By: Hillel Fuld (@Hilzfuld)
I am writing a book. I have no idea when I will finish writing the book or if and when it will be published, but I am writing a book. The thing is, this post? There is a whole chapter in the book dedicated to it. So isn’t this post redundant? Well, if this post is redundant, most of my talks, my blog posts, and my social updates are redundant. The way I see it, the book is the culmination of my thoughts on business, many of which I have shared elsewhere.
The book, and the premise to this post is, when you give in business, like really give, not give for the sake of receiving, just give, you end up increasing the chances of receiving more! What does that (admittedly complicated) sentence mean? It means that if you start every meeting with “What are your challenges and how can I help you overcome them?”, the person you are sitting with is instantly delighted.
When you follow up on that offer and actually deliver the value you promised, whether that is in the form of an intro to someone in your network, feedback on their marketing material, or anything else you can help with, that person’s delight increases. Keep that up, and more often than not, once you provide enough tangible value and want nothing in return, the recipient begins to comprehend not only your abilities, but also your nature, and realizes they want, need to work with you in some official capacity.
More on this topic in the book. You are gonna have to wait for that, but meanwhile, when embracing this strategy with startups over the years, I noticed a pattern, I noticed many patterns, but I wanted to address one of them.
Most people, when presented with a genuine offer to help selflessly, and again, I am talking about tangible value, like helping to raise capital for one’s startup without taking anything, are utterly confused. “What do you mean “Can I introduce you to some relevant investors? What is the catch here? What are the terms of your finder’s fee?” That is what most people think when you offer to help. And I don’t blame them. 9 out of the 10 people who offer them startup help, do have a catch!
So you need to know your audience and calm their concerns before they even voice them. By the way, that is always a good tactic. You are making a presentation? Make sure to include the answers to the most common questions you get. “Who are your competitors and how are you better?” “What is your go-to-market strategy?” “How will you monetize?” All questions you know an investor will ask, so preempt the investor asking them by answering them in the actual presentation.
Back to our subject. The entrepreneur you are sitting with and who you just offered to help, hears one thing. “I am going to try to capitalize on your startup, so tell me how I can help and who you want an intro to. Also? I will spring some fee on you later.” Address that concern off the bat, and get over the awkwardness.
Here is the one sentence I always say, and I literally say it, I don’t hint to it, or imply it. I make my offer “What are your bottlenecks and how can I help to release them?” I am usually met with obvious and understandable hesitation. “Um, well, um, I need to raise capital…” or “Well, I mean, we do need some traction, so intros to some potential customers would be cool, but, I mean, I don’t expect you to do all that for me…” And the end of that sentence, which they won’t say (Generally out of shame.) is “For free. And since I don’t have money now (and even if I did, not sure I would spend it on intros and not on advertising or something else…), not sure how you can help.”
The one sentence I say to change all that awkwardness into awesomeness is “To be very clear, I want nothing from you, not now or ever. No strings of any kind attached. I am genuinely happy to help intro you to x or to provide feedback on your messaging…”
I release that tension in one sentence. All of a sudden, I transform myself from a salesman, a tricky one, at that, to a real friend who wants you to succeed. One sentence and you are filled with delight and excitement to take me up on my offer, when 12 seconds ago, you were filled with suspicion and negativity. One sentence that changes the whole dynamic!
That right there, is some good return on your investment. From sketchy spammer to generous friend. In 12 seconds. Try it.