Professionals can benefit from connecting with senior leaders and learning from their perspective.  All of us are extremely busy, and this is where the request and conversation might go awry because there needs to be more thoughtful planning upfront as to how you want to approach the communication. 

In my experience working with many experts and senior leaders, there are a couple of crucial steps they wish requesters would to pay attention to when kicking off a conversation or asking a question. Here are a couple of pointers to help along the way. 

Don't always ask for something, instead build a relationship.

High-level executives I coach tell me that they consistently get at least ten or so emails a week asking for a job or requesting help. Folks are happy to oblige, but sometimes they tell me it feels like there should be more effort put into building relationships.  They believe that by connecting over time there might be a much better chance of crafting a unique opportunity. 

For example, a Chief Human Resources Officer I work with has never reached out for a specific opportunity for himself.  All of his career choices have come to him because he has "played the long game" of building relationships--one meeting at a time. 

And in fact, he makes it a point to never ask for anything but uses his conversations to only help the others.  Because of these deep connections, leaders, and founders remember him on many occasions and that is how he has been able to secure fantastic opportunities throughout the years.

Be specific--ask one question.

Everyone has a tremendous amount of responsibilities, so there can be limited time to answer emails or set up a networking call. The person you are asking a favor or question from has his or her own day-to-day work to take care of first; so it is important to keep that in mind. I recommend that you have one specific question that you feel will provide you with the greatest impact. 

For example, I have received emails with extremely long introductions coupled with a deep list of questions to be answered.  It is difficult to answer that many questions when there are more similar requests just like that in my inbox. 

The best emails that I receive are ones with just one or two very specific questions.  An example of a specific question might look like: I have very limited time to take classes because of my newborn--which of these two programs (X and X) would you recommend for me now?

A quick thank you is always appreciated.

As an executive coach I get a lot of emails asking how to start a practice.  I am happy to share a quick article or point them in the right direction with some thoughts and consideration.  In some cases, that is the end of the conversation.  

A nice and appreciated follow up is just a quick note back to say thank you for your help or to acknowledge that you received the email.  Even if it is a two-word email, make sure to consistently follow up.  

Using these three time-tested actions will help you build relationships and gain the expertise that you are looking for along the way to build your business or career.