How to Go About Asking Others for Help, Advice, or Introduction

A few weeks ago, I had a good discussion over drinks with Matt Dollinger at RE BarCamp Chicago regarding helping others. Matt is a trainer for @properties, so a large portion of his job involves helping agents perform better by guiding them through using technology and developing business plans (among other things). With Zillow’s stance being that education is the best form of marketing (I agree), part of my job entails helping agents and brokers better understand how to utilize the web to attract clients and build their business, and of course how to use Zillow as part of that process. Another reason for this post was my talk with my 17 year old cousin on the 4th of July. He very much has the mindset that he doesn’t need help from anyone along the way to succeed (in the music field), though at the same time, he somehow also wants someone to tell him exactly what steps to take in order to get to where he wants to end up. I gotta give him a break since he’s still only 17 — in fact, I think it’s pretty darn impressive he even knows what he wants to do at his age. Anyway, let’s face it — everyone needs help at some point or another; no successful person or company can succeed alone.

So, how do you go about asking others for help, advice, or an introduction? I’m going to answer this from my perspective since random inquiries — largely as a result of my job at Zillow and this blog — regularly show up in my inbox.

Short answer: You gotta want it. Really want it.

Longer answer: Convince me you are passionate. Convince me you care. Convince me you’ll follow through and act on the advice I give you (or at least take the time to carefully consider it). Stand out from the rest. Personalize your e-mail. Show me you did a little research. Convince me you are a “doer”. Show your voice and personality. Be motivated. BE INTERESTED.

I genuinely do try to respond to all inquiries, but some weeks are busier than others & don’t always get to everyone. And I’ll be frank — it’s so clear some requests were fired off without reading a single word on my blog that I immediately delete them from my gmail. Those people don’t stand a chance of getting a response; if they didn’t bother to spend time researching me and personalizing their message, there’s no reason for me to spend my time responding. Even if I did respond to those people, those are the people unlikely to actually follow through. Matt mentioned that he gives homework to his agents, and many of them don’t bother to spend any time on it prior to their next meeting with him. Inevitably, he’ll eventually stop spending any effort on the agents who don’t put in time and effort because there is no return on his time spent with them. I’m the same way; if there is no return on my time spent, I’m not going to do it.

Bottom line: if you genuinely want help with something, be passionate and prove you are a “doer”.

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