How About a Little Help?

Have you asked for help lately … or are things going so remarkably well that they couldn’t possibly be better?

I’m here to suggest that you regularly ask for help even when things are going great.

And I’m not talking about little stuff, like asking a clerk to stock the new umbrella rigs or asking one of your guides to show you how he snells a hook. I’m talking about bona-fide, honest to goodness, move the needle, get-some-stuff-done-around-here help — the kind of help tackle retailers seem to have a real aversion to requesting.

There are at least two reasons asking for help should be a regular part of your retail schedule — like taking inventory or locking up at night.

The first is that we all need some help. No one succeeds alone, but a lot of people fail that way. Don’t be one of them.

The second is that being asked to help is flattering … even empowering. If you do it right, you gain an ally or bring a friend closer. Think about it. Who do people ask for real help? Do they ask the weak and powerless? Or do they ask people who are stronger than they are, who have power and influence and intelligence and insight?

If I ask you for help and you take me seriously, you know I believe in you and your ability to do something meaningful. The bigger the favor, the more powerful I must believe you to be. If I ask you to get me a cup of coffee, no one’s flattered; you might even be insulted. But if I ask you to help me plan a store promotion, I obviously think you have something to offer.

We hear a lot about “networking,” but most people take that to mean showing up at some function, having a drink or two, shaking a few hands and trying to be seen. I suppose there could be some value in that, but it’s tough to find.

Asking for help is a far better way to network. What if someone you respect asked for your help? What would you do?

If you’re like me, your first reaction would be a feeling of pride.

“Wow! This person thinks enough of me to ask for my help. I’m in! I want to help! I don’t want to let them down.”

Obviously, I’m not talking about someone asking me to help them move (I have a bad back) or to attend their kid’s piano recital (my bad back also prevents me from sitting in school auditoriums). I’m talking about real help of a business nature.

Once you’ve flattered me, I’m invested. You’ve made your problem my problem, and now we’re in this together. Failure is not an option.

To make the “help” strategy work doesn’t require any expensive systems, but it does require a pretty considerable investment. You must have laid the groundwork of trust and respect or it won’t work.

Remember that your request for help must flatter the person you ask. If you don’t have their respect, it’s not going to work. They’ll find an excuse not to help.

Sometimes, you may find it useful to ask for help that you don’t particularly need. This is not a bad thing. Since asking for help can be flattering and empowering to the person you ask, it can build relationships even when real help isn’t necessary. Just be sure that your request doesn’t come across as disingenuous.

And once you’ve asked for and gotten help, you must repay it. A sincere thank you is a start. Maybe a nice plaque or a store discount or even a party would be good, too. Generally, you want to repay that help through recognition more than anything else. It’s part of the flattery that got them on board in the first place.

If you think asking for help makes you look weak, get over it. You’re wrong. It makes you look smart. It’s a great tool, but not always the right tool for the job. Use it carefully.

Where do you need help, and who can you ask for it?