Small asks first

I know many people. Because of this, I’m frequently asked for introductions by entrepreneurs that I meet. Usually they want me to introduce them to a person or company that is very well known and in large demand that the person thinks can meaningfully help their business. Of course I want to help.

I always ask the targeted person if they want the introduction, vs introducing them blindly. Most people say that they’re happy to try to help a fellow entrepreneur.

Lately, I’ve noticed a very clear pattern. When I introduce two people, the person who wanted the introduction seems to always want to make big asks. Too many people start with “can we set up a 30 minute call?” Now, I know that many readers will say “huh? That’s a small ask.”. No, it’s quite big for very busy people. Remember that time is often the most precious commodity.

A small ask is better. Remember that you’re being introduced to someone who you know is getting this type of request all the time, but has offered to help. Just ask for one thing, and ask for it in the form of a response by email. If you have 3 questions, ask them by email instead of forcing the person to get on the phone with you real time.

I realize that you are hoping to build a relationship, which is why you want to jump on the phone with your newly introduced connection. But take it slow, make small asks, and build a relationship over time.

Here’s how big an ask is for very busy people:

Tiny = email response, 1 or 2 simple questions in a short email
Small = email response, 3-5 questions in a longer email
Medium = 15 minute phone call
Large = 30 minute phone call
Huge = In person meeting

Start small. Build to huge over time. I’ve seen this work very effectively, and I’ve seen large/huge asks quickly end potential relationships.

file under: Blog

10 responses to “Small asks first

  1. I agree with the theme (“small asks first” to build trust), but I think the scope is really dependent on both parties.

    I’ve always believed that advice/introductions = small ask, money/partnership = big ask. Outside of that it’s hard to generalize.

  2. “A small ask is better.”

    That sentence makes no sense, ask is not used that way. *Ask* is not a noun, the word you’re looking for is request or favor. You’re butchering the English language and it’s painful to read.

  3. Anonymous – I wasn’t attempting to be perfectly correct, I was attempting to help people. I am sorry to cause so much pain in your life. 😉

  4. Igor – fair enough. I’ll pay more attention next time. I just banged this one out quickly in the middle of a conference while on a book tour, so I was probably just not paying enough attention to language. I was also using a colloquialism that is extremely common. I used to blog “ya’ll” and get called out for that not being a word, and now it is. I expect the same to happen here. Perhaps I’m just ahead of my time.

  5. Totally agree with this. There also seems to be an annoying correlation between people who insist on setting up a meeting without a lot of context, and people who are trying to sell me something I don’t want, people who have already pitched my company and are looking for another end-around, etc. It may be Sales 101 (“get the meeting”), but in my world Strategy 101 is “avoid sales pitches & chart your own destiny”.

    Barring a known quantity on the other end of the line, or a highly trusted intro along the lines of “you HAVE to meet this person”, my usual technique is to politely insist on more context on the meeting so that “I can make sure the right people are in attendance.” This, while true, is also a screen.

    Sometimes an email dance ensues (“in what ways were you thinking our companies might work together?”, etc); I usually give it a volley or two (out of courtesy to the introducer, mainly) and then ignore if nothing has piqued my interest. If you can’t respect my time enough to provide cogent info on why you’d like it, I’m not going to feel bad blowing you off.

  6. I am impressed that you took the time to respond to individuals who wrote in your blog. Especially since all they were doing was providing grammar lessons. I enjoyed your piece about starting small – I couldn’t agree more. So here’s my small request:

    Let’s connect:

    dan@shoreshcapital.com

  7. “small asks first” made perfect sense to me. Didn’t even think about it until I read the comments.

    For instance- on a web form– get an email address, later ask for a phone number, and then a physical address five interactions later.

    Basic sales, basic business, good post.

    Thanks.

  8. Yes, I completely agree with your point. We should make small asks to people when we are asking them to meet for the first time.

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