Often I’ll hear from people, especially on Twitter, who try to pitch me on their product in a roundabout way — asking questions and making small talk before finally revealing they just want to sell me something.
First they ask what product I’m using for X, and I do my best to answer because I think they’re asking for advice. Then, after more questions and back and forth, they’ll say, “Hey, well maybe you should try X from this company I started, it’s pretty awesome.”
There are few things that upset me, but this kind of conversation does. It wastes my time and I can guarantee I won’t be looking at whatever product they’re talking about, especially not after a cheesy sales technique like this. Very likely I would have checked out the product if they would have pitched it immediately, being transparent upfront, but not after wasting my time and misleading me by trying to establish a fake dialogue.
I understand why they do it. It’s a classic sales technique, although an outdated one that doesn’t work very well over Twitter. It’s unfortunate, because all the effort and usually good intentions are wasted, and the sales pitch is often forgotten in the following disappointment and anger.
If someone believes they have a tool that would make my life better, I would much rather have a real, straightforward conversation with them about it. I always appreciate the hustle of people who work on their own products or are proud of what they do and want to share it with the world, as long as they don’t spam.
It’s quite simple, but a lesson I’ve only learned slowly myself over the years: Ask for what you want. Don’t waste someone’s time with small talk — be straightforward and just ask for it. Will this guarantee you will get what you want? Absolutely not, but it keeps life simple and you would be surprised how often it works.
“Of course I’m not saying you should be an asshole running around demanding everything be given to you.”
When I started out as a designer I always struggled with salary negotiations or asking for a promotion. I never asked the question directly, I always talked around it cryptically or didn’t ask at all, hoping my hard work or skill would speak for itself. Then I would be disappointed or frustrated when nothing happened, despite the fact that I did nothing to make it happen myself. But at some point I learned to just straight out asked for what I wanted, and I can tell you it always worked. It either worked because I got the raise, or because I got a clear NO with points on I would have to improve first.
Of course I’m not saying you should be an asshole running around demanding everything be given to you. I simply mean we should state our clear intentions. Put all our cards on the table. Don’t let others speculate. That goes for making sales pitches on Twitter, sending emails, asking for raises and whatever else we’re hoping to get out of the world. It almost never hurts to just ask for it.
Malika Favre, a friend of mine and super talented artist and illustrator, shared in an NTMY interview with me how this worked out for her.
“The first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘Can I have your job?’”
At the beginning of her career, Malika had an internship at a studio. They didn’t have a full-time job for her then, so she ended up getting one somewhere else. But she still had that studio on her mind. A year later, she bumped into someone she previously worked with there during her internship, and he said he was leaving his job at the studio to go freelance.
“The first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘Can I have your job?’” Malika says. “It just came out. And he looked at me and said, ‘Maybe?’ And the next day I had a call from the boss.”
Of course this was also a matter of being in the right place at the right time. But because Malika had already proven herself and felt confident she was qualified for the job, she skipped the polite small talk and simply asked for what she wanted. It paid off.
Don’t assume or speculate. Don’t let other people guess. And more importantly, don’t dance around the thing you actually want to talk about. Always ask for what you want, and it will make the world so much easier for you and those around you.