How can I help you?
It’s possibly the best question you can ask someone you’ve just met.
In a networking situation, this question will open the door to a relationship because of its impact: It demonstrates your interest in a relationship; it creates trust because you are willing to give before you get; and, it positions you as a person with resources.
It will also help you to learn what’s most important to your new connection.
How can you help others? You’ve likely already got all the tools you need.
In my experience, business owners and professionals seek the following forms of assistance:
1. Connections. When you ask, “How can I help you?” you may be tasked with providing an introduction or a connection to satisfy a sales, supply or resources wish.
• “I really need more customers. We sell to HR Managers – do you know any?”
• “Our website is a mess. I can’t find a decent designer. Can you refer a vendor?”
• “I’d really like to join that club. Could you introduce me to a member?
Supplying an introduction (where possible) is just good business. The key is to actually do it. Make a note to follow through on your promise to supply a connection and do so promptly.
2. Advice. You may be asked to share your expertise. Giving some advice where requested is good for your new relationship. It gives you a chance to establish credibility by sharing what you know.
• Of course, if your business involves charging a fee for your expertise, you may need to qualify your availability in the form of an ‘initial free consultation’.
3. Emotional support. Running a business can be emotionally draining. Even the most successful entrepreneurs experience down-moments, where they are full of doubt and worry. Your new contact may ask you to support him or her with your inspiration, motivation, leadership or open ears.
4. Resources. Share and share alike. Access to your resources may be the response to the question, “How can I help you?” Your conversation partner might ask you to lend the resources under your control.
For example, I’ve loaned out my digital projector to entrepreneurs who needed one for an upcoming presentation. Or, I’ve floated survey questions to my online community for a colleague seeking some research answers. Occasionally, people ask to use our boardroom for a meeting.
Sharing your existing resources is likely an easy and inexpensive way for you to help someone. The gesture goes a long way toward creating a positive relationship with your new contact.
Successful business people understand the concept of ‘give to get.’ After all, the business world is really a community, and we all prosper by helping each other out. Commit to giving what you can when someone asks.
On the flip side…what will you say you need when someone asks you the very same question?
If you’ve got any experiences to share about sharing, please enter them below in our comments section.
By Roger Pierce