Networking and reaching out to people of influence in your industry is a must if you want to continue to grow and be seen. However, too many people can’t reach that next level or get that door opened, not because they aren’t good enough, but rather because they just don’t how to position themselves as worthy to be seen.
Strategy 1: “ I just want to pick your brain”
Nope. Don’t EVER say those words and expect to get the valuable time of someone sitting in a seat like the one you hope to achieve.
(Personally, I think my brain works so much better intact. So, I’ll pass on you picking at it.)
In all seriousness though, you probably won’t score that meeting. You have to come better than that.
Strategy 2: Find the mutual benefit
Picking their brain doesn’t help them… it helps you. So, position your request for a meeting by making it clear that there is a benefit in meeting for the both of you. Be clear on what the benefit is – and be sure to make it something that the person you want to meet with will really want.
Remember, Google is a thing. You can pick its brain all you want and it will tell you all you need to know. People of influence need a good reason to meet with you, as well they should. They’re typically busy people who are making things happen and don’t have time to waste. There are plenty of things on their to-do list, and you becoming another thing on that list won’t help you.
I was able to spend a couple of years learning under a CEO who, naturally was a busy person, and I knew his time was extremely valuable. I was always intentional about respecting his time, and made sure to never introduce him to someone if I didn’t know for sure it would end up being beneficial for him AND the person with whom I was setting him up to meet.
In my day job, I get to hear a lot of conversations between community leaders and executives–and when they are scheduling meetings they will often say, “Let’s meet and discuss how we can help each other move forward.” Key words: “help each other”. They understand for them to get what they want, they are going to have to find a way to get the other person what they want too. It must be a mutually beneficial transaction.
I was talking to my friend recently who is a kick-butt entrepreneur. She’s very talented and respected in her field and like any other go-getter, she wants to stand out.
She told me about a photographer in her industry she wanted to connect with. This photographer is pretty well-known, and consistently booked solid. She feels like he could open some doors for her, or introduce her to some people who could.
She said she has been messaging him trying to set up a meeting and he is completely ignoring her.
I knew immediately why.
He’s ignoring her because in essence, she isn’t adding any value. Why should he take time out of his already booked schedule to meet with her? What’s in it for him? Basically, he knew she just wanted to “pick his brain.”
It would be a different world if everyone had all the time to meet with you just because they want to be nice. But, they only have so much time and they have to prioritize. Ignoring her doesn’t make him mean, nor does it mean that he forgot he was once an ‘up-and-comer’ it just means he has priorities and a schedule he has to guard.
So, in her case, I recommend she book a photo shoot with him.
“He’s expensive”, I told her, “but he’s able to help get to you the next level.”
That would give her a whole hour with him. She would’ve now paid for his ear. Then she can shoot her shot. Sure, its a financial investment, but you have to put something in to get something out.
Standing out takes work. But the payoff is worth it.
You want something they have. Whether it be knowledge, a connection, money, or something else. Why should they give it to you and not one of the other 500 people who have reached out to pick their brain?
You have to make yourself Stand Out!
If you are trying to get your foot in the door in your industry, you better come with something. Everybody has something to offer. Do your homework on that person, find out all you can. Is there someone you know that they should meet? Make the introduction. Is there an event they should go to? Send them a ticket. A book they should read? Amazon it to them. An informative article they should read? Email it to them. Basically, whatever it takes to add value. Be creative.
And, here’s a rule of thumb: If this is your first meeting with this influencer, pick up the tab. In follow-up meetings, it’s okay to let them pay for their own meal.
The door may not open on the first knock or even the 3rd. But, I assure you, if you continue to think of ways to add value to whoever it is you are trying to meet they will eventually answer the door.
Make up your mind that you are going to do whatever it takes to STAND OUT from among the crowd and then do it.
When you come with something to offer the person you are trying to get in front of, it gives YOU confidence. You are now contributing instead of just taking and you’ll feel much better about that. What you have to give him or her is just as valuable to them as what they have to offer is to you.
We don’t feel confident when we show up empty handed.
So put something of value in your hand and then go knock on that door.
“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”
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