I recently received a request for a new web design quote from my website. The lead mentioned that they would like to have a website made for their new software company.
After some back and forth on details and specifications, I provided my official quote.
This person then said that they would like to get on a phone call to discuss the quote further. I agreed and we arranged a time to speak the next day.
The following day, when the time came for the call, I joined the video conference at the agreed-upon time. And waited… and waited… and waited…
He was late. Finally, after 10 minutes of waiting, I emailed him again to find out what was going on. That’s when he jumped on the call. He apologized for being late but offered no explanation as to why.
No big deal, I told myself. These things happen sometimes.
But then, he told me the real reason why he was calling me.
He had no interest in getting a website made. He wasn’t building a software company. He was trying to build his own web design business, and wanted to get “general advice” from me.
So, before I start to tear down this whole experience, and why it was a terrible attempt at outreach and a brutal way to begin a relationship, let me clarify a couple of things:
- I love helping people. It’s one of the biggest reasons I create all of this free content. (other than the selfish ones mentioned above) I enjoy helping other people who are trying to build a business and lifestyle similar to mine. But I do believe there is a proper way to ask for help.
- I’m going to keep this completely anonymous. Everything is a learning experience, so there’s no reason to put this guy on blast. And hey, [name redacted], if you’re reading this, don’t take it personally. You wanted free advice, so I’m giving it to you now. 😉
Between the hundred’s of crappy emails and Linkedin messages I get every month, and this recent one-on-one phone call, it’s clear that the current state of outreach and prospecting is severely broken.
If you’re trying to build a valuable professional network, this is not the way to do it.
Here are some important principles to keep in mind when engaging in cold outreach:
Read and watch everything the person has already made for you
In the process of my conversation with this fellow, he admitted to me that he hadn’t even read or watched all of my content yet.
Many of the questions that he had could have been answered if he had taken the time to consume the content I had already made for people exactly like him.
That’s just lazy, man.
You got questions? Do the research. Read, watch, and listen. It’s all out there already. For free.
If you still have questions after you’ve done the work, then reach out for some help.
Be completely honest and transparent
Never, ever, mislead or trick someone into giving you what you want. I can’t believe I even need to say this.
I went into this conversation thinking this guy was a potential customer in need of a new website design. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Be honest and transparent about what you need. People are inherently good and want to help you. If they can. Your job is to make it easier for them to do so, not harder.
And, for the love of goodness, do not show up 10 minutes late to an appointment. Let your yes mean yes. Respect their time.
Be clear and specific about what you need
So, after this elaborate scheme, this gentlemen succeeded in getting on the phone with me.
While I was immediately put off by the deceit, he seemed genuinely remorseful after I made it clear to him that this was, indeed, deceitful. And, I know how difficult it is when you’re first starting out building a business.
So, I offered him 10 minutes of my time to answer any questions he had.
And… he had nothing. Not one specific question.
He simply “wanted general advice, nothing specific“.
When you watch an interview take place, in any context, do you ever see the host ask the interviewee to simply talk about whatever they want? Of course not. The host guides the interview with specific and prepared questions to get the information that he and his audience seeks.
To go through this entire process just to be able to talk to me, and then have nothing to ask, is a waste of everyone’s time.
If you want someone to help you, be specific about what it is you need. Don’t just say you need help.
Offer. Value. In. Return.
If you want something from someone, offer something in return. It’s that simple.
As much as I enjoy helping people, I only have so much time in a day.
This is why I write blog posts and make videos. I can put all of my time and resources into a subject in one shot, and you can read and watch them when it’s best for you, and as often as you need to.
If you want to reach out to someone to ask for help, offer value in return.
You might be thinking, “But they’re the ones that have what I need. What could I possibly offer in return?”
I’ll tell you one thing that every person and business always appreciates:
Positive or negative, doesn’t matter. As long as it’s genuine and constructive, people want to hear it.
This gentlemen could have told me what he thought about my customer experience. What areas he loved, what he didn’t like, or where he thinks I can improve it. I am always looking to improve my customer experience.
The point is to give it some real thought. Don’t be one of the 1000’s of other so-called “marketers” who mass-spam people with obviously templated garbage.
4 steps to doing outreach the right way
So, to summarize, here is your game plan for reaching out to people you need help from:
- Read and watch their content first
- Be honest and transparent
- Be clear and specific about what you need
- Offer value in return
The good news is that the current state of outreach is dismal. People are too lazy to do it the right way.
If you put some actual effort into this simple outreach plan, you’ll have no problem standing out from the crowd and getting the help you want.
I close nearly all of my YouTube videos with a call to action that specifically says “If you need some help, reach out to me!”
But I do expect people to do it properly. There is a right way, and a wrong way to ask for help. This gentlemen definitely did it poorly this time, but hopefully he learned from it and will adjust his strategy next time.
And, if he does, I’ll be happy to help. 🙂