How often do you find yourself on the receiving end of someone try to convince you that you could leverage the useless thing/service/contact or whatever they’re trying to “offer” you? If I had a dollar for every time this happens to me, my 401(k) would undoubtedly be back where it used to be.
I simply do not understand why people just don’t ask you what it is you need help with…..? Do they think that maybe you don’t actually know? Do they really think they know more than you do about what it is you really need? Are they afraid that they won’t be able to help you with what it is you really need and then can’t possibly ask you for what it is they need help with (and perhaps the real reason for the coffee invite)?
This is yet another topic I touch on in my “12 Rules of Networking for 2009 white paper.” Networking Rule #3 Offer Help to Others First speaks to the idea that once you get past the initial pleasantries when you’re at a networking event or meeting someone for coffee, ask the other person what it is they need help with these days. It’s really that simple, just ask. Don’t assume ahead of time that you know what they’re challenged by right now, and then find yourself obviously and awkwardly trying to offer something that is completely off base, or even worse, very clearly self-serving.
And what happens if you can’t immediately offer help to them in the area in which they need it? Nothing. You just assure them that you will keep it top of mind and maybe even thank them for letting you know exactly how you can help them. Try it. I think you’ll be surprised how soon you might come across the thing they need, or maybe then be asked what it is you need help with, or maybe you won’t, it doesn’t matter. You were just given a golden opportunity to pay it forward down the road. Be grateful and have a little more faith in the universe.
NOTE: But remember, if someone asks you for something you actually make a living doing, don’t forget to mention that you’ll have to send them an invoice if you provide it!