this email because this is the time of the year where we at XYZ Company really focus on the upcoming new year, increasing business and retaining current clients. 

Based on that I am reaching out to my network and seeking prospect referrals, I would like to list you as a prospect referral. As a Blank Blank Consultant, I am expected to provide a certain number of referrals, I would appreciate it if you would confirm that you don’t mind just taking a call from XYZ Company. This does not require any commitment although if you are truly in need of XYZ Company services I am happy to discuss that as well. I would really appreciate if you would reply back with your current email address and phone number. 

Additionally, if you have any contacts that you think may be a match for XYZ Company's services please forward their contact information. 

Sincerely, Name, phone number, etc."

This is one of several requests of this nature that I have received by email, through LinkedIn and even twitter. I even received a request for an endorsement from someone I don't know! In my mind, what's wrong with this picture is that I don't have a relationship with these contacts at all.

I have a strong belief that requests are best made once a relationship has reached a certain point ... when, in fact, there is an actual relationship.

There have been many times I have thought to reach out to someone because I thought an offering I had might be beneficial to them, yet I hesitated because I had dropped the follow-up ball. Meaning, I had gone too long in between touches, and therefore felt I didn't have the right to make the ask ... or any ask at all.

These types of requests are offensive because the person you're asking most likely feels (and rightly so) the only reason you're reaching out is because you want something. If you think it's too soon to ask for referrals, introductions, or for an endorsement, then it is {probably ... most likely} too soon.

My suggestion is to actually genuinely care about someone before you want something from them, and show it by developing a relationship with them. Meet them for coffee or lunch, call them to find out how they're doing and how you can help them, make an introduction to them or for them, or send them a referral.

If you develop a relationship, rather than viewing people as a possible transaction, you will fare far better. Do first, then ask. Or just don't ask.

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