Today’s episode is all about how to not shoot yourself in the foot right out the gate. I’m gonna break down one very common mistake that newbies (and non-newbies) make and how to fix it. Today, we learn how to ask for help and guidance in a way that doesn’t completely fuck up your chances of getting what you ACTUALLY need, which is respect.
I’m Illana Burk, CEO of Your Life’s Workshop, coach to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs across dozens of industries and host of Good Business. With nearly 20 years experience helping hundreds of clients create profitable, ethically driven and sustainable businesses based on their life’s work, I’m here to teach you how to do great work, make great money, and make a positive impact without feeling like you need a shower afterwards.
Hi everybody, and welcome to another episode of The Good Business podcast. I am your host, Illana Burk. Today’s episode is all about how to get things right from the start. See, I have worked with a lot and seen a lot of beginners at business. I have seen the hustlers who keep doing everything they can think of until something works. I’ve seen the naturals who have an almost sixth sense for marketing and strategy. I’ve seen the babes in the woods who are so overwhelmed that they can barely move and everything in between. By far, the most common type of beginner is the one who inadvertently shoots themselves in the foot over and over again until they are 100% certain that everyone hates them, and they can’t do anything right. Instead of learning how to do things right, they complain about it on the internet to the very people they need to respect and support them to progress and move on.
So today, I’m going to break down the one very, very common mistake that newbies and non-newbies make and how to fix it. Today, we talk about how to ask for help and guidance in a way that doesn’t completely fuck up your chances of actually getting what you need, which is respect.
First, let’s get crystal clear on what I’m talking about. I’m in a group of successful people, people who make millions of dollars, who get national TV — really successful people. Now obviously, not all of us are in that category, but we all have achieved a high level of business stability in one way or another and are all mostly pros. It’s a pretty cool group. Now, it’s not a business group; it’s a mom’s group. We’re all on this funny, level playing field because we all have young kids. We do have a handful of folks in the group that are newer than the rest of us and who we [more established moms] genuinely try to guide and lift however we can. They [the newer-to-business people] have a backdoor seat to something pretty special.
Recently, one member asked the group how she can make money fast. She told us how her business was just a year in, and she wasn’t making anything from it, and she needed to make a few hundred bucks on a regular basis. Now, it wasn’t the first time she’d asked something like this. I looked at her business presence online, and I saw about 25 things in the first 10 seconds that were 100% responsible for her lack of success, a collection of things to experienced eyes. It’s as clear as the nose on my face, and I know for sure it was equally clear to everyone else in the group who has eyes like mine who’s been around the block and seen a lot of people come and go over the years. You can see the markers. On another day, maybe I’ll go into what those markers are, but not today.
What was even clearer is that she was asking the absolute wrong question. Here’s this lovely woman trying to make ends meet, trying to get her business off the ground, and she gets invited to this free group that’s full of people that she may never have heard of. Her business is way outside the niche of online business that most of the people in the group occupied, but who are probably some of the most experienced and successful big brain people that she may ever come into contact with or meet. They are willing to help her, and the question she asked was something she could Google in three seconds. She could have found out quick ways to make a few hundred dollars anywhere, but she had all of this expertise at her disposal and didn’t use it.
What she should have asked was for feedback, advice, an honest take on what we might see that she didn’t. That was the right question. When a few people did respond, she never even bothered to reply to any of us. It was flaky, it was dismissive of our attempt to help, and it was kind of her last chance. I don’t mean that we all turn up our noses at her, but she asked something similar a couple of weeks later and didn’t get any responses at all. Had she engaged and asked questions and been willing to create a dialogue, we’d be more willing to help. We all want to help, but we don’t want our help to be a total waste of fucking time.
This sort of thing used to piss me off. Now, it genuinely makes me sad for people like her. I want her and newbies like her to know how to ask the right questions because I want her to succeed. I want her to make a living doing what she loves. I want her to be able to support her family, doing what she loves. I want her to learn how to use the right resources in the right ways. That’s what I want more than anything. It’s really difficult in those moments because you can’t teach that to someone in those moments. So, I’m teaching it in this one.
