006: Build Relationships with the ABCDs of Giving and Asking

by Ana Melikian

As a coach and consultant, you probably find it natural to give. You may find it more difficult to ask or receive. Dr. Ana Melikian shares a powerful set of actions steps that can strengthen relationships with your core network in a meaningful way. She explains the difference between nurturing your core network of 100 and doing outreach to 20 people you want to know and add to your network. Ana is the host of the MINDSET ZONE Podcast and Founder of Tech Tips for Coaches. She works closely with coaches, consultants, trainers and speakers to help them achieve their big goals.

You’ll discover:

  • The benefits of sharing relevant information with your network
  • How you can become an effective connector
  • Why it pays to cultivate positivity and relate on a basic human level
  • How to put your “Ask” in gear to generate new business


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Ana’s Website

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Read the Transcription

Hi, welcome to another episode of Strong for Performance. I’m your host Meredith Bell and I am so delighted today to have with me Dr. Ana Melikian. Ana, welcome.

My pleasure to be here.

Ana is very special guest because I met her… It’s been at least three years ago…when I got involved in a program that she had co created called More Clients More Fun, which helps coaches and consultants do more business on LinkedIn. It was such a valuable program and Ana has been dedicated to working with people who are coaches and consultants. She has so much great value to share with us today. I want to not delay any further and get started. Ana, so that our listeners who aren’t as familiar with you and your work, so they can learn more about you and your journey, tell us a little bit about how you came to work coaches and consultants.

So keeping it short. As people can tell by my accent, I was not born in this country that now is my home. I live in Arizona, in Phoenix. But originally I’m from Portugal, and all my background was in academia and in psychology. I was a clinical psychologist before I moved here to the United States. And when I moved I also, by reasons of the art, I met my husband, then when we decided to get married, he was living here, so I moved here. And I had an opportunity to restart my professional life too, and I decide to become a life coach. And from a life coach, I did all the training, I got all the certifications. I saw many coaches out there, in what area of expertise they have, and then where are the clients?

I was wanting to have an online business, and so then I started really to study the online marketing. I see other people succeeding, so I knew that was possible. And I found this system called the Book Yourself Solid. And I started to apply it, I start to see results. To make a long story short, I connect with the creator of the system Michael Port. He was to do some training, I got into the training, I became a certified coach, I became an elite certified coach. I became the director of education for the Book Yourself Solid School of coach training. And I transform a from a life coach to a business coach.

That is what I do now, helping other coaches and consultants to have their online business and attracting their ideal clients.

That’s great. And of course, that is the goal of everyone who’s in business, is to be able to attract and work with your ideal clients. And I know over the years, you’ve evolved that Book Yourself Solid system into your own framework that’s uniquely yours. And that’s what you teach now, and that’s what I’d really like to focus on in our conversation today. Because I think what you’ve created is a very powerful and effective way to have people draw in the right kind of folks that they want to work with. I believe you call this now A, B, C, D, is that right?

Correct. ABCDs of giving and asking to have conversations that create opportunities. And it has a lot to do with, when I think about it, my background in psychology, I was a psychologist, I still am. And everything is really, and even in relation to marketing, that honestly coming from clinical psychologist, I looked down with marketing and industrial psychology, to be honest with you, marketing is. And then I realized that marketing is just a way of communicating, of taking a message to people that need that message.

So when I start to see things as a communication, and really that is what also attract me to the Book Yourself Solid system that is all about relationship, creating relationships. And there’s two elements communication – effective, relevant communication – and relationships. And our marketing as service professionals such as coaches, consultants, speakers and trainer, we can have our marketing, our way of self-expression and creating relevance that we exist and what we have to offer mainly then through good communication, and creating solid relationships. And it’s from there that the ABCDS of giving, asking to create that opportunities for business comes from.

In a nutshell, it’s just a way to memorize a menu of actions that we should be doing to communicate effectively and cultivate the relationship. So the A, of ABCDs is always share information. So I’m going over them and then we can dig in each one of them and maybe we can give examples that.

Okay, excellent.

That sounds good?


So the A, always share information. B, be the connector, connect people there to really benefit from knowing each other. The C, cultivate positivity, is about gratitude, empathy, fun, so bring some positivity to the mixture. The D, is the direct outreach, reach out to someone that you don’t know yet, but you like to know. And then always give referrals, testimonial support for review. And then ask too, we have to put like a colleague of mine always say, “We have to put our ask in gear.” We have to also develop that muscle of asking for referrals, for testimonials reviews, to people that can help us. We manage to ask, we are going to be helped. So it is really important.

