When I started my business, I was deathly afraid to ask. I’d get cards from prospective clients but rarely followed up with them. Because, of course, I thought I’d be rejected. Just the thought of that made me feel terrible. I was OK talking to people and sharing about my business and giving talks, but when it came to the action step of asking for a meeting, I often either froze or bumbled my way through the ask.
This one simple (but seemingly impossible) thing held me back in my business for several years. It cost me a lot in terms of new clients as well as my feeling of self-worth.
Why does asking seem so hard? What is it about just the thought of asking that puts people into “avoidance mode?” Since asking is such a key component of successful marketing and selling, I knew I had to solve this issue of asking-avoidance once and for all.
So I embarked on a multi-year study to discover how to ask without being afraid or anticipating getting rejected.
I ultimately discovered a few things. There are at least three strategies that will reduce one’s fear of asking. They all work. In fact, they make asking quite easy. And in combination, these strategies even work better. Follow them and you’ll dramatically increase your ability to ask without fear.
Strategy #1 – Prepare your materials and your processes
It can be very hard to ask if you’re not confident about what you’re offering. You need to do the work to create a decent report, some marketing materials, a presentation, or an approach for that first meeting or selling conversation.
In other words, if you are not prepared, it’s hard to ask. This is why I always put so much emphasis on first developing good marketing materials and processes before doing anything else.
Once you’ve done your preparation, your confidence soars. You’ll become much more excited about sharing your report, your talk and your services with someone else.
But what do you actually say when you ask?
Strategy #2 – Script your asks.
Often, people tell me, “I just don’t know what to say when asking for something. I feel awkward and stupid so I simply avoid doing it.”
What you want is to create basic “asking scripts” for certain situations. Some of the most common ones are:
Asking if you can give someone something (such as your report).
Asking if you can give a talk to an organization
Asking if you can write an article for a publication
Asking to give your report away after a talk or presentation
Asking if you can follow-up with someone for a short meeting
Asking for a time to meet with someone for a strategy session
Asking if someone would like to work with you
Here are the basic asking scripts for all of these:
“I have a report that I think you’ll find interesting. Can I send you a copy?”
“I give a talk to organizations like yours on the topic of X. Can I send you some information on that talk?”
“I write articles that I think your readership might be interested in. Can I send you a few samples of my articles?”
“I have a report that goes into more depth about what we covered today. Can you please put your hand up if you’d like a copy.”
“I think talking a little more would be valuable for both of us. Can we find a time to meet by phone?”
“I’m confident I can help you with your business. Can we set up a complimentary Strategy Session?
“I’d love to work with you. Do you feel my program/service is right for you right now?”
No kidding – it’s that simple. The first statement confidently puts forward the idea that you have something they will probably be interested in. And then the follow-up question is a simple call-to-action based on permission (Can I send you…). You can adapt any of these to your unique situation.
This kind of simple ask gets a very high response rate.
Strategy #3 – Work with your limiting, fearful beliefs
If you are still hesitating to ask – to offer the report, to follow-up for a meeting, or to close the sale – *after* you have both prepared your materials and processes and developed a simple asking script – then your inability to ask is likely based of fear.
The fear of rejection, disapproval and being judged are triggered in many people just at the thought of asking. This fear comes from some experience in the past; it has nothing to do with the present situation.
They are connected in your mind, but not in reality.
Asking reminds you of some time in the past where you asked and were rejected, put down, ridiculed or shamed. You don’t want that experience again, so avoidance seems like the better choice.
I’ve talked about this for years, but I’ve learned that the most powerful way to get beyond this kind of stuckness is to identify and work with the “Core Beliefs” that keep getting triggered.
Your core beliefs are almost always an “I am” statement or an “I am not” statement. Some of the most common ones are:
I am not good enough
I am a failure
I am unworthy
I don’t make a difference
I’m not lovable/ likable
I am not important or experienced enough
I am not smart or adequate enough
Remember, these are core beliefs, not surface beliefs. Surface beliefs such as “I don’t have enough time,” “I’m not ready yet,” “I don’t want to be an interruption,” or “I don’t want to be pushy,” are all smokescreens for the core belief.
How do you get beyond your Core Belief?
You ask a lot of questions of yourself to undermine and counteract that belief. If you punch enough holes in the story the Core Belief is pitching to you, ultimately it will let go of you. Here are some examples:
It that really true? Can I be sure I’ll be rejected?
Isn’t this belief from the past once true, but irrelevant now?
What’s the worst that could happen if I asked?
Is it really going to be as awful as I think it is?
Can’t I survive a little disapproval if it happens?
Isn’t it just as likely that they’ll be interested?
Who would I be if I couldn’t believe that core belief anymore?
What are some of the good things that could happen if I asked?
Clients who have done this kind of inquiry frequently discover that their fear is almost always worse than the reality. They make calls, set up appointments and ask for the sale and are often surprised, even shocked when their prospects say yes!
So, find your core belief (or two) and start asking, and see if your fear begins to diminish and your confidence and results start to soar.
Bonus – A Little Exercise
I was talking to my colleague, Nick Pfennigwerth before I started writing this article, and he asked me if I knew about the “Coffee Challenge.”
The Coffee Challenge, he told me, was a simple exercise for getting past the fear of asking. What you do is go into a coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee. When the sales clerk tells you the price, you ask if she can give you a 10% discount.
Now, she will do it or not. But with this little insignificant ask, you confront your fear of asking and being rejected. And you also realize that the worst that can happen is she’ll say “no.” Could you survive that?”
I’ll bet you can.
Cheers, Robert Middleton
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