How Not to Ask Like a Mooch

If you are going to ask someone for something, offer to trade value for what you want.

Each day, my inbox delivers me requests from people I don’t know, have never heard of, and who don’t know me. These people make requests to be on the In the Arena podcast or post their guest post on my blog, or some other thing. They start by flattering me and citing my last podcast or my last blog post, quoting it, and telling me they’re a longtime fan of my work. (This pattern is clearly the recommended approach from people who sell picks and shovels, get rich quick on the internet schemes).

I am not at all offended by the ask, and no one appreciates a little hustle when it comes to promoting one’s work like I do. I’ve said yes to a number of people, and have been thrilled that I got to spend time with them. But, having just written a book on closing techniques, the approach bothers me. There is no trading of value in exchange for the ask. It’s self-oriented, and the flattery that opens the request makes it so obviously insincere.

There is no reason not to tell the truth.

Truth 1: I was searching the internet, and it appears that you have a large audience I would love to share my new book with in hopes that they would buy it.

Truth 2: I just found out who you are, and I looked at your work. I think what I need help with is in line with what you believe, and I’d love to explore whether there may be a chance that you would help me promote my work.

Fine. It’s okay that you were hustling trying to get attention for whatever it is you need to promote. It’s a really clever idea to market and sell your wares, whatever they are. It’s also okay that you are not a longtime fan of my work, and it’s okay that you did not read all of my 3,000 posts, 100 podcasts, or 220 YouTube videos, and doing so would make you a very strange and lonely person. But here is what is missing:

Reciprocity: My audience is not very large right now, but I am working on it. Can I promote your work to my audience as a way to pay forward any opportunity to have you help me with my new . . .?”

The honesty and reciprocity change the nature of your ask. Instead of coming across as insincere, dishonest, and self-oriented, you offer to do something to help the person you are asking for help. This makes your offer easier to consider, and it demonstrates that you are willing to give in addition to your willingness to take.

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