And then all that, creates opportunities to have conversations. That’s where the magic happen, when we start to have these beautiful coffees in person meetings, and we start to have real relationships that can lead to business.

I love that model. And I do want to go deeper in each one. Just thinking about … Tell me if this is accurate based on your own experience working with coaches and consultants, because I’ve worked with hundreds of them over the years, as they’ve used our software products. And they are extraordinary givers. They’re always looking for how they can be of service. More of them have challenges with asking.


Does that resonate with you?

Totally, they identify as the helper. They don’t like the position of being the one that needs help. So it’s meant for them to give, then to ask. That is why in these ABCDs of giving and asking, I put the giving first because it comes more naturally. We have to balance with the asking. It’s like if we think about as a service professional, as a professional out there, people have to know that you exist, otherwise they will never buy from you. That is the reality. And after they know that you exist, they are going to check you out. They are going to see if you have a solid foundation.

But this is just the beginning. Very few people just with that are going to buy your services. There is like a gap, if you can imagine, they know that you exist, they know that you have a solid foundation, that what look they like is like you, you specialize in helping people like them. And then on the other side is your service, the opportunities that you can help them with. But you have to build trust and credibility to bridge that gap. And the way that you bridge the gap that you create the connection between the two sides, is a lot by giving. But by asking too, and if you only give and you don’t ask, you are going to have an unbalanced bridge. If you only ask – there are many people out there that only ask – and don’t give, it’s an unbalanced bridge. And who is going to cross that? But if you give and ask in a balanced way, you really shorten that reach and make it a very solid place for people that feels comfortable to cross and to try your services.

I think one of the things too that what you’re bringing up makes me think about is, often we do like to give, and we don’t think about how others enjoy giving too. So we put undue pressure on ourselves to be the one that’s always giving. And in a way, we’re robbing others from being able to give back to us. And I’ll give you a quick example. I’ve been a guest on dozens of podcasts now over the last few years. When I launched my podcast, I thought, I’m going to reach back out to some of these hosts, and I decided to contact about 18 of them.

Do you know 90% of them said, “Absolutely. I’d love to help you.” And they remembered a thank you gift that I had sent them after being on their show. And in some cases, it’s been three or more years. But it’s that whole thing of when you give, and you give in a way that’s thoughtful, people remember that. And so if you go back to them to ask for something, they’re more than willing to help you in some way.

And I love, because you are a master of that. You are a master of network in general, and the small attention to the small details. Because that is what is memorable. Nowadays for good and for bad it’s not difficult to become memorable. Just writing a hand written note stands out. Writing an email, of course, will be something that after podcasts is easy, that is almost expected. If somebody doesn’t do that, maybe we don’t think too much about, but we notice that the person didn’t email us. But if we receive their little thank you card by the regular snail mail, that is much less overwhelming than our email inbox. And you have that kinesthetic thing in our hands, so powerful.

This person took time to put pen on paper and write, it’s really powerful. And you take that to the next level, because sometimes you send something more three dimensional and that makes it even more memorable. And I remember when you sent me that beautiful glass with my first thing initial there. I use it quite a lot. And every time that I take that glass out in the kitchen, I think of you.

Well, thank you. And that’s something that if everybody listening takes just this one idea away, it’ll make a difference, if they implement it. Which is, number one, how many thank you notes or handwritten notes have you written in the past month or quarter, to people to let them know you appreciate them, because they keep these notes? And also small gifts that don’t have to be, outrageously expensive, but they’re things that are not consumed by the person. And so in your case, it was a glass. In other cases, that might be a tumbler. But something that people use regularly and they will think of you in a positive way. If you just say, “Thank you.” for something that they’ve done.

And sometimes giving a book, if it is the right book for the right people. The book is tricky sometimes because some people have a pile of books that they want to read, and it’s just another book to read. That sometimes giving the right book that is relevant to the person and tell them, “Okay, read just chapter number or just the introduction.” Make their life easy, makes all the difference.

Yes, that is excellent. And so what you’re really saying is, a thoughtful gift that they will realize you put some effort into considering what would be meaningful to them?


So let’s go back to the ABCD, so we don’t get focused just on the giving and the asking. Go a little bit deeper with each one of them now.

