Meeting with successful executives builds not only your network but also your career path.
When you need advice about cooking, wouldn’t you ask a talented chef? If you need advice about company finance, wouldn’t you ask a CFO? As intuitive as this sounds, many people don’t take the initiative to reach out to those who are willing to share their expertise. The doorway to executives does not have to be light years away. All you need is a little research and a well-written e-mail.
Some still recommend cold calling executives but nowadays that practice is somewhat frowned upon and much more stressful for both parties. Don’t be a telemarketer.
Goals for Reaching Out
Make sure you are open and honest with the person that you reach out to. Nothing kills a relationship more than finding out the other has ulterior motives. With your initial e-mail, your goal is first to get a response, then try and set up a phone-call or, even better, a face-to-face meeting.
Your goals should be stated upfront in the first couple e-mails. It’s best to go with the goal of networking and the desire to learn from the Executive. You should bring up your interest in finding a job, getting connected to someone with experience, making a sale etc. all in the initial contact. Never blind-side the Executive with something outside of what you originally inquired about as it will damage your relationship with him and her and, if you were referred by someone, hurt the reputation of the referrer.
Generate a conversation, it may lead to better things, just be open and honest!
Who to contact?
Best bets, in order of strength:
Mutual Friend: This is your best bet to get a phone-call or face-to-face meeting. If you can get a referral from your mutual contact then you’ve hit the jackpot.
For mutual friends that you don’t know well enough to get a personal referral, such as a connection on Linkedin that you just made, introduce yourself by saying that you have a connection in common to build that familiarity. For example, on Linkedin, you can write, “I found you through our mutual contact ‘____’.”
School Alumni: School pride sparks many responses to cold-emails. If you can mention something from the era they attended, that’s even better. When I e-mailed an alumni of the college I attended, I mentioned one of my professors that he may have had as well, which opened up many different conversation avenues.
Association/Group: Any professional group, or even LinkedIn group, provides familiarity. Like the mutual friend script you can introduce yourself by saying, “I found you through the ‘____’ group on Linkedin.” Right away, this can open a casual conversation.
Similar Interests/Companies: This is the weakest of the above associations and may be the most difficult to secure a meeting, but if you can provide value towards a shared interest/company etc., it might work for you.
Layout of E-mail
Busy people have busy schedules, so keep your e-mail short! Once you get your first response, you can sprinkle in all the details, but in the beginning you just want to peak their curiosity.
Use their real name, cut out any ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ type fluff. If you’ve done research, you should know their name. So far, using Mr. ____ or Mrs. ____ has been my standard introduction, but I’ve also used their first name with equal success. Use what’s comfortable for you.
How did You Find Me?
Start off right away explaining how you found the person. If it’s a referral or a mutual contact, use that name right away, and put the mutual contact’s name in the Subject Line as well. They want to know where you came from, so tell them right away.
Who are you?
This is a one sentence blitz of who you are and what you do. This isn’t story-time.
Give Reason for E-mail
State why you are reaching out and why they are the best person to contact. At this point, you show you’ve done research on them with simple tactics such as, “You have 30 years in industry so…,” or “I noticed you have an extensive amount of experience in ___ based on your work with ___.” In one situation, I even used a quote from a magazine they wrote an article for and they were beyond impressed. You must show your interest in them first before they will make any effort with you.
Call to Action
After you give a reason, you present them with an easy choice. Since you just wish to network with them at this point and get their expertise, you can write , “I wanted to ask you just 2-3 questions about ___. It would only take a few minutes of your time and I would really appreciate it.” Simple, quick, but effective. You respect their time, and 2-3 questions isn’t much to ask for so it’s easy for them to say yes.
You then end the e-mail with a “Thank You” and make sure to leave contact information on the bottom. Again, your goal is to set up a phone-call or face-to-face, so any response you get you want to push to this end. If you suggest meeting face-to-face, make sure you say that you are willing to meet in or near their office, or you will take them out to coffee, lunch etc. Make it easy for them to say yes! Work around their schedule.
Reach out to those who have Influence and you can Learn from, it’s just an e-mail away!
Joe Cassandra is the Founder of the 7Minute Entrepreneur, where he shows how to attack your life with the mindset of an entrepreneur in personal finance, careers, starting your own business, and much more. Follow him here on Twitter.
Category: Personal Branding