Generosity of Spirit: Giving and Receiving Support

supportFor “people people,” many of us who sell are notorious “Lone Rangers.” Asking for support from the people in our lives—in the form of contacts, endorsements, time, money, referrals, enthusiasm, pep talks, foot massages, or just kind words on the phone—is uncomfortable for many of us.

People often ask me, “Does it count toward my promise if somebody helped me get the sale?” It’s as if they thought they had cheated if somebody supported them in keeping their promise. I tell them it counts double. They are aghast!

The Soul of Selling asks a lot of us—a high level of service and personal interaction, making promises that we keep no matter what, even being adults! To work at this level, we need to give and receive support. Support is one of the most precious commodities on earth—and yet sometimes we don’t even know what it would look like if somebody supported us.

Support is anything that helps you do your job better or more easily. It can be physical, emotional, financial, intellectual, or energetic. Being supported doesn’t mean you turn over all the responsibility to another person, and expect that person to do your job for you. That is abdication. Support happens when you are ready and willing to do it all, but graciously and gratefully accept help.

Most people have more fun, and are more productive, when they make themselves part of a community of support–and that support can take many forms. The ways people support you may have nothing to do with selling, something to do with selling, or everything to do with selling:

  • You have lunch with an old friend from school and hardly even talk about your jobs, but you leave knowing there’s someone out there who wants you to succeed and whose buck is on you.
  • You have lunch with an old friend from school, tell him what you’re doing, and he has six people for you to call.
  • You have lunch with an old friend from school, and he becomes your biggest customer.

I had a terrible case of the flu several years ago, and my neighbor called to ask if she could get me anything at the store. “Oh no, I’m fine,” I said instinctively, without even pausing to think whether I needed anything.

“Are you sure?” she asked. My silence must have tipped her off. “You do realize, don’t you, that it would really make me feel good to bring you something. I’d feel like I was helping.” That was a great lesson. I know it makes me feel good when I can help someone.

When people are willing to support you, let them—especially if you’ve asked them to do it! It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give people. Supporting another person is a joy. Be generous enough to let people be part of your success.

Why do we resist being supported? People say:

  • I don’t want to owe anybody.
  • I don’t know what they might want in return.
  • I’m embarrassed. I don’t want them to think I’m needy or weak.
  • I need to prove I can do it myself.

“Honestly, it’s easier if I just do it myself,” Howard told me. “The minute I get people around, depending on me, I have to spend all my time taking care of them.” Howard echoed what a lot of people fear about support. The assumption is that people are going to be troublesome, and that you will have to spend more time and energy taking care of them and fixing them than you would just doing the job yourself. Sometimes it turns out this way, but you can also set it up to work.

Sometimes we don’t ask for support because we don’t know how to do it. We don’t want to impose, or put people on the spot. Even when we think they probably want to support us, asking can feel sticky. Remember, it’s just us chickens. The other person is just another person, just like you. Ask yourself, “What would I want to hear if I were in this person’s shoes and they were asking me for support?” Here are some guidelines:

1. Be clear about what you want. Know exactly what you want from people before you ask them. Don’t approach people with, “Hey, I could use some, you know, help. What do you, like, you know, think you might be able to do to support me?” That will most likely produce confusion, frustration, and/or resentment, rather than support. Instead, take some time to think about what you really want and to develop your request: ~ Anne, would you be willing to sit with me for an hour and talk about people you think I should approach?

2. Be very specific in your requests. Vague requests understandably make people nervous. A blanket promise for “support” can mean anything from buying the person a cup of coffee to fostering their firstborn child. The more vague your request, the less likely they are to agree—and the less fulfillment they will feel, even if they do go out on a limb. When the request is clear and specific, people can make good choices about whether or not they can help: ~ Thanks for asking what you could do, Bill. I could use some support with this contact list. Could you take ten people and check their information?

3. Ask directly. Don’t beat around the bush. This has happened to all of us, and it’s maddening. “Um, I think we could really support one another…” What does that mean? Does the person want something specific? Does he want me to figure out what he wants and tell him? Anything less than a straightforward request can make people feel as if they are being manipulated. It’s easier to support people who ask for specific support in a clear and “straight from the shoulder” way. ~ Helen, could we have lunch next week to talk about specific ways we can support one another? ~ Joe, I’m going nuts with this one accounting situation. Can I buy you lunch next week and get your input?

4. Make your request an invitation. Avoid making it a plea for help without which you will probably go under (and it will be their fault!). Be sure people know that it’s okay to say “no,” and that your relationship won’t suffer. You’d love to have them on board, but you understand if they are too busy or just don’t want to do what you ask. ~ John, I’m getting together a group of people on Friday to brainstorm about contacts for my business, and you’re invited. It’s fine if you can’t come, but I’d love to have you there.

5. Be grateful—out loud, and in a way they appreciate. When people help you succeed, make a point of telling them how much you appreciate what they did. Let them know the specific ways they made your job easier or more productive. Make your acknowledgment public, if it’s possible and appropriate. ~ Thanks for the call, Karen. It was just the pick-me-up I needed and did a better job because of it. ~ Allen, I so appreciate the way you organized my calls today. It was “above and beyond,” and that’s what makes us a great team. ~ Sue, thanks for sending the “I believe in you” card. I’m grateful that you’re my pal.

Most of us have less trouble giving support than we do receiving it—but sometimes we don’t know how to do it in the best way. Next week, we’ll discuss some great ways to support others.

Meanwhile, what is your experience of being supported?

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