Last week, I scheduled a meeting with one of the top CEOs in Madison, Mr. Rich. Here’s how I did it and how you can too:
1. Make first contact. Meet Mr. Shaker at an event. Go up and introduce yourself. Yes, I know this is hard, especially when CEO #1 stands by CEO #2 and Celebrity #3. Must they cluster? Go and introduce yourself anyway. You are not a chicken. Go! You don’t have to have a lot to say. Just introduce yourself, set the stage for a meeting, and gracefully exit.
Another option is to send a letter. A letter is for when you have no way of meeting them in person. It warms up the cold call. It should be short and to the point, and give appropriate information, but not enough that a meeting isn’t necessary. The primary purpose of the letter is to set the stage for your phone call to set up a meeting.
2. Write yourself a script and act. I learned the value of a script, and the basis of all relationship-building in business, when I was a telefunder in college. Not a telemarketer. TeleFUNDER. Big difference.
As a telefunder, I read off a script, and after four years, I knew that script by heart. Every time I sat down to make calls, I pulled the script up on the screen. Half the time I wouldn’t even look at it, but it gave me the confidence to know exactly what to say, improvise, and to become the top fundraiser out of hundreds of other callers.
These days, when I make calls, I still bring up a script. It’s short and to the point, and I’ve thought out many of the potential objections in my head.
Then I lower my voice. This is because I have a high girly voice, and that’s really annoying on the phone. I learned this the hard way when I tried to be a cheerleader my first week of telefunding. I almost got fired I was so chipper. Pay attention to what you want to convey and act it out.
3. Be persistent. The first time you call you’ll probably get their voicemail, or the secretary. They’re counting on you to give up. Not the first time. Nobody gives up the first time. But maybe the second time, or the third. Don’t let your attempts taper off. You have to be the person that calls back the fourth, fifth, sixth time.
Call on different days and times of the week. While your worst time might be Wednesday at 8:30 am, that might the perfect day for you to reach Mr. CEO.
Or maybe email is better. It just depends. A general rule of thumb is that older generations will respond quicker to phone calls, while twentysomethings will respond quicker to emails. Skip the guessing game next time by asking Miss Celebrity how she prefers to be contacted when she hands over her business card. Golden.
4. I said persistent, not creepy. If I call a CEO five times a week, I only leave a message once or twice. You don’t want to be all scary about it.
5. Be persuasive and positive. Never ever remind the CEO that you’ve already contacted them last week in your message. You can refer to your first contact, but not the ten calls you’ve made in between. I guarantee that the CEO knows about the ten calls you’ve made, and if you just stay upbeat and positive with the tone of your voice, they’ll call you back.
Persuasive doesn’t mean pushy. Persuasive isn’t begging. Persuasive is confidence. Don’t confuse it.
6. Be strategic and ready for run-ins. It never fails that I am often embarrassed in front of important people.
In calling Mr. Rich to set up a meeting, I ran into him three different times unexpectedly. The first was when I was walking to the coffee shop wearing my “pigpen” pants and he rounded the corner. I think the term “pigpen” is self-explanatory. This is not the time to talk. Smile. Say hello. Keep walking. The second was when I came out of a public restroom and I opened the door right into Mr. Rich. Smile. Apologize. Keep walking.
The third was at an annual dinner. It was one of those times when he was standing next to two other bigwigs. This is not the time to keep walking. Stop. Introduce yourself. Go back to step #1.
7. Notice the flow. The hard and time consuming stuff is in the beginning. Getting a meeting is much harder than the meeting itself. Make it work.
Go on with your bad self.
Need more? One of the best series on networking can be found here.