LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE FOR BOLD REQUESTS
I believe that people must periodically step outside of their comfort zone to grow as a company and a person. In fact, as you do this, you will discover that your comfort zone expands. Doing this will empower you to request bold things that may elicit comments from your peers and associates like “outrageous, overreach, impossible.” You can overcome these naysayers and your own inclination of fearing failure by your preparation for this bold request, which I like to call The Ask. Acquiring intense knowledge of the person you are asking and their company, industry, and needs are what I mean by preparation. This knowledge will allow you to offer something of value to induce the granting of your bold request.
I would like to offer you a personal experience to illustrate this concept. In this experience, my bold request was to:
Get magicians to give demonstrations in J.C. Penney stores around the country, for free
The circumstances that led to THE ASK were: my company, Reiss Games, successfully developed and marketed a line of packaged magic kits; and the ambitious and bright buyer at J.C. Penney, after an initial year of success, asked me to provide live demos in his stores. He further explained that we needed to bear the cost of this promotion. We declined the opportunity to become poor. However, we put our brainpower into overdrive to see how we could satisfy this important customer in an affordable way.
My knowledge in this instance was
- There was a society of magicians with 10,000 members, and they had to demonstrate a skill level to be admitted.
- Very few magicians made a living at magic.
- Applause and recognition are two key motivators for magicians.
- There was a National Magic Week every October to celebrate Harry Houdini and perpetuate the art of magic by magicians performing in hospitals, nursing homes, and other venues. However, they basically performed in obscurity.
- The inner workings of J.C. Penney particularly how the Public Relations Department worked and that they had an independent budget.
- Most of my knowledge emanated from my relationship with George Schindler, a past president of the Society, a well known magician, a magic instructor whose classes I attended and who we hired to help develop our magic line and perform in our key customers’ stores. My Penney knowledge came from years of selling them and always asking lots of questions at every level.
My offer to get my BOLD REQUEST (BIG ASK) was:
For the Magicians’ Society
- To get J.C. Penney to advertise in local papers where magicians would perform.
- The ads would announce National Magic Week, the dates and times of performances and the name and picture of the performing magician.
Magic demonstrations in J.C. Penney stores around the country at no cost to them which brought them additional sales and store traffic.
How this came about
I asked George Schindler to set up a meeting for me with the President of the Society of Magicians to get his magicians to perform in Penney stores during National Magic Week for free. In return Penney would pay for ads promoting National Magic Week and local magicians. The president liked the idea but could not commit for the magicians. However, he offered to let me ask them at their national convention in Miami Beach in February. I did that and emphasized that we could not pay them. The response was amazing. They queued up in a long line after the meeting to sign up.
Before I went to the convention, I told the J.C. Penney buyer of my plan and that his part of the bargain was to pay for the ads. As his budget was strained, I suggested we go to the Penney head of Public Relations to sell him on the event and loosen up his purse strings. The PR head liked the idea so much that he suggested he accompany me to the Miami Beach convention. (I assume that the fact that this meant a few days in Miami Beach and away from New York in February had some bearing on the decision.)
This turned out to be a win-win for all parties. J.C. Penney, The Society of American Magicians, Performing Magicians, and us.
I know many of you are hesitant to make these types of bold requests. Look at it this way; if the person gives you a “no,” what is lost? Nothing. And I promise your bruised ego will heal. To grow you must be willing to risk rejection. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You are learning for the next ask—the successful ask—and your stake holders will admire your grit.