Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Establishing meaningful connections with high-powered executives is hard work, especially if you’re a founder selling a product or service for the first time. Being purposeful about building your network will lead to trusting relationships that yield prosperous deals and limitless opportunities for you. Follow these guidelines to better connect with executives who have little time and lots of access.
Do you really know how and when to LinkIn with someone?
LinkedIn has transformed how we find and learn about prospective partners, collaborators, clients, investors, employers, and employees. Unfortunately, many people looking to make meaningful connections fail at a proper introduction. If you are requesting to "LinkIn" with a well connected person with whom you haven’t met, it’s unlikely that person will accept your request without a good reason why. Well-connected people are connected well to people. And that’s what makes the very few with golden rolodexes so valuable. They have taken the time to build relationships with their contacts over the years. So, it’s easy for them to make introductions to others because trust and credibility has already been established.
When a friend offers to make an introduction via email, write it for them.
You’ll get the meeting if a connected friend or colleague makes an intro on your behalf. You want to make it as simple and fast as possible for the facilitator to send an introductory email. So, write it for them. No one knows you better than you. Take a moment to write a few sentences from the perspective of the person making the introduction - please don’t pull canned language from your website. It’s impersonal and reads like something copied and pasted. Follow the guidelines below to write an email that makes you really intriguing. Use an app like WarmUp to expedite the process. Be sure to thank the person who made the meaningful connection for you.
Unless you’re making a witty pun to a neuroscientist, avoid saying that you want to “pick their brain.”
Not only is it intellectually lazy, those words induce copious amounts of eye rolling. If you’ve made it into the C-suite, you’re time is limited because of the breadth and depth of responsibilities and commitments to many different stakeholders. Every meeting needs to matter. So, give the person you want to meet with a really good reason to spend time with you. A meeting request should clearly define why there is reason to convene. In particular, the focus should be on the benefit to the recipient and not on the benefit of the person making the request. So, you’ll need to think creatively and define concisely why an officer of the company needs to invest her time in someone who she doesn’t know.
Craft an introduction that piques curiosity.
Asking to “LinkIn” with someone you don’t know, without any reason behind it, is not a good way to make a first impression. Don’t you get excited when you meet someone who is genuinely passionate about the same issues as you? Of course you do! It’s your job to make YOU sound interesting. If you are going to extend a digital hand shake - send a personalized email or InMail through LinkedIn with the following information:
Acknowledge the credentials and accomplishments of the person with whom you are trying to connect.
Share how your experience, passions, ambitions are in alignment with that person.
Explain precisely why you want to meet and what you want to discuss.
Point out how the conversation will lead to a mutually beneficial outcome.
Include 4 windows of time when you are available.
Express that you are willing to come to their office or meet at a location that is convenient for them.
Thank that person for considering a meeting with you.
Make sure that your signature includes the following: name, title, business, email, address, link to LinkedIn profile and Twitter handle.
Always include an interesting ‘P.S.’ You can add a link to your website, article, video, etc. It’s your final opportunity to expand that person’s perception of you in a positive way.
C-Level execs book 3-6 months out - so, plan to wait.
It’s common for senior level staff to schedule meetings and travel 3-6 months out. Don’t be disappointed if a CEO can’t meet with you for a few months. Happily take the meeting when they have the first opportunity.
Use networking events as windows of time to have the first meeting.
Executives often go to industry related networking events. If they don’t have time for a one-on-one meeting, ask if they would be willing to reserve some time to chat during an upcoming event where you will both be in attendance. Be sure to send a calendar invitation as well as a reminder the day before the event. You want to impress upon this person that you are excited to chat with them.
Make a good impression while you’re waiting for the meeting.
Just because you are ready to meet with someone, doesn’t mean that they are ready to meet you. A warm-up period may be required. It may take a few attempts to secure a meeting. Follow the steps below to attract that person’s attention. Once you schedule the meeting, you’ll have ample opportunity to make them want to keep the meeting. Keep in mind that a meeting with an unknown person is the first to get bumped when there’s a time crunch. Even if your meeting gets canceled at the last minute, if you’ve made a consistently positive impression on them during the waiting period, they’ll want to reschedule the meeting sooner rather than later. Here’s what to do in the meantime:
Follow the individual and company on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Follow the company on Facebook. Like and share their posts.
Email articles that may be of interest.
Handwrite a card and include your business card expressing how you are looking forward to meeting with them in person.
Recognize the accomplishments of the individual, company or employees on social media.
Share articles and videos created by the person you are wanting to meet and tag them in the post.
If you own a product company, send that person a sample of your product before the meeting.
If this person is local, drop off cookies, candy, popcorn or a plant at the office with a personalized note. Just ask the person at the front desk to deliver it for you. Be sure to make a great impression with that person as you’ll be seeing them again sometime soon.
Give more than you take.
Many C-level executives have truly earned the right to be in their position. They’ve spent years educating themselves, building their networks, making sacrifices, volunteering in the community, mentoring others, and actualizing as humans. These folks are constantly being pulled in a million different directions as well as being asked for help. You can really stand out in the sea of people who want something from them by offering how you can support them. Whether it’s volunteering at an organization they are involved with or making a meaningful connection to a potential employee, client, or investor - offer to help them in some capacity.
After the meeting, begin the stewardship process.
Building a network requires constant nurturing over decades. You’re playing the long game here. Especially with those on your “top 25” influencers, clients, and prospects lists. If you haven’t already, create three spreadsheets with these folks, categorize by industry and include their email addresses. Develop an annual communication plan with this important group of people and include things like: digital cards for holidays, announcements about your company, invitations to events, birthday wishes, articles that you write, your upcoming speaking engagements etc.