All our lives, connecting will be important. We connect for friendship and for business, and there are always folks where we sense a pressing need to make contact. “If I could just get a meeting with this CEO” or “Our product is perfect for these guys, if only I could get Mr./Mrs. Jones to take a meeting!” We have aspirations to connect, and if the right process is applied (like most anything), you can find success.
Prioritize the steps of your process based on warmth of connection; the warmest thing being a live connection or referral to the coldest being blind outreach.
Furthermore, be cognizant that whatever your approach (one or all of the below) – stand out. Differentiate. Do not come to the table with the same old message these folks have likely already heard and ignored from anyone else in your shoes.
- Check your network connections. Want to meet the decision-maker at an organization you’re prospecting? We are blessed with all of these wonderful tools today that can assist you in finding these types of connections. Is the person you’re trying to reach connected with someone you know? Are they connected to someone who knows someone you know? Are they in groups you are affiliated with or could become a part of? It’s easiest to break ground in a new potential prospected relationship if a mutual contact brokers the meeting. Reach out to your mutual contact, explain your situation and see how comfortable they are in making the connection with and for you. Would it make sense to all meet over lunch or another activity? Think about it from your target prospect’s perspective: what would make them most likely to meet with a stranger with an unknown message? The advice of a friend or business contact.
- No apparent connections to the person you’d like to meet? Pick up the phone. Or, depending on the situation, consider the pop-in. I say this only because in today’s digitally heavy world, doing something different gives you the ability to stand out. Call the organization where this person works, or if you have their direct number even better. “Mr./Mrs. Jones – Hi – this is XXXXX; I’m calling because I’m quite taken with your approach on XYZ or… I’m trying very hard to enhance my skills and knowledge of your trade, and I would love to get any time you can spare to get your advice on the state of the industry….. or…. I’m impressed by your experience in XYZ….. or…… I see we’re fellow alma maters of XYZ and felt I could learn a great deal from you; is there a chance we could connect over coffee or lunch?” Be focused, be targeted, be hat in hand. And don’t sell it all at once. You may have in your mind already had fantasies of a multi-million dollar deal with this person, but they don’t know you from Adam (or Eve)… rather than trying to sell them something, you’re selling a meeting. Why should they talk to you? Few people want to be sold to; many people are glad to offer advice and strike up a conversation that gives them a chance to give back and impart knowledge. The best customers are good relationships and referrals, hence why you will utilize that very methodology in trying to land this first meeting.
- Use social selling techniques to get their attention. It’s likely you can find your intended target online, whether it is on professional sites or company webpage or other places. Not only can this tell you a little bit more about the person (where you can find interests, hobbies and affiliations) but you may be able to secure means by which to contact them. I’m not suggesting you follow them on Twitter and like everything they post. However, it does make a lot of sense to send them a LinkedIn connection request or InMail with the aforementioned philosophy focused on landing the meeting. Sample LinkedIn request: “Mr./Mrs. Jones – Good morning/afternoon! It is my hope this note finds you well. Based on your experience and our mutual interests, I felt you would be a great person from whom I could learn and share ideas. I’d be honored to be part of your network.” A message whose intent is to establish the reason you want to connect, along with proof you did a little homework enough to know a mutual interest, that is not asking for a sales conversation but rather flattering them and explaining you just want to forge a connection (1) does not require much work on their part upfront, (2) introduces you softly to them, as in they can read your profile and (3) gives you a higher probability at getting a receipt of their connection on LinkedIn. You can find out a lot about a person if they are (very likely) represented online. There are obvious exceptions to that rule, but a lot of folks who are not online may be more reachable by phone to their organization or showing up to get a meeting, and since those methods are not as prevalent in today’s society you actually stand a better chance at success.
- Consistent, respectful touches. Let’s say you have their phone number or e-mail address and are even connected on LinkedIn, but each overture has been either ignored or rebuffed. It’s discouraging, right? And a lot of folks may even stop attempting to land the meeting. Find ways to respectfully stay top of mind. If you are connected on LinkedIn, and you are posting content, they can obviously see it and passively decide whether or not to engage with it. Furthermore, let’s say you see an article that you believe would be pertinent to your target – send it to them and ask for their feedback! “Mr./Mrs. Jones – Hope you are well! Saw this article today, and I’m curious how you and your organization are addressing this issue. Any thoughts you could share?” Find ways to coax them to the table without force. They may not respond – the first time, the second, or even for years, but I’m telling you that eventually – good things will come to those who wait. Stay top of mind and make respectful touches, like sending them a newsletter or inviting them to events (maybe even the golf course, as this is a common place for business connections that a lot of people enjoy!) and eventually, your odds will only continue to improve. Until…
- Time exponentially and radically increases your chance of landing the meeting. Be patient and persistent. The planets sometimes have to align – you may be going about all of the right ways to land the first meeting, but you’ve just not caught their exact timetable of freedom or willingness or ability to take your call. It’s all about timing and perceived value and the message you’re attempting to land. Remember Bud Fox attempted to meet with Gordon Gekko 59 days in a row and it paid off Day 60 (Wall Street). I’ve had target clients who became receptive three years after I called on them, and for completely different reasons and messaging and attempted meeting types than what I went after when I started. Sometimes, the person in the position or title will change, and that’s what leads you to get the meeting (I was the first at the table to meet with the new C-Level because I followed the trades and I used the above methods to express my potential unique value and landed a meeting while they were the new kid on the block just wanting to make unique impact).
With time, consistent and thoughtful messaging crafted to give you the best probability of response, a variety of mechanisms of outreach including ones that are extremely passive that just keep you top of mind, coupled with the power of your growing network and your continued efforts to differentiate the type of value you deliver, you too can get a meeting with anyone.
Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” and sequels “The Salesman Against the World” and “A Salesman Forever” which take the unique approach of serving as sales/leadership books inside of novels showing proven sales principles designed to birth you into the top producer you were born to be. If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRVMI2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_yGXKtb0G
Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership. You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving.
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