this blog post, John Greathouse describes a phone call from someone seeking referrals to contacts in John's field. The caller basically does everything wrong, starting with forgetting a key factor in relationship-building: research.
I often talk about researching your audience on Speak Schmeak; without knowing your audience, you are in danger of delivering a presentation that has no relevance to the people in the room. When your presentation is irrelevant, confusing, insulting or dull, you lose (or never gain) the interest of your audience, and you will likely go no further with them in building business or retaining another speaking engagement.
But I've covered that many times. What I really want to talk about today is the human beings behind the word "audience."
When I say "relationship-building," whether with a group or an individual, I'm not just throwing around buzzwords. People want to feel GOOD when they meet you and talk to you. They want to feel excited, optimistic, and motivated. They want you to appreciate and respect them. They want to feel needed and important. These are things that happen when you focus on building a relationship with someone. They feel special.
So what happens when you jump the gun and start asking for favors or advice without making the effort on your end to make the person feel good (I mean for real, not fake flattery or butt-kissing BS), and without considering any reciprocal actions if they do decide to help you? Instead of all those warm, fuzzy feelings, you create annoyance, resentment, frustration, and maybe even animosity. Some people might even feel hurt and sad that you didn't take the time to get to know them. Each person reacts differently to being discounted and exploited, but let's just say that these feelings you arouse will not be good feelings.
We are all human. We all have feelings. For good or bad, those feelings have a lot to do with how successfully we interact with others. Forget that people have feelings, forget that people want to be appreciated and valued, and you will suffer the consequences.
After this caller received the flat "No" from John, how many other people do you think he called and got the same response? Now imagine this caller having done his homework, reading John's bio, maybe commenting on his blog, connecting with him on Twitter and responding to John's posts on Facebook. Maybe the caller thinks of a couple of ways he can offer something to John in exchange for John's referrals. Imagine this caller having made the effort to start a relationship with John. Would the outcome have been different? From John's post, I would guess yes.
Furthermore, that relationship becomes a living thing, and continues on whether or not John is able to make the referral this time. There's always a next time and a next time, because the relationship remains after the pitch is over.
Next time you want to "pick someone's brain," or ask for a referral or recommendation, ask yourself if you've done anything to build this relationship, or -- the next best thing -- if you're willing to pursue a relationship and offer reciprocal action if the person is open to your inquiry. If the answer is "No," that's likely the response you'll get on the other end.