Successfully requesting something, whether it be an interview, a review of your latest product, a blurb for your book cover, or any other collaboration (or favor), requires a certain level of tact and courtesy.
It requires, at the very least, that you avoid the gaffs listed below. Compiled from several years’ experience in processing clients’ emails and/or advising them on handling requests, here are 10 ways to offend, tick off or annoy your requestee… and what to do instead.
1. Get her name wrong, or spell it incorrectly.
This seems so basic, but I’m shocked at how often someone sends a request with the recipient’s name spelled wrong–or with the wrong name completely. You’re asking for something; getting the requestee’s name right is the least you can do! Double check the spelling against her business card or website. Heck, copy and paste straight from her About Page if you have to!
2. Insult her body of work or general ethos.
“I actually don’t like your writing at all…” or “You’ve always seemed really phony to me but people sure seem to like you…” or “What everyone sees in you I’ll never know but I need more well known people on my telesummit…” are not good ways to start off a request. (But yes, I have seen all of those show up in clients’ inboxes.)
Good idea: Unless your criticism has been specifically requested by the person you’re delivering it to, keep it to yourself. Even better idea: make your requests of people you genuinely resonate and connect with!
3. Reference outdated information about her.
A client received an invitation to speak at a conference, and the topic they wanted her to speak on was (paraphrased) “How to maintain a long career at Big Name Advertising Firm when everyone around you is being fired.” That’s really nice… except my client had actually been let go from Big Name Advertising Firm almost a year prior. File that under #Whoops.
Spend an extra couple of minutes double checking your info, even if you’re pretty sure it’s right. Better to be safe than to look foolish or inadvertently offend your requestee.
4. Demonstrate that you have no idea who she is.
If you’re putting together a telesummit of women entrepreneurs over 40 who practice Wicca, and you send an invite to someone who’s 23 years old & publicly a conservative, devout Christian, you need to explain why it is you’re inviting her.
If no explanation is offered, it looks like you didn’t even bother to do the most basic of research before sending the request–and that’s rude. And if you do offer an explanation, make it something better than “You’re more famous than me and I want to mooch your audience.” (See tip #5)
5. Tell her you want her solely for her numbers.
Big Names know that they’re highly sought after for events, testimonials, book blurbs, and the like because they bring with them a lot of credibility and a big audience. But if you make it clear that is the only reason you’re reaching out to them, don’t expect a warm reception. The “Hey I want to use your name & mailing list to get lots of new people on my list and otherwise I don’t much give a rip about you” vibe, believe it or not, just doesn’t tend to get people excited about helping you out.
Instead, establish a reason why you’re requesting this from her that demonstrates the connection between your project and her or her business–not just her numbers.
When you’re sending a request to someone, remember to balance your aspirations with your reality.
If you’re a brand new blogger whose website was just launched last week, don’t promise an audience of 100,000+ on the telesummit you’re putting together without some demonstrable reason why you can expect that kind of groundswell. If you’ve got 20 Twitter followers and 15 Likes on Facebook, don’t promise that your new project is going to reach 50,000 people unless you’ve got some realistic means of backing that up. Overpromising tanks your credibility.
Instead: Give the facts. If you’re realistically optimistic about the reach of your project, share that, but offer substantiation for it. That way your offer has a leg to stand on, so to speak, instead of just sounding like an unsupported fantasy.
7. Make lots of work for her to give you what you want.
It’s one thing to ask for a blurb you can use on your new book release.
It’s another thing to ask for a blurb of exactly 183 characters along with a headshot in graytones displaying only a left-facing profile and a solo email about your book to be sent once a week every week for the next two months and also here sign these five different media releases (of which about 2% is actually pertinent to the situation at hand) and I’ll need your left thumbprint in a plaster mold sent via registered courier within the next 48 hours, thanks. The harder you make someone work to fulfill your request, the less likely they are to do so.
Make it easy for her to say YES to your request, and make it easy for her AFTER she says yes. Minimize the number of hoops you make your requestee jump through–you’re the one making the request, so be prepared to tend to the minutiae of making things happen, rather than shoving that onto your requestee.
8. Be rude to her assistant.
To you, the assistant may be just an obstacle between you and your intended contact. But to your intended contact, her assistant may be (a) her best friend, (b) a long-standing assistant whom she values & trusts enormously, (c) her significant other, (d) the person she credits with keeping her sane & thinks is the greatest thing since sliced bread, (e) other, or (f) all of the above.
Basically, if you’re dismissive of the assistant, or snippy, or approach her as though you’re too good to be speaking to her, you have no idea who you just treated poorly. Plus, she’ll pass along to her boss the details of how you handled your interaction with her, you can be sure.
Good rule of thumb: treat the assistant with the same level of respect as you’d treat your intended contact. Respectfulness never hurts; rudeness usually does.
9. Give her as little time as possible to respond to your request.
Need a blurb for your book cover by March 15th? Do not send your request on March 8th and expect that to be enough time. The more well-known / famous the person you’re contacting is, the busier her schedule probably is. But even if your contact is very not-famous, remember that everyone feels busy.
The last thing anyone wants is a request that immediately puts them under the gun & short on time. Send your request with AMPLE time for your contact to respond, for scheduling to occur, for information to be exchanged, etc.
10. Pester her–you can’t follow up too often!
If you’ve sent an email, you do not also need to leave a voicemail, send her a private Facebook message, post on her business’ Facebook wall, send a tweet, send a second email to an alternate email address you have on file in the hopes that it will circumvent the assistant, and then look up her assistant’s home phone number and call that too. (Yes, it has happened.)
Following up with someone is absolutely fine. Bombarding them by every conceivable means of contact makes you look like a nutcase with stalker tendencies. Don’t do that. Allow your contact plenty of time to respond to you before you follow up (in a sane and reasonable manner). And because you’re a smart cookie who abides by tip #9, that should be no problem, right?
It’s all what my grandmother would have called “common sense,” really.
Be courteous. Be respectful. Make requests in a manner that would feel good and right to you if you were on the receiving end. When in doubt, err on the side of courtesy. It’s tough to go wrong when you’re guided by respect & courtesy!
Have firsthand experience with these gaffs & tips? Have others to add?
Dish ’em out in the comments! What have you discovered works really well? What are some surefire ways that requestors ruffle your feathers? We share so we can learn… because once we know better, we can do better! 🙂