Earning The Right To Ask

Earning The Right To Ask 04 07 2014My friend “Kate” asked me to a business lunch to meet her friend “Molly”, who had just started a venture capital fund and was looking to grow.

Kate is one of the savviest people I know and has a great track record for making connections—and Molly sounded like a powerhouse—so of course I agreed.

We were nearing the end of the lunch when it happened.

Molly had regaled us with engaging stories about her portfolio companies and bemoaned how hard it was to raise capital.  At the same time, she also quickly dismissed our ideas for building the reputation of her fledgling company. She was singularly uninterested in what I call spade work—the long-term bit-by-bit building of relationships and pipeline that enduring businesses invest in.

Instead, she went for the quick hit.

She blithely asked me—and Kate—for $250,000 each to buy into her new fund.


Some ego-driven part of me was flattered she thought I had a spare quarter million sitting around waiting to be used on high-risk ventures.

But the rest of me was aghast.

I made my early mark—and pretty much every one since then—in relationship selling. Where you first earn the right to ask—by getting to know your client and only “asking” when you’re clear that their needs and your services align sweetly.

And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking charitable contributions, investments, professional services or art: very few clients award a $250,000 contract on the basis of a single meet-and-greet.

No, Molly walked away without a sale and, more importantly, without the seeds that could have formed a lasting relationship.

Because I was pretty darned impressed with her drive, her success stories and the big idea behind her fund. I could easily introduce her to others who might be thrilled to pony up the price of admission.

But once she clearly demonstrated her preference for the quick hit, the big win, it was over. I can’t trust that she’ll make the right decisions when times are tough. And so the window to my pals and my larger network is closed. Shut tight.

I won’t be investing in our relationship either. Time is precious and I’d rather spend mine with kindred spirits, where each of us is constantly earning the right to ask. Not because we’re always working—but because we genuinely care about someone and something beyond ourselves.

Earning the right to ask is a fundamental investment in building relationships of all kinds.

What investments have you made today?

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8 Responses to Earning The Right To Ask

  1. Corey Bearak says:

    Wow, Rochelle.
    In networking, what you call the quick hit happens all too often. I
    ear it too often from folks I encounter in networking about not making deals or getting business from or through a group they joined.
    Building relationships involves an investment of time and quality time at that, sharing information, advise, allowing folks to get comfortable with you. When a colleague becomes comfy with you as a professional they more likely will introduce you to opportunities that work for you. I am a living example of such beneficence. In fact my best (and enduring) clients seem to result from that route.
    I am sharing your post along my network.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Rochelle says:

    I hear you Corey. Relationships–good ones anyway–take time and attention and nurturing. You are a GREAT example of this as I well know 🙂

  3. Ed Rosenbaum says:

    I hope you did not have to pay for lunch.

  4. Morgan says:

    I have found myself in similar circumstances, (though it wasn’t for $250K) where someone I knew introduced me to someone else who felt I would just “anti-up” because we knew someone in common.

    I’m a big believer in creating relationships, and that these MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL relationships further help us become who we want to be.

    I’m glad you posted this, as we all need a reminder NOT to get sucked into someone else’s fear-based (just guessing since you offered other suggestions) thought-stream, wherein they believe that the “quick hit” is the only way to get what they need.

  5. Francoise says:

    Totally agree with you Rochelle.

    Asking something like this on the first meeting doesn’t sound like a good idea, especially after the other parts of the conversation you have been describing.

    Would it have worked for you if she had been curious about opportunities, interested in your ideas and then at the end had pointed out, that you would also be very welcome to invest in her fund?

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