Gracious Gains: How to Properly Ask a VIP for a Favor

WHO you know is as important as what you know.  Knowing how to ask the VIPS in your circle for what you need takes skill and tact. Below etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore shares her top tips for making the most of your VIP connections… 

In general, VIPs are inundated with requests for referrals and favors and they tend to decline unless they know you well.  Once you’ve established a relationship, you’re ready to take the plunge.  Your polite requests will be more valid and effective if you are willing to follow these guidelines:

Study Up:  Research the VIP’s passions.  Your correspondence or conversation will flow more smoothly if you know something about his or her hobbies or interests.  If you can find something in common with the VIP, the connection will most likely shift your relationship from casual to personal.  

Show Up:  It’s best not to wait to reach out until you get laid off or need a favor or referral.  You’ll increase your chances of making a good connection if you’re in the right place at the right time with the right information and the right attitude.  

Pay Up:  In some cases, you may have to stretch your budget and spend some money to gain access to a VIP.  Don’t be surprised if you have to buy a pricey ticket to a luncheon or gala so you can meet the VIP in person.  You’ll acquire extra points if you can find out a VIP’s favorite cause, charity, or alma mater and make a donation in his or her name.  

Speak Up:  Don’t be afraid to ask a VIP for a favor or a request, but make sure you know when and how to ask.  Approach the VIP in a polite, humble, and respectful manner, and give it a shot.  My motto is:  if you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no,” but if you do ask, the answer just might be “yes.” 

Set Up:  It’s counterproductive to attend events just because you skipped lunch and you’re hungry for cheese puffs or thirsty for a cocktail.  Stay focused on your goal.  Make a mental list of the VIPs you’d like to meet, and then introduce yourself as soon as you spot them.  If possible, connect with the people you want to meet before the meal.  Some VIPs like to make an early showing at an event and then quietly slip away as soon as possible so they can get to another engagement.  

Buddy Up:  When you want to meet a VIP for the first time, find a host or someone in authority (the “connector”) to introduce you.  This makes the introduction more significant than if you were to approach the VIP on your own.  If there’s no connector, then take the initiative and hope for the best.  

Step Up:  I’d be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to put your boss on your VIP list.  In a perfect world you might consider treating all of your work colleagues like VIPs, but it makes perfect sense to work especially well with your boss.  Pay particular attention to the things your boss doesn’t like to do and then become exceptionally good at those tasks.  You’ll not only score extra points with your boss; you’ll also make yourself indispensable.  Your initiative and willingness to go the extra mile might just put you on your boss’s VIP list as well.

Many thanks to Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach for sharing her advice. Be sure to check out her new book POISED FOR SUCCESS (St. Martin’s Press, Nov. 2011).  She can be reached at   


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