Network Purposefully to select strategic contacts and keep in touch regularlyBe generous! Be humble! Be authentic! Be honest! Accept help graciously and recognize a “No!”

You have probably heard the good advice from Bob Burg about giving first before you ask someone for anything. This applies especially when doing “the ask” of a relatively new connection, anyone with whom you don’t already have a history of supporting each other or there isn’t an established expectation for reciprocity. In the spirit of Harvey Mackay, “Dig your well before you [need any water.]” In other words, first invest in relationships and first build trust and relationship capital. Then if you do ever need to make a request, you’ve established a solid foundation to borrow against and shown that your intentions are honorable.

But what’s your best move when you don’t have that mutual understanding or previously laid the groundwork which makes requesting assistance convenient? This is when networking gets tricky and can be little sticky too.  How you ask, what you ask for and your timing all determine the outcome, affect your reputation and influence prospects for developing more a meaningful relationship or risk sacrificing a connection. You must walk a fine line, tread gingerly and carefully monitor the other person’s behavior in order to assess the circumstances and avoid burning bridges. You want to watch for their physical reaction and verbal response when you ask for their help; both communicate their interest and willingness to assist you this time. If you transact about this matter over the telephone or electronically, there are telltale signs that reveal an individual’s willingness to help or signals that you should redirect the conversation. Here are some ideas for tapping your network for assistance while guarding relationships.

  1. Be strategic: Select individuals that are most likely to understand your request, those who have a reason to help you and avoid anyone who you might put in an uncomfortable situation ( for either you or them). Don’t abuse a favor by going back to the same person multiple times.
  2. Be clear: Tell your contact what you need or what you expect from them—don’t make them have to guess or work to figure out what you want.
  3. Be gracious: When someone agrees to help, express your gratitude in words and by your actions. If they don’t volunteer assistance, move on to the next resource or come back later after you figure out a different approach.
  4. Be reliable: Follow up religiously on their recommendations or referrals. Dropping the ball is rude and disrespectful of your contact and their resources.
  5. Be generous: Anticipate when you might be able to volunteer your help and surprise them with an unexpected offer.

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