When you are ready to connect with someone you don’t know or want to be on the priority list of someone you do know, the way to up your response rate is to focus on the ask. It doesn’t matter if you are a job hunter, sales person or trying to get work done within an organization, if your ask is not compelling, chances are your request will slide down the priority list.

Let’s start with an example of what not to do:

I wanted to know if you would be receptive to conducting an informational interview with me — I would really appreciate your counsel and advice.

Thank you for your consideration!

You may be saying, that sounds like a great request, what’s wrong with it. I’ll tell you as I give you some hints about refining the “ask” to be more compelling:

  1. Always fashion your ask with addressing what’s in it for them. Granted, you are asking for someone to do something for you and the secret is to engage them so that there is something in it for them. In the example, there is nothing compelling me to jump and say…yes, I want to meet this person!
  2. Be specific about what you want to do so that the person you are requesting time with knows what they are getting into. In the example, I really don’t know what he wants – in fact I responded by saying that informational interviews are usually with people in companies who are hiring and I am not hiring. Or does he want to learn about starting his own business? Or is he really saying to me…I want to meet you and get free advice? If that’s the case, don’t ambush the person you want to me…it never goes well.
  3. Avoid a form letter. All this adds up to is a form letter. Where is the personalization? This note could be sent to anyone.
  4. Follow through on your note. I received this note and responded maybe a week later (because it was not compelling) and never heard back. Cross that off the list.

Here’s a redraft of that letter that would have gotten my attention pronto:

Hello Lynn,

I have thought about starting my business and I wanted to know if you would be receptive to conducting an informational interview with me. There are a few areas that I would like to explore – start-up costs and how to get my first clients. I know that you have worked independently for over 13 years and would really appreciate your counsel, advice and suggestions on how to get more information.

I’ll give you call in the next few days to check on your availability.

Thank you for your consideration!

Which note or ask would you respond to?