Join Dorie Clark for an in-depth discussion in this video How to score a meeting with almost anyone, part of Personal Effectiveness Tips.
- We'd all like to build connections with powerful or influential people, but it's not easy. There's a lot of competition. Who wouldn't like to have dinner with Richard Branson? And as a result, they have gatekeepers whose job it is to protect their schedule from the riffraff. But there are ways to get around it. Richard Branson might be a stretch, though who knows? But if you want to connect with high-level people in your company or your industry, here are three strategies that put that goal within reach. First, to use a phrase from the networking expert Keith Ferrazzi, it's important to lead with currency.
In other words, make clear up front why they might want to connect with you. Hey, I'd really like to take you to lunch doesn't cut it. And neither does I admire you and want to learn from you. It might be flattering for some people, but really successful people get it all the time. You need to give them a specific reason to be interested in you rather than the other acolytes at their door. Think about what value you can offer. Maybe you could get an assignment to interview them for the company blog, or you can brief them on research you've been doing if you know it'd be of specific interest to them.
Or maybe they mentioned at an all-hands meeting that they're training for a marathon and you've run five so you can offer to share tips. Don't make them guess why they should want to talk to you. If you do, the default answer will be no. Second, start with a modest ask. It might not seem like a lot to invite someone to coffee or lunch. What's an hour in the course of a lifetime? But as you rise in the ranks, your hours become far more scarce and more valuable. If you're trying to meet with a senior partner at a law firm, for instance, they could be using that hour to bill a client somewhere between $500 and $1000.
And it's similar for top executives. They simply don't have that many hours to hand out to people they don't already know well. So make your ask small and email with one question to answer or asking for a 10-minute phone call and stick to it. That will get your foot in the door so you're able to establish a deeper relationship later on. Finally, while it's not impossible to connect with someone influential through a cold call or cold email, it's very difficult. Instead of a spray-and-pray strategy where you email 100 leaders and hope one of them gets back to you, it's far more effective to spend your time networking your way to a warm lead.
Try to find someone you know that has a connection to them and might be willing to make an introduction. LinkedIn can be very helpful here. Many times, the person might not be taking meetings in general, but will make an exception for you as a favor to the friend who's asking them. It's a great thing when you can build relationships with influential, high-level people. There's a lot of competition to do it. But by following these strategies, you can get ahead of the competition and make it happen.
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