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How to Get Comfortable Asking for Help

How to Get Comfortable Asking for Help

A great conversation came up recently at one of our Hera Hub events. We have a member who recently launched her consulting practice and needs to land her first couple contracts. She is fairly well networked in her industry, so it’s not as if she is starting from scratch. Her statement struck me:

I feel bad tapping my contacts for help.

Why are women so bad at asking for help? Some women look at asking for help as a weakness. Others look at it like a debt. I recommend not thinking about it as “help,” but rather networking. Men do it all the time and don’t think twice about it!

[Related: Consider What to Keep and Stop to Reinvigorate Life and Career]

Helping others makes us happy.

Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing. For example, it can reduce stress as well as improve mood, self-esteem, and happiness. Helping others gives individuals a mental boost by providing them with a neurochemical sense of reward.

A new meta-analysis in the journal Psychological Bulletin shows that helping others also improves your own health and happiness. It adds to the growing scientific literature showing that helping others also helps yourself, in more ways than you might expect. According to the study’s lead author Bryant P.H. Hui, prosocial behaviors such as altruism, cooperation, trust, and compassion form the “necessary ingredients of a harmonious and well-functioning society.”

The “first client” hurdle can seem daunting to new entrepreneurs, but building momentum is important to build confidence. I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost twenty years, so this idea of thoughtfully reaching out to my network when I have a need is second nature to me. It was helpful for me to step back and think about what’s worked well for me when I do reach out.

So where to begin...

First stop - LinkedIn search.

Second stop - the online directory of the professional organizations in which you’re involved.

Make LinkedIn a daily habit! As a professional service provider, LinkedIn is your key to launch and growth. If you’re not familiar with the advanced search functionality, here is a detailed screencast.

Now that you know who to ask, follow these important rules to elegantly make your “ask.”

[Related: How to Overcome Ask Avoidance]

1) Do your research.

When you initially email me, tell me why you think I’m the right person to help you. I’m definitely more likely to help someone who makes a compelling case for it.

2) Be very clear and concise.

Make it easy for me to understand what you are asking for. Here is an example:

I’m excited about launching my business in ____ and am looking to support _____ type of company with ______ type of need. Who should I be talking to?

If you’re looking for an introduction to someone in my company or network, include that person’s LinkedIn profile link - don’t make me go hunt!

3) Once you’ve established that they might be willing to help connect you…

Make the email to them VERY, VERY easy to simply forward your email to the right contact. Write it as if you are them and make them look good. No one wants to go the extra mile for someone who wants his/her time but hasn't demonstrated a willingness to invest their own time first.

4) Offer something in return.

What benefit can you provide to the person or company you are contacting? I have found that I get my best results when I stick with the principle outlined by Keith Ferrazzi in his book Never Eat Alone: Create value for others first or find the win-win.

For instance, before reaching out, spend ten minutes liking and commenting on their activity/articles on LinkedIn (if they are active). Thank you so much for your time… AND ask them:

Is there anything I or my network can I do to support you?

5) Make them look good!

When they do make an email intro, reply promptly. Thank them for the intro and note that you are moving them to Bcc.

6) Be grateful.

Whether the intro worked or not, be sure to take five minutes to circle around with them to let them know what happened.

Thank you again for your introduction with _____. We had a great ______ last week and are exploring _____.

I can’t tell you how many times people don’t even bother to do this one simple task.

If the connection was particularly helpful, then I recommend writing a handwritten note and sending a small token of your thanks. If you want to go the extra mile then add a small present. If you are not sure of their tastes, find a women-owned restaurant or cafe in their area that sells gift cards. Win/win! Everyone needs to eat, right?

Important notes!

Don’t rely on LinkedIn messaging. Most people don’t check it. Use email!

And at any point in the process, don't be offended if the person doesn't respond right away. People are busy! I know I receive over 100 emails a day that require some sort of response. Sometimes it takes me a week to get to things that are not on fire.

Use the “boomerang” extension on Chrome to ping yourself if there has not been a reply within a week. Send them one final nudge. If you still don’t hear back, don't take it personally…just keep moving and continue to comment and like their LinkedIn posts.

[Related: Practical Thoughts on How to Start Your Own Business]


Felena Hanson is the founder of Hera Hub, a spa-inspired shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs. She is the author of "Flight Club - Rebel, Reinvent, and Thrive: How to Launch Your Dream Business," which provides tools and resources to women at every stage of launching their businesses.

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