Last week, I along with Frank DeRaffele, had the great privilege to be invited to Washington D.C. to meet with New Hampshire State Senator, Kelly Ayotte about our new Small Business Stimulus Week initiative that we ran this past December. You can read more about the initiative in this blog post Is it Time to Stimulate Your Own Economy. We are excited to be running it again this upcoming July.
While this was a quick trip, it was also a meaningful one that I believe will pay huge dividends over the next few years. There are a couple of lessons about networking that were present during this trip that I would like to share over the next couple of blog posts. You can read the first two lessons HERE and HERE.
Today I would like to talk about the lesson of the Giving First.
The very first question out of the Senator’s Aide and in fact the Senator herself was “What are you looking for from us?” I suppose this should not have been a surprise, I would imagine that it is a daily experience that they have meetings with people who are out to get something from them. However, I could tell by the facial expression on their face that our answer was slightly different when we said “nothing we are wondering how we can help you!”
I believe the quickest way to gain the respect and credibility with someone in any position is to first ask yourself what you have to offer them. How can you make any type of improvement for them before you even begin to ask what you will get in return?
When I emailed the Senator’s office informing of them of the results from our first Small Business Stimulus Week, I did it with the full intention of just informing them on what was happening in their State and across the Country. I had no plan of action on what I wanted from them, or what I could get from them. Truthfully, I never expected to get a response. So when I did, and when I was invited to have this meeting, I went in with the intention to see how we could help the Senator and other small business owners across the country with this initiative.
Frankly, Small Business Stimulus Week was a huge success without any help from a Senator and anyone in government, and will continue to be with or without that type of support. However, I am also fully aware that if a Senator or Senators were involved we could GAIN further exposure for our initiative and potentially help a greater number of business owners. But, what could we provide to them that would make them look into supporting this imitative?
We have become a society of “what’s in it for me?” Not in all cases but in far too many. When you go out networking you will hear people take this approach. You will hear them telling everyone who will listen what they can do for them, but very few people ask the simple question of “how can I help you?” Again based on the reaction we received when we asked this question, it is not a common one being asked in Washington either.
So we left our meeting letting them think about what we could do for them. How could we help them in their pursuit (or so they said) of helping the small business owners across our country? Even in my follow-up letters I stated in each one to please let me know how I could be of any help to them in the future. And the beauty of that is we never know how they may answer that question. We never know what might come from it.