Are you looking for an effective way to engage a client or contact? Ask them a favor.

Last fall I posted a blog titled Want to Persuade: Ask a Favor. I referenced an article and Robert Cialdini’s book: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

I frequently suggest to lawyers that clients, potential clients and referral sources actually want to help us. So, asking a favor is a good way to build the relationship with them as long as you are not bugging them to get business.

Last week Dan a lawyer I coach found this approach really does work. Here is a portion of an email he shared with the members of his coaching group. 

I just want to share something good that happened last week, after our coaching group session. 

Sitting in my office Friday morning, I got a call from the President (as in "top employee" rather than "owner") of an XXX management company.  It was a business call. When we finished discussing business, I asked him when I could take him to lunch, and he asked me to get my calendar out.  On a lark  I said "To Hell with the calendar, why don’t I just pick you up at 12:30?"  I was a little surprised when he said "Great!" 

At lunch — at the very end of the lunch, after we had talked about everything else except business — I told him I was going to ask him for his help.  I then told him that I wanted to learn everything and everyone he knew in/about the XXX industry, and that I’d be grateful if he could introduce me to as many people, groups, publications and events as he could, or at least all that he thought would be helpful. I assured him that I wasn’t going to sales-pitch these people; I just wanted to learn about the industry, and see what was important to the people he knew.  He thought that was a great idea, and immediately started to list ideas. As we talked through some of them, I assured him that I was willing to join/write/speak/travel/meet/greet/wine/dine in any way he thought wise.  Here’s the kicker: he was (and still is, I think) truly enthusiastic about it.  That’s what surprised me. I think he liked being asked to help, and I think he really wants to. 

On the way back to the client’s office, he was thinking out loud: "Gee, I’d really like you to speak at one of the groups I’m in; I’m going to have to think of a really good topic for you. Something they’d like to hear."  I stifled a laugh when I realized that HE knew I was supposed to ask about good speaking or writing topics, but I, um, forgot.  OK, maybe I’m not a Jedi yet; I can only remember so many mind tricks.

Anyway, all in all an excellent lunch.  I’m happy about what I’ve set in motion.  What it will produce is anyone’s guess, but I’m grateful to Cordell nudging me in this direction. 

Dan’s email is proof that asking a favor works. Your clients and your friends want to help you. Give them the chance.