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Ask for What You Want

Ask for what you want: That’s one of my favorite pieces of business advice. In fact, I use it often when I give speeches or mentor people. It actually applies to your business life and to your personal life.

Just last week, I was on the phone with a colleague who works at a local university. We were brainstorming ideas to get younger alumnae involved in the dean’s advisory council. So I suggested that we ask for what we want.

In the quarterly university magazine, why not run an ad?

Are you an alumnae? Are you under 50? Is your area of interest agriculture, fashion, or architecture? The Dean’s Advisory Council would love to talk with you about joining us.

My colleague’s comment was: Wow, I never thought of asking directly for what we want.

How many times when you deal with a vendor or a customer (or in your personal life, with your significant other) do you hope they’ve taken that “mind-reading” class? I mean, you know what you want, but you hesitate to ask directly for it. Or actually, you never even think of asking directly for it.

I’ve used this piece of advice so many times that it’s not unusual for me to get an email from someone that starts with: “I know you believe in asking for what you want…”

And if you’re on the other side of this conversation, it’s kind of refreshing to have someone ask you directly for what they want, instead of wondering where the conversation is going.

Another approach I often use is: “It never hurts to ask.” This is a great one to use when you want to try something new.

For example, in business, perhaps you are thinking about asking for a price increase, free samples, or a special discount. The last time I used this was when I was at a local running store. It advertised a 15 percent discount on shoes. After I selected a pair to buy, I happened to comment on the Garmin watch the sales rep was wearing. It turned out it had the features I was looking for. He told me the price.

And then, I asked for what I wanted: “So, do I get the same 15 percent discount that I am getting on the shoes?” He told me “no,” the discount didn’t apply to that.

And then I asked, “Well, do you think I can get the friends and family discount?”

Well, guess what? He gave me a 10 percent discount!

If you think this doesn’t apply to you or would never work, I’d also like to remind you about the time I asked my friend about going to the Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which I did get to attend. And when I asked another friend about becoming a director of the Federal Reserve Bank, which I did become in 2005.

Remember, not only should you ask for what you want, but you should be mindful that it never hurts to ask!

Now, you all know about my bucket list item of meeting Nike founder Phil Knight


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