The entire world is asking – for a job, for money, for advice, for time – and as a result, all of that asking becomes background noise. Eardrum buzz. Instead of doing what everyone else does, do something different. Offer something.
Professionals selling products and services often run into the buzz saw of the eardrum buzz. While their words are different, they are doing what everyone else is doing…asking. And oddly enough, those trying to buy companies run into that eardrum buzz saw, too: Business owners usually are inundated with people asking to buy the company.
Very much by accident I discovered that once I had something to offer, many more doors opened for me. So what did I offer? A book. I was incensed about losing a business opportunity and I took out my frustrations on my keyboard. I didn’t have a master plan in mind; I just had something I wanted to get off my chest. That writing exercise turned into Venture Capital 101, which you can now buy on Kindle Digital Press for the princely sum of 99 US cents.
Initially, I gave Venture Capital 101 away for free. The book seemed to resonate with the venture capital and entrepreneurial community; a lot of people enjoyed it and forwarded to other people. I soon found people were contacting me to thank me for writing it, and more importantly, to offer me jobs, business opportunities, columns, and eventually, an offer to write a book for Wiley, the publisher of the “For Dummies” franchise. That’s how I got the opportunity to write Mergers & Acquisitions For Dummies. The publisher reached out to me. If I would have asked Wiley to let me write the book, that ask would have been turned down flat…or simply ignored.
I have a presentation I initially gave at the University Club of Chicago in May 2013. In it, I describe my experiences with offering and all the attendant opportunities that have come back to me as a result. If you’re interested in taking a look at the presentation, please follow this link. Some of the takeaways from my presentation include:
- Have something to offer. Obviously!
- You’ll never stand out if you strive to be the best at fitting in. Be different; don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
- But don’t be different at the cost of not knowing what you’re talking about! Make sure you’re genuine, too.
- Too much marketing is myopic. Too many marketers spend way too much time communicating to themselves the ideal attributes of their ideal client and why those client attributes are so ideal…for themselves. Too many of us rarely spend time communicating what the other person gets out of the bargain. I’ve been guilty of this. Offering something of real value is key to breaking out of the “ideal client for me” rut.
So now you’re asking, “But Bill, what can I offer?” Some things in life you have to figure out for yourself. I can’t do everything for you! But I’ll give you some clues. If you’re looking to pick someone’s brain for career advice, offer to buy that person a nice lunch. You know, a place with cloth napkins and waiters and expensive steaks. You see? That’s an exchange. The brain pickee gets a nice meal; the brain picker gets some insight.
Now let me tell you want does not constitute an “offer.”
- Asking to “network” with someone so you can have access to his contacts. The asker clearly gets something…but what does the askee get? This actually happened to me years ago!
- Phrasing the “offer” in the form of an “ask.” An example is if your offer is essentially of the “hire me, pay me, and I’ll do work for you” school of thought. You’re not offering anything. You’re asking for a job.
Don’t think offers have to be expensive, material items. While nice lunches and rounds of golf and tickets to sporting events and concerts are great, an offer of something of real value may be as simple as heartfelt advice. Or being there to help someone facing a problem. Or creating opportunities and opening doors for others. Or simply being a loyal, honest, and trustworthy friend.
What you offer is up to you. And your offer may vary depending on situation and circumstances. Many people use the phrase, “pay for it forward,” but that phrase seems a bit contrived to me. Empty rhetoric you see on bumper stickers. Instead, if you can offer something of real value, the world will respond in kind.