“Let Me Know How I Can Help”

Always be helping

A couple months ago, a young sales person who I worked with a year ago asked for a call to re-connect. He kicks the call off with: “I am calling because I thought you might know some people who might need my service.” My reaction: Nice to hear from you too. He then goes through the entire call and finishes with: “So if you know anyone, send them over to me.” Pffft. Nice job dude. I not only have no reason to help you, but I like you a lot less. Let me go down the line:

  1. Never even asked what I was doing or how I was doing.
  2. Didn’t do any meaningful pre-call research or at least if he did, didn’t bring it up except to mention that I might be able to help HIM.
  3. Actually, showed no interest in what I was doing or how I was doing.
  4. And frankly, couldn’t care less about a two-way business relationship.

Ill get back to this in a second, but first let me share a story. I was sitting in the bar area of the Rosewood Hotel. We hold all our TOPO events there and I was catching up on emails and pretending I was a big timer. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, was there for a meeting. He walks up to the gentleman next to me and says: “I saw you raised a new round. Congratulations on your success. This is my phone number, you can call me anytime and let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” When John left, the guy turns to the person he was sitting with and said: “Holy s**t. John Chambers just walked up to me and offered to help me.” No mention of Cisco, no mention of networking needs. Surprised? I was too and I saw it live.

Sales and networking in general, is about a trusted, mutually beneficial relationship. Your job is to not only help but to strive to give more than you get back. Dan Waldschmidt studied successful people for his book, Edgy Conversations. He spent thousands of hours studying how 1,000 ordinary people in business, math, science, sports and politics overcame the massive obstacles in their way to achieve their success. One thing he found was that these successful people were all “givers”. As he puts it:

“Giving more value is a strength not bad skills.”

He was speaking at our sales summit and a question from the audience came in: “When do you draw the line from helping to selling?”

Dan: “They are the same thing.”

Back to the conversation with the young sales rep wanting my help. Here is how I would have restructured his call:

  1. Purpose of the Call
    “I asked for the call to get caught up on what you are doing. Time permitting, I’d love to tell you what I am doing. Based on my research, I’d like to see if there is an opportunity to help each other.”
  2. Reference to Pre-Call Research
    “I see from your LinkedIn profile that you…” or “I love that blog post your wrote on…”
  3. Their Update
    ‘How is business?” Based on my answer, dig in from there. Spend A LOT of time in this area.
  4. Offer Ideas on How to Help
    “Who is your target buyer?” “I’d love to introduce you to….”
  5. Your Update
    “I’d love to tell you what I am up to.”
  6. Offer to Help Again
    “Are there any other ways I can help you?” Try to come up with a specific action item that you can deliver.
  7. Ask for Help in Return
    “If you run into someone that needs XXX, I’d love to talk to them. Even if I can’t help them, I know the industry and should be able to guide them in the right direction.” Remember, it’s my network, I want to make sure anyone I refer is in the best hands so make me comfortable with making an intro.

Takers are going the way of the dinosaur. Products are commoditized, people have no time. They want business partners first…your product second. Give more than you get and a good business person will give back to you. That’s how you win. That’s not just sales, that’s business. Correction: That’s success. If John Chambers does it, so you can you.

Great image from Feed My Starving Children


Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter


  • Isaac

    Nice one Craig. Wholeheartedly agree.

  • trishbertuzzi

    What a great story… thanks for sharing!

    If I could add one pet peeve of mine which happens every week. Someone reaches out that I have not heard from in literally years and asks me for my time because they are “looking for a new opportunity”. Usually an email and no “how are ya”. Same thing I know so your post really resonated.

    Love Dan’s book too btw.. great read.. thanks for reminding me to go take a peek at it again.

  • John Chambers is the man – still one of the most engaging speakers I’ve seen. Great people all have very similar habits and giving is one of the list topers.

  • carolemahoney

    While coaching a client today about an email he was about to send to a connection that he hadn’t spoken with in a while, I saw the words “I just wanted to…” and I asked, “btw- who cares what you want?

    #4 and #6 are my favorites. #4 because typically if you can learn more about who their buyers are, it’s so much easier to understand their business, what they do and if you can relate, help, introduce. Then it doesn’t become about either of person- it’s about someone else entirely. And with #4, it helps solve what you said in #6, because it’s easier to get to something specific with individuals in mind.

  • Sally Draper

    I love this so much. I am no longer in sales, but in marketing. But when I was selling, the most beneficial advice I ever got from the VP of my company was “Listen more. Talk less.” I wrote it down at the top of every sheet of paper I took notes on when on client calls or in meetings. It works.

    Along the lines of Dan’s helping vs. selling, I also heard Jay Baer point out in a speech that there are only two letters varying between the 2 (thus minimizing the difference and meaning they really are almost, or should be, the same thing).

  • Daniel

    The single most important CRM feature to increase Sales for a team of 5-10 sales reps?

    Every sales manager is familiar with the universal problem of getting sales people to use their newly installed CRM software. Reps complain that the system will decrease their effectiveness and that time spent administering the CRM could be put to better use by meeting clients and prospects.

    And in many cases, the reps are right, since a lot of the bigger, traditional solutions are far too complicated to use and contains 1000+ features that will never be used. To make things worse, managers typically are too busy to invest the time and leadership necessary to get the team on board and get the long-term benefits of a central place for deals, tasks and contacts.

    So, this made me start experimenting with a new kind of software which I’m currently developing and which will be available as a free version. It’s still in early beta and I need feedback from seasoned sales professionals.

    I’ve tried to keep the clutter to a minimum and experimenting with the
    question; How simple can a sales tool get while still being useful for sales professionals?

    Create a free account at http://bit.ly/1AC9S3g and let me know what you think!

  • Yolandi

    Great post! In a world where everyone is selling something and it feels like everyone is just trying to get into your wallet the people who are actually selling something and really helping you stand out.

  • Karl Pawlewicz

    Co-sign 100% – the same can be said for communications professionals now. Write articles that help your customers, and offer to be a helpful resource for media and analysts before trying to pitch them on what your company does.

  • Manuel Medina

    Loved the post. I encourage people in sales to be genuinely interested in the other person before talking about their product, themselves, or asking for anything – and that involves finding out more about their needs and seeing how you can help.

  • Liliana

    very very interesting… totally agree of focusing on the other person and that person’s interests, particularly in sales.. A story in return along the same lines
    .. I was just on a call with a young man about to join my company and he mentioned he wants to be a manager in the first few minutes.. my initial thought was… oops, maybe first focus on doing a good job now/for a while… and ensure you provide value before you focus on career advancement… sales and careers need to be ‘team’ oriented, not only about ‘me’

  • saurabh mittal photography

    Excellent articles. I love the story and emphasis on ‘giving’.
    I think these days there is so much of ‘selling’ or noise around us. So much so, that when you see someone genuinely interested in listening’ to you instead of talking, that can leave a last impression.