Building a company from the ground up is never easy. I have written before how the on-going rollercoaster is not for everyone. In talking frequently with entrepreneurs and investors, it seems clear that one of the biggest advantages for startups and founders is their ability to know how to ask for help. For some people, this process is easier said than done. What has always shocked me is that some entrepreneurs even neglect to fully leverage their investors and advisors.
The reality is that entrepreneurs should never hesitate to leverage their network to increase their chances of succeeding. In fact, new studies prove that many people genuinely want to help and that the joy of giving and helping others actually outlasts the joy of receiving. Generosity is addicting and gratifying so don't feel guilty for asking.
Leverage your investors
The relationship between founders and investors is littered with the phrase, "let me know how I can be helpful," so much so that there is even a Twitter parody account named after it. The problem is that many don't actually know *how* to ask. The reality is there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for favors or support.
One of the most common asks is for introductions. Tapping into your team's collective network to get warm intros can be a gamechanger. Sales, recruiting, and partnerships - all are crucial to a business's success, but cold outreach fails more often than not. In fact, referrals convert at a 3-5x higher rate and boast a 16% higher life-time value than non-referred customers.
Warm introductions take advantage of what can be referred to as transitive trust. When you've established credibility with your introducer, who then has established credibility with the person you ultimately want to connect with, you will, in turn, be able to better establish credibility with your ultimate target. When our connections vouch on our behalf, we're much more likely to get our foot in the door. The social proof provided by a referral carries immense value and weight.
But there's an art associated with asking for help, so here are some best practices to help you get started.
Set your introducer up for success
The first step in leveraging your network for success is to set your introducer up for success. Be clear in your ask so you don't waste their time. Do some research on the person that you are looking to get introduced to and demonstrate that you have an understanding of how your solution could be beneficial.
Write a paragraph that could easily be forwarded. Be sure to include a brief summary that includes the three "Ws"--1) who are you? 2) what do you want, and 3) why should I (the recipient) care? One of my favorite quotes is, "If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written A Shorter Letter." Brevity is an art, and so when it comes to asking for a favor, it is of paramount importance. The recipient is only going to glance at the note, so make sure the info that matters stands out.
If you receive an introduction but the conversation goes stale, don't be afraid to follow up or ask if there is a better time to connect. Timing is everything and just because the timing is right for you, it does not mean it is for your recipient. Respectfully giving them control as opposed to pushing forward will ensure not only respect for you, but also maintain your introducer's brand.
Show your gratitude
Gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions. Research indicates that gratitude and thankfulness are linked to a deeper sense of commitment to an individual. A simple act can increase the likelihood that your introducer will perform similar acts in the future. Gratitude involves more than merely saying "thanks." Send a hand-written thank you note or a personal gift to your introducer. Follow up and let them know how their introduction impacted your success. Though often overlooked, these small acts can have a lasting impact.