So always share information, relevant information. That tells a lot about the giving, but like for instance when we do a post in LinkedIn, or in Facebook, with an article that we read that we thought, “Oh my gosh, this is really good information.” It can be our things, but it can also be other things that we come across or video or pep talk. So we can send that in an email to a person that when we are seeing the video or the article, we thought okay, this is relevant because of that, or even in a post we can tag people on LinkedIn or Facebook, as a way of saying, this is relevant for you. And if we do that one-on-one connection to the person saying, “I read this and it reminds me of the conversation that we had. And I think you are going to find it helpful because of this and this and that.”

Again, the person will think, “Oh, that person was listening when we had that conversation, and she still remembers.” It’s the one of the ones that always came easy for me.

The second, the B, is be the connector, connecting, introducing two people who benefit from each other. And this one honestly was a little bit more difficult for me to create as a habit. It was easy when I was in a live event speaking with people because I was like, “Oh, I think I should introduce you to someone.” That after live events, I didn’t have any problems doing introductions. But on the day to day, in front of my computer, it was not easy. And by practicing and really making that effort in the beginning of thinking, “Who will be relevant to this person or to that person?” Now, I do it very easily, and I have my template, I adapt for some people that I introduce to more people, I even have a blurb of them about what they do or I ask them, ‘I would like you to introduce to so and so. How do you want to be introduced?” If we don’t know, we ask and we are training our “asking” process.

So that is really powerful. And then the cultivated positivity I see it more as an article or again, the thank you card. It’s a way of practicing the gratitude, the impact because if we know that somebody is going to surgery or has a cold or the flu, if you send them something, gosh, that is going to stand out. Or if they are going through a hard moment in their lives or a celebration, they publish their first book. How can we be there as people, be there as authentic people? You and I had the pleasure of meeting in person in Hawaii. But before that moment, we already had a solid relationship, because of cultivating a relationships through the waves of the internet.

And it’s all about having some fun in the process, because I’ll just say, why not enjoy the process, because I think that’s the best way. So those are the basis of the ABC. I don’t know if you’d like to add something, because you practice these things too all the time.

Yeah, I want to go back for a minute to the B, because be the connector. I don’t know if it came as naturally to me, maybe it did. But I know I’ve practiced this a lot. And so it’s like your radar gets tuned in to noticing if somebody is saying, “Here’s something I’m looking for.” You can immediately think, “Oh, this? Well, Ana, you did it to me recently.” When you and I were talking last week and I was mentioning … I forget now what the item was that I mentioned.

But you immediately had a book that you went to grab then said, “This book will be very helpful to you.” So it can be connecting someone to a resource, not necessarily to another person. But all of your four elements really are interrelated ,too.


Because it’s this always be sharing is this whole aspect of connecting people to information, to people that could be valuable for them. And I had a chance to do it just this morning, I had a podcast host, one of the ones who said, “Yes, I’d love to support you.” And she wrote back and said, “I’ve promoted this here.” And then she said, “Do you know somebody that might be available to be a guest on my show on Friday?” Hers happens to be a live show. And so she had to scramble and I immediately connected her with somebody that I knew would be an ideal guest, and she emailed me just before our call and said, “Thank you. We had a great conversation and he’s going to be on the show on Friday.”

So it’s that responsiveness to situations where someone may not reach out to you like she did to me. But you sense there may be a way that you can add value to them.

And the couple of things…you show there that sometimes one action can meet some different letters in the ABCD here, and that is totally okay. The important thing is to cultivate this mode, because in the always sharing information, be the connector and cultivate positivity, these are really actions that we are doing to strengthen our relationships with our core network of people. And people can say, “Oh, this is like the book Love Is a Killer App.” Yes, yes. That is a great book to be read all about cultivating their core network in a meaningful way.

We also need to be expanding our network with new people, because some people move on to other projects or other things. So we always have to bring some new blood in. And that is the D, the direct outreach. So who can I reach out to? In Book Yourself Solid, we call it the list of 20. Who are the 20 people, the 20 companies, the 20 organizations that we have in our list to reach out in a meaningful, relevant way because we’d like to have them as part of our core network?

And let’s talk a little bit about that, because that may be a new concept for folks. This core network of 20.

That I call the outreach, I call the list of 20. The core network, if you want to put a maximum number, no more than 100 people in the core networking, in the group of people that you want to develop one on one relationships. And there is scientific evidence about this, the 100 to 120 in your tribe group. But the reality is we have limited time in our day to keep strong one on one relationships, so it has to be a limited group. That is totally different than a mass email or an email subscriber list. These are people that we want to keep relationships one on one.

