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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