At different points in time, we all need or want something from a wide variety of people. You want a friend to refer you for a job. You want your boss to give you a raise. You need your team to deliver results for your department. It might seem that each of these diverse requests needs to be handled differently. But there is a simple two-prong framework that you can apply to any need or want that will guide you in making a successful request. Regardless of the request, you want to address the two issues of Willingness and Ability.
Help your friends help you
Whether you are asking for a job introduction or a dentist recommendation, the effectiveness of your request to any specific friend comes down to willingness (will this person get back to me?) and ability (will this person know the contact I need?). So when you are considering making a request, select based on who is willing and who is able.
Hopefully you have enough friends who are willing. But let’s say that you want an introduction into a company that is hiring and you don’t have a friend in that company. You can research the company and identify someone in your target area, but that person is a stranger so presumably unwilling to help. In this case, focus on making her willing to help. Introduce yourself. Follow up. Engage in intelligent dialogue. See Cold Calling For Jobs, Not Just Sales for more details on how to approach people you don’t know.
On the flip side, let’s say you have a friend who is willing to help introduce you into the company you want but it’s a big company so she doesn’t feel able to be effective. In this case, focus on refining your request so it’s something she’s able to do easily and effectively. Instead of asking for an introduction, which might be onerous and ineffective anyway since she doesn’t know the hiring manager, ask for information about how the target area is structured, who does what, and updated news on the company. By addressing the ability of your friend to help you, you increase your chance of success.
Get your boss to agree
If you want a raise, you will need to schedule a meeting with your boss and put forth a compelling argument to justify your request. Here again, willingness and ability is a comprehensive guide to your preparation.
This post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com. Continue reading at http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/08/01/how-to-get-what-you-want-from-anyone-by-addressing-these-two-issues/2/