There are a couple of truths related to getting help in business: (i) it is very hard it is to ask for help and (ii) we can’t build our businesses (or our lives) alone. So once you are ready, how do you get the help that you need? Here are three quick steps to getting others to help you (I know, that sounds like an infomercial, but it is really this easy- no Ginzu knives included):

1) Ask, or at Least Have an Answer

If nobody knows what you need, it is pretty hard for them to help you. If you need help, the onus is on you. We have personal, professional, alumni, social and other networks, so use them! Most people are very willing to offer help if they know what the heck you need. How many times have you been in a conversation when someone said, “How can I help you?” and the other party said, “I don’t know?”Know what help you need and be both willing and able to articulate it.

2) Make it Easy

Once you are ready and willing to ask, make it as easy as possible for others to help. Focus on one thing- not five. For example, if you are seeking referrals and have multiple services, only ask for referrals on one service per referring source. People have really short attention spans and if there is too much information or too many choices, the chances are that you will get nothing in return. For referrals, you can choose to focus all of your referrals on your highest margin service or perhaps have different referral sources referring different services, based on which service is most complementary to their business- but each source should just have one call to action.

Also, give specifics. Instead of saying you need “a lawyer”, let your networks know that you are looking to spend $X on a patent attorney that specializes in process patents related to software. The more specific you are, the better your chances are of getting back what you need.

And make sure to remove obstacles. Don’t make the helpers click through links, have to interpret information, or jump through other hoops. Make the route to help as direct as possible and if there are instructions needed, give step by step guidance so that your helper has to do the least amount possible.

3) Be Grateful (Not Greedy)

Last but not least, use your head. Make your “ask” appropriate to the relationship (i.e. don’t ask someone you met an hour ago to lend you their vacation home). Also, pick your battles. People are happy to help, but if you ask constantly, their helpfulness may wane. Make sure you are asking when you really need the help- not just when you are being lazy (hint: if all they have to do is a Google search to help you, then you are being lazy).

And finally, thank them. Help is a privilege, not a right, so acknowledge when someone has gone out of their way, and return the favor or pay it forward when you are able

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