Asking is hard (and scary) but so worth it
For a while now I’ve been convinced that the future is certain (in one aspect): Financial Advisors will join every other industry in embracing online reviews. It just hasn’t been clear when this future will arrive. Of course, I’m bullish that it will happen soon. Just about every financial advisor who I speak with agrees with my premise, yet many of them don’t immediately take action to ask for reviews from their clients.
I couldn’t help but wonder why…why weren’t more advisors jumping on board, when they agreed with everything I shared about how important reviews are to consumers, and how advisor adoption is essentially inevitable? In trying to understand their reluctance, I spent a moment in introspection…
“Uh oh,” I realized… “I’m guilty of procrastinating in a very similar way.” You see, while I’m not a financial advisor, I have been an advocate for online reviews for nearly a decade. I’ve espoused the many benefits of letting others tout your virtues and do your marketing for you. I’ve written many LinkedIn recommendations for colleagues & coworkers…
…but I had never asked anyone to write a LinkedIn recommendation for me.
In fact, the numbers were pretty incriminating: I realized that I had written 24 LinkedIn recommendations but only received one. What did I expect? I had never asked.
And if I was really honest with myself, I first had the idea years and years ago that I needed to practice what I preached and ask for LinkedIn recommendations. Just like I tell everyone about online reviews: there’s essentially no reason not to. I just hadn’t ever prioritized making the time to ask.
What’s the worst that could happen?
I had procrastinated this ask for long enough, and it was time to try to understand my own reluctance. Here’s what I came up with when I looked inside myself:
- It might seem self-important: No one gave me the assignment to ask for reviews about myself. This exercise wouldn’t be part of a job application or a formal performance review. If I ask when it’s my own idea, it could seem like I’m just trying to pump up my own ego. Once I laid this hesitation out clearly, it was easy to see right through: anyone who has ever received a recommendation knows that it feels great, and most people are eager to help out their peers and colleagues. The effort to write a review is so minuscule compared to the benefit it can deliver for the rest of someone’s career. Even if someone DID think that the ask was self-important, they still only have two choices: write a recommendation, or don’t. Either way, they will be done thinking about my request within 15 minutes of making that decision.
- What if no one responds? I had two quick realizations about this hesitation. First, my years of working with online reviews has taught me that it’s extremely unlikely that no one at all would respond. The second realization: in the unlikely event that nobody did respond, that in and of itself would be valuable information for me to know. No one but me would ever know how many people I asked, so no one but me would know how good or bad my response rate was (except I’m going to share all of those details for this article). But if it turned out that zero percent of my colleagues were willing to take five minutes to write a recommendation for me, this was something I needed to know, and I would need to take a hard look at why.
- What if the recommendations were lukewarm? We all want to feel special, and a willingness to ask for feedback means a willingness to face (some version of) the truth. So what if my colleagues wrote recommendations, but they were underwhelming? Cookie-cutter? Uninspired? What if I’m less special than I want to believe? On this hesitation, I just leaned all the way into it – any recommendation is better than no recommendation. And I’ve had the privilege of working with some pretty impressive people who don’t do anything half-heartedly. So I liked my chances on this front.
After years of general avoidance and weeks of specific procrastination, I decided to finally make the ask. First I looked through my resume and came up with a list of every person I could think of who should remember working with me over the past ~25 years. In an effort to be true to the “no cherry picking” rule that applies to financial advisors, I consciously included plenty of folks who weren’t the obvious choices. I included people who I didn’t have a reporting relationship with, and people who I didn’t necessarily “click” with socially. I’m not gonna lie – this part was hard. Especially knowing that when I sent some of them the request, I expected their honest response would be something along the lines of “WTF? I barely remember this guy.” As I went down the list I couldn’t help but wonder with each person how likely they would be to write something, and what sorts of things they might say. But I was committed to the experiment, and I believe in the tenets I preach about reviews, so that’s how it was going to be.
So I had my list. The asking should be the easy part, right? Well, maybe, but first I had more procrastinating to do. I rolled it over on my to-do list again and again. Day to day, and then week to week. I wanted to make my request at the perfect time to maximize response rate – that should probably not be a Monday because people had a lot of competing priorities…and maybe not in the morning in general for the same reason. Through this lens, somehow the perfect timing never aligned with my availability to act.
Then one Saturday I decided enough was enough – that “done is better than perfect.” And so, while my wife and daughters were off seeing “Barbie” (an outing to which I was NOT invited), I sat down and made it happen. I used LinkedIn’s “request recommendations” feature and I went down my list one-by-one, looking up my contact, copying & pasting my succinct ask, customizing each one slightly, and (finally) hitting “send.”
Phew, it felt great to finally have the hard part done. I was also filled with excitement and anxiety while I waited to see who was going to respond and what they were going to say.
You’re curious too, aren’t you? Well, you’ll have to wait. I’ve already written “Part II,” but it would make this post just too long. So I’ll post the exciting conclusion in a day or two. If you want to make sure not to miss it, be sure to follow the Amplify Reviews page, or subscribe to the blog on the right.
Thanks for reading 🙂