So talk a little bit about the difference between the 20 and the 100.

So that list – what I call the core network that I say maximum of 100 people – it could be just 20, if they are the right 20. Quality is really more important here than quantity. These are people that already know you. If you write an email, they identify your name and they are going to read that email. For most of them, you even have their phone number and you can phone them. These are people that already know you, they know what you do. And they are willing to help you, to make it a mutual relationship.

The outreach is to people you know, or most of the time sometimes you have an idea will be great to know somebody in that organization, that there are people that you want to establish a relationship, want them to be part of your core network, but they are not there yet. So you have to outreach to them in a relevant way without being spamming, without being annoying, of being relevant and being of help. And then you start to cultivate that relationship with them. When they see your email, they smile, “Oh, she’s writing me.” Or they start to remember your name, and you start to cultivate that relationship.

And I am guessing that when you think about or when you’re helping coaches and consultants to identify who those 20 are, one of the steps after they’ve identified them is, what’s the best way to reach out to them? So talk a little bit about strategic introductions, because I know that’s something you advocate. And that’s a very effective way to get known by somebody that currently does not know you.

So here’s the question, once we identify the institution, for instance, if you are a speaker, or if you’re a coach, consultant and you’d love to work with a certain company. The question is who is in that company, who is the organizing of that event? You will identify that person. So you have a name, you have a face, and then you can ask, who do I know that knows this person?

And LinkedIn is wonderful for that, because of the common connections and even Facebook if you see them communicating with each other. And of course, mainly in LinkedIn, sometimes we are connected with one person and we don’t know the other person. So we have to ask, do you know this person well? That is the opportunity to make that connection. And if you have somebody that can make that email or their luncheon, or coffee or whatever, that allows you to invite to that situation now. I would like to present you to this person, I think you are going to enjoy each other. That accelerates the process.

Absolutely. Because I think that’s one of the things that causes those in the service industries like coaches and consultants to cringe, when they think about cold calling. And when you’re talking about outreach, you’re really not talking about cold calling


You’re looking at different ways that the person can become known without having to make this cold phone call.

You have to warm up even if you are going to cold call, warm up the relationship, warm up for instance by connecting on LinkedIn, commenting where people are, following the people on social media wherever they are active – it can be LinkedIn, Tweeter or Facebook. And share their content that is relevant, comment on it. Put some thought into it. If they are an author, write the review of one of their books. You are going to get on their radar. That’s how can you get in their radar in a relevant way for them, by adding value to them. Then when you outreach to them and say, “Hey, I’d like to connect on LinkedIn or I’d like to-” then they will be much open to that. For instance, just to give a concrete example.

I’m part of the National Speakers Association, there is on a chapter here in Phoenix. And they do amazing meetings once a month, and they bring incredible speakers. And if I’m going to the meeting, when I register to the meeting, I like to put something on Facebook or LinkedIn saying, “I just registered for this event. I’m really thrilled that I’m going to listen to so and so speaking about this topic.” And of course, I tag at so and so, most of the time, they have a LinkedIn profile. And if they are active on LinkedIn, they see the notifications, and they say, “Thank you.”

And then I look a little bit more at their material, and I say something like, “I really I’m looking forward to listen to you speak about that.” Something that is relevant, and then I send them an invitation to connect to them. So now, they already saw my name and most of the time, they are going to accept that invitation, and now they are a first degree connection on LinkedIn. When I’m in the live event, I go say, “Thank you so much for accepting my invitation. I really appreciate that.” Now we are connected there, and now they remember you, because they saw you there. And this applies to association events and conferences. So many things we can do to warm up the relationships even before we go to the event, and then to follow up afterwards.

And that’s such a key piece that’s often missing. But you know, as I’m listening to you describe that one example of what you’ve done. What you’re talking about there is really being strategic. And so when I think about being strategic around the outreach for these 20, is to take time to slow down. Too often, we’re just moving so quickly from thing to thing, but to stop and think, who are the 20 people? That if I connected with them, if I became known by them, it could make a huge difference in my business.

Totally, we have to be strategical. And we have to be authentic. The two things are totally possible at the same time. Because we want our core network and the people that we will outreach that brings to our core network. We want them to be people that energize us, that we love to be around. Because if we love to be around those people, it’s going to be much easier to keep in touch with them.