I’m hoping that there are people out there that will go, “Oh shit, I’ve totally fucking done that, and that’s probably what happened there. It’s not that they hate me; it’s that I did it wrong.” She had an opportunity to get free advice from some cool people. Not only did she miss the opportunity, but she also ran the patience well dry. When she asked another wrong question a few days later, nobody responded. She had missed her chance to get invaluable advice and access and walked away, wondering why no one wants to buy what she’s selling. Instead of looking at how she can better sell, all she’s doing is lamenting, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s so much easier for everyone else.” It was obvious. It was like the entrepreneurial equivalent to winning the golden fucking ticket to the chocolate factory and showing up on a wrong day. You get it.
So, what do you do instead? How do you know how to ask the right questions? First, know who you’re asking. To ask the right questions, you have to ask the right people the right things, or the answers are irrelevant. You don’t ask your hairstylist what she thinks of your web design. Don’t ask your spouse if your products are a good idea unless they’re an expert in your niche. Don’t ask a bunch of marketing experts how not to market your goods better and instead ask them which MLM is the best fucking choice. I kid you not, that’s how this went. That is the wrong fucking question.
Second, empathy first. That means, pick your moment. Asking for something is an art. Sometimes, it can be more useful to notice when not to speak up because we are all humans. Respecting that other people don’t exist solely to help you is a better way actually to get what you need.
Third, tailor your request to the person that you’re requesting from. If that person knows sales, ask a sales question. Show that you know who you’re talking to.
Fourth, look for a way to be memorable for the right reasons. Look for an opening to be funny, be relevant, be useful. Someone else’s expertise is not yours for the taking just because you need it, and they have it. Even the smallest way that you can find to give something back to them can make all the difference. A laugh or a smile or an offer of something you know that they could use is all it takes. If someone puts the effort in to make me laugh in an email request for something, I am a thousand million times more likely to say yes. I just am. I’m simple like that. I think most people are. It shows effort. We’re all jaded, and we’re all busy, and if you can make me smile and have a feeling, have an emotion beyond, “What the fuck does this person want from me now?” you’ve done your work right. That says, “I value your time and your energy in the world.”
Fifth – put yourself in their shoes. What would it feel like to be crazy busy and have a ton of people asking you for help all the time? What would you want to hear if you were that person in that position? I mean it and don’t just go, “If I were in that position, I would want to help.” Well, no you wouldn’t because you don’t know what it’s like to have people asking all the time – for years. It can feel relentless, and you want to help, and you want to be there for everybody, but you can’t be. It’s impossible. So, how would that feel? To break through, how can you offer something of value that will make them feel like they’re not just a gold mine of information there to be hacked at and have that information extracted from them.
To recap – ask for help, but don’t be dumb about it. Remember that your energy is currency. You don’t just get to take it. You don’t just get to give it either. You have to offer it in return in some way before you can request it from someone else. If you find yourself in a room full of people who can help you, don’t look to take your shot. Look for a way to start a relationship. Ask a good question about what makes them tick. Offer real help. Give them something that feels good to give and good to receive.
If you forget all of those because you’re so are overwhelmed by the bigness of the opportunity in front of you, think of this one simple thing. Pretend that whatever that person you’re looking at can do for you is a wad of cash in their hand. You wouldn’t run up and just take some of that cash, would you? You would offer something they want. Do that, and you both win. If you don’t have anything, do nothing. Seriously. A bad impression is worse than no impression. Instead, figure out how to offer something next time and then look for another window. There’s always another window unless you close it by being an altogether asshole.
And that’s that, everybody. Thank you all for joining me. I hope you all have a wonderful week. Bye-bye.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. For more information, visit www.thegood business.co or www.yourlifesworkshop.com.
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