Ilya PozinContributor

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To be able to thrive and survive in the business world, you need to know how to solicit.

It’s how business is done, partnerships are made, and media coverage is achieved. Asking for what you need accomplishes an array of objectives that are vital for your business to stay afloat.

A small select group of people are naturals at soliciting, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can be passive when it comes to getting the things we need. Soliciting is a long and arduous learning process filled with trial and error, but I have some tricks of the trade to get you on your way and help you avoid that long road.

Follow these four steps to solicit successfully:

1. Learn About Your Target

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people neglect the simplest of tasks to save time. Realistically speaking, if you don’t do this step, your chances of succeeding with the following steps are slim to none.

First, make a list of your potential targets you that you’d like to contact. Second, scour the Internet for everything about them. Read up on primary sources, like their own sites, profiles, or blogs, and secondary sources that mention your target. See what’s happening with them in the news, and on blogs and sites other than their own. If you’re seeing a pattern of matching interests, chances are that contact may be a good fit for your offer. From there, begin to narrow down your list to a few key contacts.

The goal is to get relevant information about your target so that each point of contact is fit for that specific topic – be it a client, investor, or partner.

2. Start a conversation

This message model is a getting-to-know-you process, not a take-my-offer-now pitch. It’s actually scientifically proven that people love to talk about themselves and their own thoughts, so naturally this step is important in your successful solicitation.

Starting and maintaining conversations is a basic communication principle – build solid and mutually beneficial relationships. Since you already know everything you need about your target, you’re now able to find out their needs first and see if there are ways where yours and theirs can be met.

Recently, I was contacted via email by a marketing coordinator of a mobile app agency who offered their expertise for mobile and entrepreneurship provided that I was interested in writing on it. Although I declined because I don’t write reviews, I was impressed that I was asked about my opinions on the mobile app industry first before hearing the offer. It shows that they were more concerned with information being fit for me before their own needs, which in turn opened the door for more future solicitations.

Remember: when crafting your message, don’t be in a selling mode like a used car salesman. People figure out pretty quickly when something is blatantly being “sold” to them, so don’t do it. If you skip this step you will deflate any amount of credibility or trust the contact has for you in the future.

3. Insert An Objective

Once you feel comfortable you’ve caught the targets attention, lay down the objective, call to action, or request – whatever you decide to name it. Why? Because it prompts the target to make a decision and act on it. Objectives should cater to each target. For instance, if you are reaching out to an investor, and you want to schedule a meeting – ask. Let them know what your end objective is. Be sure to be clear and concise, but not demanding. Demanding comes off as too aggressive and/or desperate, and no one wants to work with someone with these characteristics.

4. Answer “So What?”

That’s exactly what your target will be thinking once you deliver the objective, so prepare and answer the question for them. Explicitly state why exactly this product/service/news is a benefit to them and prove it with evidence. If you’re reaching out to a blogger who reports on small business and tech startups, explain your unique products/service and show through links how your startup falls under the umbrella of their previous coverage and readership. Make it simple for your target to understand your angle inside and out.

Though every solicitation you send will not be successful 100 percent of the time, these four steps definitely provide a better chance to get on someone’s radar instead of in their unread folder or trash can.

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