Ask For What You Need

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I’ve been working on marketing Pitching & Closing and am learning a lot in the process. I have never done any form of marketing before (other than perhaps my own personal brand) and it’s been an interesting experience understanding how to spread the word. Part of this marketing means asking people for various things: favors, purchases, introductions etc.

In this process, I have also had to learn very quickly how to ask for what you need, not what you think the other person wants to hear. This is a common need in sales and business development and is a very practical skill to have.

For example, Alex and I have been speaking with various universities and academic institutions about using the book in classrooms. Having to make the ask outright: is there any way a professor, teacher or department would consider adding it to the curriculum? Even if you think it isn’t entirely feasible for the other side to meet your exact needs, making the full ask makes it easier for the other side to meet you halfway.

It’s as simple as ripping off the bandaid and knowing very clearly what you need from the other side. Make your ask specific and detailed (like, I’d like you to consider using the book in this particular course for 1 semester as a trial-run), and the other side will be able to form its opinion – and hopefully say yes. The worst thing that happens is you get a “sorry, we can’t help you at this time.” But the clearer and more precise the ask, the more likely it is that you can find a compromise for both parties.

Ask For What You Need

Building a Personal Brand

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When I was in college, after my first year on campus, I ran for student body president. My strategy was to walk around and talk to everyone about my ideas: in the cafeterias, in the library, even walking up and down Thayer St. I didn’t win, but the strategy proved to be pretty successful over the subsequent years. My network was large and I had spoken to so many people, that they knew what I was about. As a result, I was often consulted for activities or admitted to classes in which my colleagues knew I was interested. I had built my first “personal brand,” and I learned pretty quickly that it served me well.

What do I mean by personal brand? A personal brand is a way of consistently representing yourself to the outside world so that others know exactly who you are. Your values, interests, and even stances on various issues are all part of the way you present or market yourself to the outside world. If you consider commercial brands that are well known, it’s probably because their marketing team has done an outstanding job of making that brand memorable.

The idea is to do the same with your personal brand. This brand is helpful in shaping an identity, and can come in handy if you are establishing yourself in a new job, company or industry. Building that brand means sending a consistent message, discussing your ideas and seeking advice from a wide array of mentors and sponsors. This can be within the confines of your professional existence at work, or cross the boundaries of the professional/personal divide. Once your brand is established, people will begin to associate you with certain activities or ideologies.

Some people worry about getting pigeon-holed or stereotyped. What if I am only associated with that one message? But people need something to latch onto. If you want to be memorable, stick to your guns. Understand that most of the people you interact with will assume that you have more than one dimension. It’s also permissible to go “off-brand” every once in a while (otherwise you probably aren’t a real human being). Building a personal brand also means that you can become the go-to person for something very quickly – something that can catapult careers at a young age.

My success in building a person brand has been being vocal about my beliefs and sharing my thoughts broadly. Blogging and Tweeting have helped as well, but there are many strategies that can be successful. Tweet @ me if you have additional ideas about how to craft and perfect your personal brand.

Building a Personal Brand