Have you ever wondered how to get a meeting with the most amazing author, business man, heart surgeon, rocket scientist, movie star, investor, therapist (fill in your ideal hero meeting)?
Yeah, just ask for a meeting.
That’s the hardest part of getting a meeting—asking. But there are a few behind the scenes things you can do to overcome the fear of the meeting ask.
1. Study up. If it’s a famous blogger who writes about productivity. Read their blog regularly, subscribe, get to know how they think and what would be interesting to them. You can include some of their current research or blogging thoughts in your email or initial introduction to them. “I love how you’ve been talking about XYZ…I think it correlates to something I’m doing called ABC…could I have 10 minutes of your time on a Skype call to ask you 123…?”
You may not get a Skype call, but at least they can answer your questions via email right then and there.
2. Relationship connections. Who do you know that they know? You may have a mutual contact who has told you about them. If that mutual contact has a good reputation, you can have a warm introduction to the “famous person.”
(Warning: don’t overplay this one. Just keep it subtle and friendly. Avoid “Hey what’s up, yeah I noticed we have a mutual friend and I met them one time at a dinner so yeah…anyway, how do I get you to invest $1M in my company?”)
3. Thoughtfulness. Don’t go ask for a meeting if you haven’t already done your homework and seen if you can answer your questions through their public writing, speaking, and knowledge that they’ve put on the internet (see Point 1). When they say “Yes” to a meeting, be over-the-top prepared so if they happen to give you more than what you ask for, you’re ready to build a relationship, ask thoughtful questions, and give to them more than you take.
Once I got a phone call with one of the founders of Priceline.com. They launched their company and in 24 months sold it for over a billion dollars. When I got on the call, we talked for a solid 15 minutes and it was all really good stuff. But then I ran out of material. Instead of being over-the-top prepared, I started panicking and tried to get off the call.
“Uh, I don’t want to take up anymore of your time.”
“No, no! It’s fine, I’m really enjoying chatting. How else can I help you?”
Yeah…not my brightest moment.
What can you give your hero in return?
- sincere and genuine words on how their work has helped and encouraged you.
- sharing their work/project to your network.
- a thoughtful gift if it’s something they would like. If you’re from Zimbabwe and you’re speaking to an investor in NYC. Maybe he likes hot sauce (Cheeky Chili anyone?), or tea (African rooibos anyone?), or coffee (Leopard Forest anyone?), you get the gist...
4. Practicing the ask. Don’t hop on Twitter and ask immediately. Don’t fling an email together and ask. Don’t give your carrier pigeon a bunch of caffeine and send it into the skies with a letter strapped to its leg. Practice what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Then be sincere and ask professionally and politely.
What if they say No?
Yeah, what if they say no?
Yeah! What if they do?
Okay, okay, I get the point. You’re afraid they might say no. They could, they probably will! No big deal. What do you have to lose?
If they say no, you can have a few back up questions:
You: May I have 10 minutes of your time to ask you XYZ… “NO.” Ok, may I email you a quick question about Project ABC to get your thoughts?
You: Ok, may I send you a few blog article ideas that you might consider that I think would be perfect for someone like me?
You: May I slap you in the face?
You: May I buy you an ice cream?
You: Oh no problem, thanks for being my hero…Bye!
It will never play out that way. It’s always “May I have 10 minutes of your time to ask you XYZ…”
“Well, I’m really tied up right now…why don’t you ask me right now?”
If it’s face-to-face, they’ll usually answer your question right then and there. If it’s digital, they usually give you an outlet to ask future questions (email me here, send me a message on Twitter, etc.).
It’s pretty straightforward. If you’re respectful of them and their time, they will respect you and usually want to help you. (If they don’t, then why are they your hero?)
Getting the meeting isn’t the hard part. With preparation, thoughtfulness, and sincerity, you can approach and speak to most anyone.
The next key is leaving a lasting impression. For more on that, read The Billion Dollar Joke.
True story that happened earlier this week, one of our good friends asked a very well-known and famous venture capitalist if he could have 10 minutes of his time to ask a few strategic questions about how to position his company into a new industry.
He did his homework. He’d built a relationship with this investor in the past. He was respectful and sincere.
The investor said yes. And I bet that was some valuable advice.
But don’t take my word for it.
(photo via jmp nunez)