How to Ask Powerful People for Favors (6 Steps)

Hands Up
Hands Up

Too many of us don’t know how to ask for what we want. Or worse, we try to disguise our ask by fake “helping others” before we ask (SEE: Seth Godin’s post onHacking Reciprocity).

Today, we’re going to fix that. I’m giving you a simple 6-step plan to ask for anything you want through email (an introverts dream come true).

But first, you need to read this short story by Scot Herrick from his article, 5 Tips for Talking to a CEO. Scot writes:

I was talking about vacations with a friend who goes “up north” to the lake every year. Every year, a big-time CEO comes for the weekend. He comes in his private plane, goes to his home on the lake, hires the same fishing guide and then spends two days fishing on the lake. At the end of the two days, gets back on his private plane and goes back to work.

I’m thinking all that is pretty extravagant — seriously, fly in on a private plane to a house barely used, spend two days and fly back? My friend counseled me this way: it’s not about the money, nor the extravagance. Instead, it’s the only time the CEO gets to spend talking about everyday stuff — how the fish are biting, how the kids are doing in school, how the relationship is with the wife (in this case). The only time, as the rest of the time is all about figuring out who is trying to impress you versus who and what the agenda is all about. The guide, you see, doesn’t care if you are a CEO. The fishing guide wants to make sure you catch some fish and enjoy your time.

Much can be learned from that simple story.

We won’t talk about the lessons from this story today. That’s not our aim. But I will say that my favorite piece of advice I’ve read on how to talk to CEOs, billionaires, celebrities, influencers, relates to Scot’s story. The advice is:

Q. How should I talk to a rich person?

A. As far as actual talking. Like any other person.

So keep that in mind as you learn how to ask powerful people for favors.

How to Ask Influencers for Favors (what not to do)

As the Managing Editor at Early to Rise, I make asks all the time — it’s part of my job. I’m going to share with you one of my first asks when I started.

The ask was to republish an article by an influential blogger. Here’s the email I sent (edited for anonymity):

Hi [Author],

My name is Nick and I work with Early To Rise Publishing –www.EarlyToRise.com – an online health and wealth newsletter.

The reason for this email is regarding your article – [Article Title]: [link to article]

I think your notes are great, very thorough, and would provide a lot of valuable content to our Early To Rise readers.

With your permission, would it be okay if we featured your article in one of our upcoming newsletters?

Please let me know if this is possible and if you can send a resource box as well.

Thank you for your time.

— Nick

Here’s the response I got back:

Hi Nick –

Sure! That’d be fine. Thanks for asking.

Sorry I don’t know what you mean by a resource box. If you mean more info about me, I put it all right on the homepage at [link to homepage].

[Author sign off]

Not bad. My first ask and I got a yes. But the truth is I got lucky. Here’s where I went wrong:

The purpose of my email was to ask if I could republish this influencer’s essay. That should have been stated before I introduced myself, and after I complimented the author’s work.

The next mistake I made was I made an emergency on my end an emergency on the influencer’s end.

By saying, “The reason for this email is regarding your article…,”  and then following up with, “I think your notes are great…,” I’m leaving my recipient in suspense.

Why is this rando emailing me about one of my articles?
Does he think I stole something?
Does he not like my article?

Suspense leads to questions and this is not the time or place to raise unanswered questions. Your ask should be clear.

The last mistake I made was I used the dreaded “let me know,” before I signed off. Placing the proverbial ball in my recipients court — instead of offering a solution.

In this case I was restating my ask, “Please let me know if we can republish your article?” I made it confusing when I made a second ask regarding the author’s bio, which prompted the author to ask a clarifying question about what I wanted.

Instead, I should have looked up the author’s bio beforehand and copy and pasted the bio I planned to use so the author could just give me a yay or nay.

You might be thinking, ‘Does this really matter?’ ‘You got the response you were looking for.’ You’re right. At the end of the day, all that matters is you get the result you’re looking for.

Like I said before, I got lucky. I had all the right pieces to the perfect ask but in the wrong order.

How to Ask Influencers for Favors (what to say and in what order)

Callie Oettinger works for Steven Pressfield. You might call Callie “Steve’s Gatekeeper” since she handles most of the asks Pressfield receives.

Callie recently wrote about this topic on Steven Pressfield’s blog. She shares her template for making the perfect pitch. Here’s Callie:

The Pitch

Bottom line: You want something.

You want to recommend someone or something, or you want someone to recommend you. You want an endorsement, an interview, a keynote speaker, a job, something for free, someone to make a decision for you.

Start with a thank you:

Thank you for your work.

Thank you for your article “X.”

Thank you for finding a happiness pill.

Thank you for being the only ethical elected official in office.

State your purpose:

I’m writing to request a review copy of your book.

I’m contacting you to ask for your endorsement of my product.

I’m reaching out to you to obtain a bulk discount.

State why you think the recipient of your pitch might be interested:

I read your article titled “X” and thought my book on the same topic would resonate with you.

I’ve read about your service with the Marine Corps and hoped you’d have time to speak with some of the younger men and women of the Corps.

My book is a history of lying politicians, which might add perspective to your coverage of the presidential campaign.

State who you are:

I received the Pulitzer Prize for my coverage of the presidential scandal X.

I’m an 18 year-old student at Y High School. My dad has been sharing your books with me since I was a kid.

Like you, I spent my summers as a caddie. Similar experiences, but I went into business and didn’t commit to writing as early as you did.

State the time, date, address, etc.:

The workshop takes place December 14, 2016, in Hawaii.

I’m available for interviews throughout the campaign cycle.

My address is XXXX

End with a thank you:

Thanks again for your article — and for your time and consideration of my request.

Thanks for your work.

Thanks for _______

Start with a thank you. State your purpose. State why you think “it” would be of interest. State who your are and date/time/address information. Thank the recipient. *Include smooth transitions between each of these. One should run into and relate to the other.

Now that you know the right way to make a pitch, just for fun, we’re going to look at my original pitch but rewritten following Callie’s 6 steps:

Hi [Author],

Thank you for your notes on [article]: [link].

The reason for this email is I’d like permission to republish your article [link].

I’d love to share your work with more than 60,000 of our daily readers.

My name is Nick Papple, I’m the Managing Editor at Early To Rise Publishing – www.EarlyToRise.com – an online health and wealth newsletter.

[Date] is when I’d like to republish your article.

Is the bio on your homepage okay to include? I can also email you a link once the article is live on our website — granted we have your permission.

Thanks for your time.

— Nick

You can see the ask is stated clearly at the beginning of the rewritten email. This way, everything following the ask is me giving reasons to support my ask. I added the follow-up-email part at the end since I know most authors like that or request a live link anyway.

I hope this helps you connect with influencers.

Nick Papple
Managing Editor
The Daily Brief

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