You think the world of a certain business luminary. You follow them actively and are dying to meet them. You know that if you could only just spend 15 minutes telling them about your business, you're sure it will lead to success. But, they are really busy. They get contacted by entrepreneurs all the time. You can't cold email them because that's what everyone else does. You need a way to stand out.

The secret to meeting your dream contact

How can you 'hack the relationship' and make them want to spend one-on-one time you? The answer is that you've got to 'give to get' and offer them something of value first. Here's a remarkably simple tip: create an opportunity for them to speak at an event. I know, because it worked with me, and it can work for you too.

As an angel investor, I'm contacted numerous times a day by entrepreneurs each asking for just 15 minutes of my time in a phone call or over coffee to give feedback on their business. Unfortunately, I just don't have the time to meet with everyone. However, I do try to make time to speak at events where I can reach a large number of entrepreneurs at once whenever possible.

Ditch the cold emails

Not too long ago, two entrepreneurs contacted me and asked me to speak at a dinner. They curated a short list of 20 entrepreneur attendees and facilitated all the details of the event. All I had to do was show up, share my advice, and answer questions from an attentive audience. Now that's easy! I was excited to be helpful to the startup community in such an efficient way.

After I agreed, they asked, "And by the way, would you mind meeting 15-20 minutes before the event to chat with us and share your feedback on our business?" Of course, I agreed again. How could I say 'no' after I already committed to speaking at an event they planned for me? On the night of the event, I met them beforehand and brainstormed with them on how to make their business more successful. Then, I spoke to a room filled with entrepreneurs. It was a win-win for all of us.

Give them a platform to share their message

That's the secret: plan an event that gives your dream contact a chance to speak to a wider audience about something meaningful to them. Make it easy for them to just show up after you've planned all the details. Give them the opportunity to feel good about sharing their message, whether it be about their background, their business, or something they care deeply about.

Once you've facilitated a way to be helpful to them by organizing the event, add a few minutes on to the schedule where they can return the favor and be helpful to you. It's so much better to ask for a favor when you're engaging in a mutually beneficial exchange. You may also find that it becomes the start of a solid relationship going forward.

Engage in a mutually beneficial exchange

If planning an event sounds daunting, it doesn't have to be! You can also conduct an interview over the phone and post it on social media. Or, you could organize a webinar on a topic that's helpful to a larger community. You can partner with local industry groups and/or alumni connections to increase attendance. Whatever method you choose, the goal remains the same: offer your dream contact a platform to easily share their message en masse, and they will likely return the favor and spend some time with you.

So what happened with the entrepreneurs who contacted me after I spoke at their event? We're still in touch regularly. In fact, I've referred other speakers to them for future events who have also helped propel their business forward. I remain flattered that they contacted me initially and appreciative of the opportunity to speak to their audience.

Hacking the relationship: give to get

The next time you're looking to meet your dream contact, ditch the cold emails. Instead, use the 'give to get' strategy and offer them something of value first - a chance to speak to a crowd. You'll find it much easier to ask for their time in return and to start the relationship with them on equal footing. Good luck with your event!

Published on: Mar 27, 2017