By: Hillel Fuld (@Hilzfuld)
I already wrote my thoughts on how to make and request an introduction in the business world in 2017. Read that here.
At the foundation of business today is the ability to tap into your network’s network. That is true online and that is true offline. The conversation is almost always the same. It goes something like this:
“Hey dude/Bro/man” (depending on how close you are… By the way, feel free to skip this part. It’s transparent!), “how are you?”
At which point you respond “Fine”, but are really thinking “Let’s skip the small talk, I’m busy. What’s really up?”
“I need a favor/intro/phone call/meeting/etc.”
Many people will respond differently at this point in the conversation.
I decided a while ago to ask immediately, and the instant response is important: “Will it help you?” Those are the four words I always ask at the beginning of every business dialogue. “Will. It. Help. You?”
Anyone who has asked to introduce me to someone or to meet or whatever, has gotten that question from me. “Will it help you?”
I am pretty sure I got this idea from the legendary Clark Valberg, CEO of Invision and a close friend. He asked me this once and ever since then, I’ve adopted it.
A few relevant scenarios:
David: “Hey Hillel, I want to intro you to Mark, he’s awesome.
Hillel: “Will making that intro help you?”
David: “Yes. I’m trying to get Mark some more exposure.”
Hillel: “If it helps you, go ahead and intro.”
Daniel: “Hey Hillel, I wanna intro you to a super cool startup!
Hillel: “Will it help you?”
Daniel: “Yes, I do their PR”
Hillel: “Then sure!”
Michelle: “Hey Hillel, do you want to speak at this amazing meetup next week in NYC?”
Hillel: “Would it help you if I did?”
Michelle: “Yes. I’m in charge of bringing speakers.”
Hillel: “When and where?”
Hope those scenarios help illustrate what I mean and when I ask the question “Will it help you?”
So why? What do I accomplish when asking that question? So much. Let’s break it down.
This morning, a business contact who is also a friend messaged me and said “There is someone you need to know…”
Side note. It was clear to me that I didn’t “need” to know anyone but rather that this intro would have helped my friend in one way or another. Better to be transparent about this kinda thing.
He expected me to respond something like “Ok, who is this someone and why do I need to know them?” Instead I replied “Will making this intro help you?”
He replied “Great question” and then proceeded to explain why making this intro would indeed help him.
First thing’s first, by asking that, I got rid of the awkward question of affiliation. Often people send me a pitch/”idea” they want me to promote and they “accidentally” forget to mention that they are the founder/owner of this venture. That is dishonest.
Instead of asking “Are you affiliated?”, which is kinda awkward and perhaps slightly obnoxious, I ask “Will this help you?”
Their response is to explain that it will help them because, well it is their venture. So we got that out-of-the-way.
On a much deeper level, you communicate in a very subtle manner that you will indeed meet this person or take this meeting but it is very clear to the person asking, that you are doing it as a favor to them. Setting expectations and context is crucial in business.
Why is this important? For several reasons… Number one, and sorry to be so cynical, you create leverage with that person. They now “Owe you something “. I know that sounds horrible but what I mean to say is you are now making it very clear to that person that you are doing what you’re doing in order to help them. More importantly though, you are framing this “favor” as exactly that, a favor.
Wow, this is coming out all wrong. I mean to say that you are communicating again in a subtle manner to that person that you were willing to help them as a favor, a selfless favor, by asking if this meeting will help them. When they explain that it indeed does help them, and you respond in the affirmative, it creates a relationship in which”favors” and helping one another is the default.
Forget for one second what that means when in a few months from now you will need a favor from that person, that is less important than just the situation, the scenario, the relationship, in which you have a colleague with which you establish the reality that you help one another.
It is for that reason that my contact this morning responded “Great question”. Because when I asked him “Will this help you?”, it put a smile on his face. It said to him, “Hillel will do a lot for you including this favor you’re asking him if it indeed advances your cause. By uttering those four words, I instantly established the dynamic between us that he knows I will be there when he needs me, and yes, he will be there when I need him. That, my friends, is how business is done.
That simple question, those four short words, speak volumes. What they in essence communicate is “It doesn’t matter what you’re asking, all that matters is whether it will help you, and if it will, I am there.”
Honestly speaking, I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you but it does in my head and it works. The words “Will it help you?” when someone asks you for something are the four most powerful words you can say. Try it. Tell me how it goes. You’ll see what I mean!