When we do all the work to create a powerful network, our success is not just in the number of people we know, or even in the number of people who know us. We build a network in order to be able to call on it to accomplish significant activities. Sometimes that’s about building a business, other times it’s about finding a job or raising money for a worthy cause.

Whatever it might be, at some point we have to turn to our network for help. We have to ask. When that happens we want to have as good a chance of success as possible. With that in mind, here are some questions you should ask yourself before asking that person who’s sitting across from you, drinking coffee.

  1. Will the relationship support it? You probably wouldn’t ask a complete stranger to borrow $20, right? Similarly, any request you make cannot exceed the level of the relationship you’ve built.
  2. Can they satisfy the request? It doesn’t matter how good a person they are or how generous. If they don’t have access to the resources you need, then this isn’t the correct request for this person. You may need to come up with a different request that they may be more able to satisfy.
  3. Will they satisfy the request? They can be the nicest person in the world. They have access to the resources. Your relationship is strong enough. Unfortunately, if they just aren’t the kind of person who goes out of their way to help others, then they probably won’t help you. They aren’t mean or bad, they are just busy and focused on other things.
  4. What have you done for them? This isn’t a question about doing something so that they will feel indebted to you. This is about whether you are valuing the relationship enough. Have you done something for them recently?
  5. Are you being specific enough? Don’t just ask for “a job” or “a client”. Be specific about your needs. A detailed description of your need is far more likely to help them come up with ways that they can help. “Anyone with a spine” might not ring a bell, but “A member of your country club who has been complaining about his back recently,” might make them remember their buddy Tom who was doing that just the other day.
  6. Are you asking for enough? This may seem odd, but many times people just don’t ask for enough. When someone who is in your inner circle asks “What can I do to help you?”, you have an opportunity for a bigger request. Maybe it’s a personal introduction to the president of the company, or maybe an endorsement to a potential client. If you ask for less than they are willing to do, then you are wasting an opportunity.

Asking for the referral can be a process that is full of anxiety. After all, you are essentially asking them if they like you enough to do a favor for you. If they say no, it’s hard not to take it personally. Ask yourself these questions, though, and you’ll improve your chances of success.

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He has worked with businesses and associations, entrepreneurs and job-seekers to create a world of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at www.TheReluctantNetworker.com or gpeters@thereluctantnetworker.com.

© Copyright 2013, The Reluctant Networker, LLC

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