You’ve heard the phrase “it can’t hurt to ask”, and while that’s true in many situations, putting it out as a blanket statement can lead to some bad things.
A great example is spam, whether that’s via email, phone calls, or things like LinkedIn connections. In every case, they figure “it can’t hurt to ask”, but collectively, it certainly can. Thousands of companies, each spamming millions of people, creates a mess of stuff that we all need to work through each day. I’ve mentioned before that spam makes it harder for the good stuff to shine, and we recently had a vivid example of this at GreenMellen.
Our voicemail gets a lot of spam. We filter through it quickly and respond to legitimate calls, but there is a lot to work through. Our clients get our personal phone numbers, but the published number for the company is voicemail only due to the amount of garbage that comes through.
Last week, we got a voicemail that essentially said “This is Steve. Please call me back at 111-222-3333“. I’ve seen that before; with no context around it, Steve is absolutely wanting to try to sell us something, so I ignored it. I was wrong. He left another message a few days later with a bit more info, I called him back, and we had a wonderful conversation. I apologized for not calling more quickly, as that was certainly my error. I could put some blame on him, as I guess you could say that he should have given just a bit more detail in his initial voicemail, but this was certainly on me.
Don’t try to hustle people
Last year I wrote about avoiding trying to hustle those you wish to serve, based on some thoughts from Seth Godin, and he recently following up with a post about the intersection of spam and hustle.
It’s worth reading his entire post, but these two paragraphs sum it up nicely:
“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” the hustling spammer says, using second-order connections to “reach out” to hundreds of people. “No pressure,” they add, as if this diminishes the coarsening of the conversation.
If you ask 100 people for a favor to “get the word out,” then of course you don’t care so much if 80 or 90 people decline. The problem is that you’ve just hurt the relationship you had with these people (as thin as it was) as well as made it more difficult for the next person, the one who actually put some effort and care into making a connection.
Don’t hold back
The one caveat to this is to not become timid. If there is a connection you really want to make or a goal you want to hit, fighting for it can be a great thing. Just be careful of how many of these “just asks” you put out there, and focus on making real connections that don’t require a special ask from either side.