Asking vs. Earning

“You’re doing sales because you failed at marketing. You’re doing marketing because you failed at product,” Naval says. Despite all the naysayers in the comments, it’s true. Tesla has never spent a cent on marketing, and yet, it is one of the biggest companies in the world. It’s definitely possible to win on word of mouth alone — but only if your product or service is truly great.

What applies to getting more customers also applies to scoring an interview on a big podcast or landing a publishing deal with a big advance: In the world of business, what you have to ask for isn’t earned.

It’s not that you can’t ask for things. I once pitched someone for podcast interviews via cold emails, and he arguably deserved to be on every single one of them. But had he earned those spots? Probably not. He wasn’t active in that world, and so, naturally, those opportunities didn’t yet gravitate towards him.

While it is possible to deserve things, ask for them, and sometimes succeed in your asks, in the world of business, this behavior is also utterly exhausting. When I published my first book, I emailed some 50+ media outlets and people with relevant audiences to help promote it. I got almost no responses, and none turned into anything substantial.

If you spend a lot of time asking for things, you’ll also spend a lot of time feeling depressed after getting rejected. Why not focus on your existing customers or audience instead? Why not just write the next book?

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you’re an employee, chances are, you will have to ask for everything, be it more pay, a promotion, or a better working-from-home arrangement. Few companies now have structured career ladders you can climb, and fewer still are full of great managers who’ll see your potential and lift you to the next stage whenever it’s time. In the world of working for a business, asking for things seems to be the only way to get ahead.

The great irony in all this is that many people who get fed up asking for things in their job eventually quit — only to start a business and then ask for more things. The whole point of launching your own enterprise is to have more of a say in your conversation with destiny. Don’t waste that power by continuing to play a role you no longer hold. Get the product right, and sales and marketing will follow all on their own.