So when we strategically are thinking of the list of 20, the people that really can take our business to the next level, if we cultivate that relationships. Yes, we are being strategical in calculating that, that we want if we find somebody that drains our energy, let it go.

But if somebody, I love the energy, I love the values, I love their work. That book was really transformational for me when I read it. Those are the ones that you want to put there, because this allows you to be strategical and authentic and even go beyond the business. Because I was seeing my doggy in the background, this is a home office and see sometimes my husband passing, my dog is also coming by. And sometimes even in the sharing information being the connector and cultivating positivity, we have to start to go beyond business, beyond the professional. What are their hobby? Do they like outdoors? What do they like? Because in terms of gifts and presence, we can be more relevant if we know that information.

That’s such a good point. I think too often we think we’ve got to be all business. But we’re all human. And we all have interests and it’s amazing how a person’s whole physique and facial expression can change when you ask them, what do you like to do outside of work? What’s your passion away from the office? And getting them to start talking about that, they can become so animated and you realize, oh my gosh. And you hit on something really important here.

And you are seeing them as a three dimensional person, not just the … And there if you look … Oh, sorry, speaking about three dimensionally and the aspects here, the dog is barking. So at the moment, I can bring it here. I’m going to introduce your audience, my little dog that is fluffy and he’s a sensation in Facebook. But hopefully will not bark more. But it is how can we use these things, if I know that somebody is a dog person, they are going to understand this totally. If somebody is not the dog person, of course I have to excuse the interruption on all of that. And even if somebody is just listening to the audio version of this interview, again, some of them are going to find this endearing, because they are dog person, they have an online business, and wow, other people are, “Huh.” That is okay, we are going to connect with some and not connect so much with others. That is the reality of things.

I always think about that video. I don’t know if you remember of the BBC interview, that was this expert in politics that was being interviewing by the BBC in England. And yeah, the home office was set up, and the kids come into his office in the middle of the interview.

Yes, I remember that.

First one, then the second and then the poor wife running in. And you can see him metaphorically sweating saying my career as a commentator is over. But he was trying to keep, I’m still here, controlling all the chaos around, the wife takes the kids out and the poor guy. But because now so many of us have our online business, a big percentage of people were drawn in. And it became a viral sensation and then he was brought back to be interviewed about the experience. This is being human, how can we be human online? How can we be human on TV? On YouTube? To connect with people is everything. It goes back to real people, real relationships and how can we communicate in a relevant way with people?

And that’s what I love really in wrapping up, because we could talk for another hour I know. But these principles that you’ve laid out here in very clear terms, that’s really what they’re all about, is valuing another human being. Because when we feel valued, when we feel understood and appreciated, we want more of that person who’s giving us that kind of appreciation for who we are as humans. And so I think that while it’s helpful to have a framework that you’ve given, we don’t have to get hung up on exact steps. It’s looking at how can we be our authentic selves, and connect with other people in a way that causes them to want to continue that relationship?

Yeah, this is totally right. It’s the thing about … This is like a template, like when we have a template for an email or a template to talk, is the starting point. It’s just to avoid that feeling of the blank page. What should I do? If we have that, we have a menu of options to inspire us. But then we have to bring our voice there. Otherwise, we are just another thing, but it’s just nice.

So I think in summary, as a way to give people an action step, is to take a few minutes when you’re not driving or involved in some other activity, to make a list of those 20 people you want to reach out to. And then the other hundred or whatever number it is, it could be 50. But whatever number that is, identify those individuals, because these are people that will respond to you. And that you can have as a base of support in building your business. And I think that that’s really valuable. So Ana, I’m confident many of our listeners are going to want to know more about what you have to offer. So tell us how they can find you online.

So the best way is my name, Ana, just with one N. And then Melikian is, M-E-L-I-K-I-A-N.com. So my first, last name.com is the easiest way to find my website. And then from there, you can go to where I have the social media presence in Facebook and LinkedIn. That are my main stopping spots, I also have a Twitter, but I’m not very active there. So even if you Google my name, Ana Melikian, you will find me there in the first page of the Google results. And I would love to hear from any of you, if you have a specific comment, a specific question. I would love always to say, “Hello.”

Yes. And let me just add that, Ana is one of the most generous people I know. She is always looking for ways that she can help. So you’ve been very generous today, Ana, with all the things you’ve shared with us and I really appreciate your openness, and your wisdom in life and in business, and what you’ve brought to us today. So thank you very much for being my guest.

My pleasure!