Making the ask does not follow formulas or manuals. Every case and every situation is different, and as much as you want to have a guide with every step to give, you will not find it. There are no magic formulas.
However, this is the question that many fundraisers, sellers and freelancers ask me. What do I do if …? And the truth is that this is a question that I love. They tell me, and with good reason, that the answer does not please them so much. I always tell them it depends.
And, what does it depend on? It depends on you. All is up to you. You decide what steps to take. You choose at every moment what to do and whatever you choose to do is fine. Nothing is right or wrong. Simply when you dare to believe in your decision and act upon it, you create circumstances. And, again, from that context that you have caused, it is up to you to decide what to do or not to do. You learn by doing and you improve the asking as you move on.
I have often been locked in my indecision. Each ‘what if’ in my mind terrified and blocked me. Besides, I want to tell you that we are experts in looking for excuses to justify our paralysis. I have been very creative not to make the ask and also I have created invincible arguments, which further justified my fears and limiting beliefs.
One of the myths that held me back was the belief that I should not be insistent when emailing a specific request. I used to think it was impolite to insist, especially if the other person does not respond. What a cheap excuse. I have finally overcome this belief. Now I send an email and I know that the email is one more in the inbox of my prospect. If I don’t get an answer, I’ll write again and if I don’t get an answer again, I’ll send another email and then I’ll probably make a call to follow up. Persisting it’s a good thing.
A while ago calling seemed intrusive and intimidating to me. Another myth to erase. Now I call because what I am going to tell to my caller may be of interest and therefore serve both parties. I call knowing that it makes sense. It is an intuition that I believe. Ask yourself always before making a request whether it only serves you or serves both parties. It is a key question. And, of course, if the caller answers to my call dryly, I ask for the reason. Then I apologize and I ask, quickly, what is the best way to stay in touch. In the past, I used to hang up the phone without listening to the caller’s response. I felt ashamed. I wanted to escape from this uncomfortable situation and hide like an ostrich. How wise it is to listen and to ask powerful questions.
I remember that once the person I called was upset. It was his last day to present an important project. He said it in a direct tone. I apologized and also asked him when it would be good for us to talk. He answered that the next week. When I called him again, the first 10 minutes we only talked about his project and him. I gave him the space to tell me his story and I also had the chance to get to know him better, his personality, his communication style. After the first 10 minutes, he told me that he could not help me with my request, even though he gave me a couple of contacts from the same company with whom to speak. This is the magic you seek and this magic depends on you. In summary, because I dared to call, I created circumstances that I adapted to. As a result, I was able to connect with the person, who also helped me to redirect my request to more appropriate people. What an aha moment!
There are no formulas. I want to be clear to you. It is up to you to enjoy the emotional warmth that comes with deciding at every moment how to ask. Enjoy it. You bring the magic!
Silvia Bueso is a certified professional coach and an expert in The Art of Asking. She helps nonprofit leaders effectively make the ask in a way that allows them to achieve their teams’, projects’ and organizations’ objectives.