How to kick start your business with one question

Updated to Business on December 14, 2022.

One of the common questions I get asked by entrepreneurs is “How can I start when nobody knows me or knows what I do?”

“Should I cold call?” is usually their next question.

Of course you can cold call. And if you have existing relationships in your market, it is a good place to start.

And I have a ninja strategy I think is much better.


Years ago I emailed a simple question to a select group of decision makers on my list. I asked them “If you had one hour at work this week you could spend on anything, what would you spend it on?”

The results were immediate and wonderfully surprising.

Within minutes I was getting responses and they didn’t stop coming in.

Rather than complain, all the responses were positive, helpful, and even encouraging. Some people even thanked me!

Step two was to take my results and turn them into a sales message.


I put together a very simple, one-page summary of what I learned and sent it back to everyone that was sent the original email (even if they didn’t respond to the first request.) I included three things:

1. I thanked them for this invaluable feedback. I said this information is instrumental in guiding my work as a seminar leader who creates real change in the workplace.

2. I explained that my “Reclaiming the clock” seminar results in one hour of free time per day (on average), based on our follow-up research. And I briefly listed the main benefits of the program.

3. Finally, I invited them to respond by email to receive my ebook “My InBox is Full-how to get off email and get back to priorities.”


I’m sure you are expecting me to report that my inbox was flooded with requests for training. It wasn’t.

But, what happened proved that this strategy works.

Of the 100, or so, people who received the original email request, about 30 responded. I sent the results, blurb about my seminar, and invitation to get the ebook back to all 100 people. And then it got better.

–      Over one half the list asked for the ebook.

–      Three companies enquired about the seminar. One hired me.

–      Since then eight of the companies have hired me.

–      At least twenty of the people regularly attend my live webinars.

Did I get rich from this experiment? No way.

Did I start to build a tribe? Absolutely.

It’s pretty simple: if you ask for help, people are generally willing to help. And if you offer to help them (free findings from my research and offer of free ebook) they often want to reciprocate (read all about reciprocation in Robert Cialdini’s excellent book “Influence”).


Even if you only have 200 people on your list I think this is a great strategy. You have to start somewhere and those people can become advocates for your business shouting the news that you are in business.

If you are trying to break into a new market, or launch a new business I would start with research.

Everyone expects a sales call and usually they have their shields up. No one expects you to come offering to help them. The shield goes down, the conversation starts and that’s exactly why it works.