You could have the best ideas around, or a killer product that you're confident people will love, but if you can't get in front of the right people, it'll be difficult to make that leap to the next step. And you need to be leaping; otherwise you're just staying in the same place - stationary. You're not pushing yourself or your brand forward.
Reaching out to big players in your industry can be daunting, but one of the best pieces of advice you can adopt in 99.9% of scenarios is to be yourself.
But what else do you need to do in order to land that big meeting with your dream client or mentor?
Here are some tips.
Build your List
You need to have a bit of thinking time so that you can categorize the most useful people to get in contact with. Don't be that person that casts their net out to everyone and anyone, otherwise, you'll lose the personal connection and excitement behind picking a select few 'targets'.
When you're making a list, start small and put together ten names. This enables you to focus on building your research around each person, and putting more effort into making a meeting happen.
Who's going to offer you the most value when you meet them? Put together a realistic list and a group of names that are relevant to your journey, that you can learn something from.
You've got to set manageable expectations too. Meeting your list probably won't happen overnight, so accept the fact that this is a long game and you need to work hard.
Do your research
Take your list and learn everything you can about each person (within reason, we don't want any restraining orders issued). Try to get a better understanding of someone's business journey, what issues they're particularly interested in and anything you both share in common. This will help you make a connection.
It's also important that you try and understand what's in it for your 'targets' - how will meeting you add value to their life? You have to develop a value proposition, so try to find ways that you can introduce your concepts so that they're relevant and useful to your list.
If you can't work out how you'll be valuable then stop now - your list won't be interested if you establish why you're interesting.
Deliver something unique in a unique way - think about how many people those on your list must speak to every day. Their time is valuable, they don't want to waste it on conversations that don't add meaning.
You need to do something different.
Grab someone's attention and you can get your foot in the door or start a memorable conversation.
The importance of standing out and using a new approach can't be underestimated - your list will be looking for creativity and innovation. If you can show this in your message delivery then you have a good chance of maintaining their attention.
I remember a good example from a few years ago where a job searcher called Matthew Epstein created a funny, tongue-in-cheek Youtube online resume asking Google to hire him. It worked.
Risks are worth it if they're delivered in a unique way.
Create multiple unique follow-ups
You should think about reaching out to your list like you would with your email list in a marketing campaign - if you stop trying after the first time, you've given up too soon. As noted, this is a long game.
Figure out where your list likes to hang out professionally, which conferences, events and meet-ups do they attend, what social media groups are they members of?
Make it as easy and effort-free as possible to grab a coffee with you. You could meet them before or after an event that you know they'll be at. Give them an easy way to meet with you without taking away from their work or personal life.
Mike Scher, who's the CEO of Frontline Selling, recommends asking for 20 or 30 minutes of someone's time. This works best, because asking for 5 minutes is like saying 'hey, what I have to say can be said really quickly and it's not actually important'. But you are important.
And don't forget to make sure that your meet-up is going to be in their best interests and not just a shameless plug for your own services. Why is meeting you worth their while?
When I'm reaching out to someone who I'd love to interview, I give them great reasons to accept. I let people know how I can add value, I tell them it's going to be released to my 350,000 social followers. I don't gloat - I just let them know that it's a valuable use of their time.
Give it time and give them space
When I first started out and began to meet interesting, smart and well-known people - I realized it was part of a long-term process.
First, I had to become known to these people - I had to show up in their world several times and make valuable contributions. You need to get to know your industry and go to where the best ideas are being discussed.
And this takes time. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day, and you won't meet everyone on your list in a day either, but there's a challenge for you there if you're bold enough.
Put in the groundwork and there's no reason why you can't start meeting some big movers and shakers.
I used this model and it helped me to secure interviews with the CMO's of large companies, and even billionaire Ted Turner, which was a brilliant experience.
So, there we go. Start compiling your list and doing your research and before long, you could be discussing big ideas over a coffee with your industry's most influential people.