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You can't get what you want if you don't do this

June 19, 2022

If you're asking for something from someone, then you need to do this first.

If you're in sales, customer support, or anyone talking to users or potential users, you gotta dial up the listening and empathy meters.

In fact, if you're asking for something from someone, such as but not limited to:

  • Sign up to your platform
  • Buy your product
  • Leave a review
  • Hire you
  • Give you a raise
  • Give your startup funding

Or literally anything else, then you gotta answer the question, "what's in it for them?"

What's in it for them?

I was recently on the receiving end of having someone ask me to do not just one thing, but many things. The interesting part is...

I didn't even know the guy.

Someone cold messaged me on LinkedIn to try out their NEW blogging platform, and encouraged me to publish my articles there. I already cross-post my blog posts to tech/dev blogging & community platforms, so he probably found me at one of those places.

Since the platform he's promoting to me is fairly new, I asked how it's different from the others I'm already using, and what kind of unique value it brings to the people they're trying to onboard, a.k.a. people like me.

He gave me lengthy details about the company and their platform that didn't answer my question. Unsatisfied, I Googled them myself. Even from their website, I couldn't find their UVP (unique value proposition).

But still, I gave the benefit of the doubt since startups usually polish their messaging, comms, and positioning during these early stages. No big deal.

Listening and empathy

I got busy with work and forgot about the platform and our conversation. But to his credit, he consistently followed up with me so I didn't completely forget about it. One day, I found the time to publish one post on their platform, which was weeks after our first contact.

After more follow-ups from him, he asked if I'm interested to import all my existing articles on their platform. I told him about my experience when I published my first article there:

It was painful to use because they had no support for Markdown.

Markdown is supported on my self-hosted blog as well as on the platforms I use, so all I have to do is copy-paste if I want to cross-post. But this guy's platform only has rich text processing. That means I had to manually format everything when I published my first and only article.

I asked if they have plans to support Markdown in the future. Obviously so it'll be easier to do what he's asking me to do.

His response? He thanked me for my interest, gave more promotional speeches about why it's so great to use their platform, then asked me if I can get 3 more of my articles there, and then requested me to update my profile. He managed to say all those in three paragraphs.

He didn't even answer my question.

I decided not to publish the rest of my articles there, which is opposite of what he's asking me to do. It's mostly because I'm too busy these days, and manually formatting articles when I know I can just copy-paste has introduced a huge friction to keep publishing on their platform.

Communication skills

While writing this article, I had to revisit our conversation to make sure my story is accurate 😛

I noticed that he actually answered my question at the very end of his essay. It turns out they do support Markup. I felt dumb for not finding that option in their UI. Either that or their UX wasn't the best. Which is which doesn't matter for this article 😉

But I could have sworn he didn't answer my question when I first read his response. Then I saw an "edited" tag on his message. He might have realized it after he clicked send, then went back and edited his response.

If that's the case, it was too late. I already read it and decided not to use their platform at the time. I wouldn't even have seen his edit if I didn't feel the need to write about this experience.

Either that, or I missed his answer the first time. Either way, if he "listened" for real, and had empathy for the person he's talking to, he could have answered my inquiry first, and I would have already published all of my posts to their platform.

Only then would have been a better time for him to say more promotional text and ask for me to do more things on their platform, because he'd already informed me how seamless it is for me to do all these things he's asked.

It's a skill or a muscle to be exercised

I myself fall into the trap of not doing one or all of these things.

Some of us are naturally gifted at persuation and communication. Most of us aren't. The rest of us has to learn it like any other skill. But in my opinion, this is where we should start - at the basics.

Answer what's so good about your offer or request that's so valuable to the intended recipient. What's in it for them? Then listen for real, and have empathy throughout the conversation and subsequent interactions.

Am I a master at these things myself? Absolutely not. But this recent experience of being at the other end, made me realize how important it is to be mindful of our communication and persuation skills. What about you?

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