How NOT to Ask for Help

Posted on 07 March 2010

I recently received an e-mail, out of the blue, from a young man in Hong Kong who has started a new and worthy business. He found my website via Google, and wrote to me to ask me to mentor him.

I pondered his request for several days, and realised that I felt quite uncomfortable about it and felt no inclination to mentor him. So I replied to tell him to tell him why his approach didn’t work for me:

  • I didn’t know him and had never met him, either online or in real life.
  • As far as I knew, I didn’t know anyone who knew him.
  • He hadn’t made any effort to establish a relationship with me, either online (for example on twitter) or in real life.
  • His e-mail was all about him and his business and what HE needed: “I need an objective business mentor looking over my shoulder and advising me.” There was nothing to indicate why he had contacted ME rather than any other potential mentor.
  • He wrote: “Obviously – needless to say – funds are limited at this time.” That seemed strange, unnecessary and illogical, because mentors by definition don’t expect payment.
  • He didn’t convince me why I should help HIM rather than all the other people who ask for my free advice (and I get asked a LOT!).

He then replied to say that we have several interests, and even one friend, in common. Well that’s nice, I told him, but it’s not a good enough reason for me to mentor him. And it wasn’t enough to erase the negative perception I’d gained from his first e-mail. He also wrote: “Twitter is really not my thing. Managing my e-mail account is enough computering for me.” Sorry, that’s really not a good enough excuse for not creating relationships with people.

These days, it’s not at all difficult to establish a relationship, either online or in real life, with someone before you ask them for help. Because business is all about relationships. So he could have:

  • Followed me on twitter and started a conversation.
  • Subscribed to my e-newsletter.
  • Commented on one of my blog postings.
  • Attended some business networking events in Hong Kong, where he could quite likely have met me or someone who could have referred him to me (this is a small town).
  • Asked his friends and clients to recommend him and introduce him to potential mentors. 

So in a nutshell, he didn’t market himself well – he didn’t convince me why I should help him. 

What do you think?


1 Response to How NOT to Ask for Help

  • Bobbie says:

    He sounds like a self-centred twit. Good decision on your part.

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