Suppose you really want to get a meeting with a C-level decision-maker, a business celebrity or a media personality. You don't get a response to either your calls or your emails. What then?
Here are five approaches that vastly increase your over chance for success:
1. Hone your message.
Before trying anything else, ask yourself: Why aren't I getting a response?
Well, if you're cold calling and leaving voice mail messages, you're probably wasting your time. Busy people aren't listening to voice mail messages any longer and younger people don't even use voice mail.
Note: if you're trying to reach a VIP who has a gatekeeper (like an admin or agent), everything you do must be directed towards the gatekeeper, not towards the VIP. It makes things a bit more complicated but the same rules apply.
If you're emailing, the lack of a response is almost always because your message is 1) too long and detailed, 2) is mostly about you and your company, and 3) asks for too big of a commitment.
Therefore, your first step should be to create a shorter message (two to three sentences), make it about something important to the VIP, and then ask for the very smallest possible commitment, like a YES/NO reply to your email.
The crucial part is making your message relevant to the VIP. If you want a meeting with somebody who thinks about how to put a colony on Mars, you'd best have the kind of idea that would make that easier. (BTW, Elon Musk is known to be relatively approachable.)
When you get a first response to your well-honed and well-crafted email, you're now in an online conversation at which point you can gradually segue into a deeper conversation and then ask for a phone or face-to-face meeting.
I've done this successfully ever since email became a common business tool and get about a 90% response rate to my cold emails, and as a result have landed meetings and gotten coaching from the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Dell.
BTW, I have a free weekly newsletter that can help you hone your messages and get more meetings. I critique reader emails for free. If you're interested, here's where you can apply to join.
2. Send a carefully marked-up book.
But let's suppose you've honed your message to the point of near-perfection and you're still not getting a response. What then?
Well, if you've written and published a book (not an e-book), you send it to the VIP as a "calling card." However, self-publishing is so easy today that books don't command nearly so much clout as they did in the past.
To make matters worse, sending somebody a book can come off like you're assigning them homework. Most people, especially VIPs, are in permanent information overload, which is why "content marketing" often fails miserably.
In his forthcoming book, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, author Stu Heinecke explains you can turn that book from a chore into an asset by carefully highlighting the portions of the book that are directly relevant to the VIP.
What's great about Heinecke's approach is that it works almost as well if you mark up somebody else's book rather than one you wrote yourself, thus saving you the considerable bother of writing one.
Needless to say, to make those highlights meaningful to the VIP, you'll need to research the VIP thoroughly and understand his or her "hot buttons." You presumably did this when you honed your message in Step 1 above. (If not, go back to Step 1!)
3. Send a Framed Caricature.
OK, your perfectly honed emails aren't working and the book you sent didn't get a response. What now?
Well, you're at the point where you'll need to spend some money, so before going any further, it's probably a good idea to ask yourself if you're barking up the right tree. Maybe you should be focusing on somebody else?
But if you're absolutely determined that you MUST contact this particular VIP, you can do something dramatic to pique the VIP's interest.
The least-expensive way to accomplish this is to hire a cartoonist to create a customized caricature or cartoon of the VIP, which you then send to the VIP with a hand-written note. Where to find one? Try Elance.com.
Heinecke, who sends cartoons to get meetings, points out that the cartoon "should support the reason that the VIP should meet with you, but without focusing on your brand, your offer, or your identity."
This is a crucial point. If you make the cartoon about yourself, you'll come off as self-absorbed and self-centered, just like most of the people who try to contact the VIP. Remember the #1 rule of sales and marketing: "It is not about you."
4. Send a Visual Metaphor.
Maybe you've heard of the old salesman trick where you mail a potential customer a shoe with a note that you wanted to get your foot in the door. While that's way too cheesy for the 21st century, but the basic idea is sound.
Anything out of the ordinary will get the VIP's attention, providing it's relevant to the VIP and leads naturally into a discussion of the reason you want a meeting.
Heinecke cites the example of consultant Dan Waldschmidt, who communicates his "Business Is War" concept by sending prospects a $1000 custom sword in a wooden box with a handwritten note.
Here's another example. Suppose you're a medical device salesperson who wants to meet with the (usually inaccessible) Head of Oncology at a major hospital or maybe somebody like Dr. William Abdu, widely considered the greatest orthopedic surgeon of all time.
Well, it turns out that authenticated stone age medical implements can be bought for under $100. Sending one in a small display case, with the authentication on the back, would almost undoubtedly get you on the good doctor's calendar.
5. Try Something Truly Over-The-Top
What if all the above still isn't enough? If you've tried everything and you still need to reach someone utterly unreachable, Heinecke suggests doing something crazy enough that it's guaranteed to call the VIP's attention to your existence.
For example, you could produce a contact letter as a full-page ad and run it in a major magazine or newspaper. That's going to cost you around $10,000, so you'd better make that contact letter pretty darn good.
Or you could drop off a homing pigeon with instructions to write a date, time, and name of their favorite restaurant, place it in the leg capsule, and release the pigeon. (Heinecke claims somebody actually did this.)
I can't help but add a word of caution here, though. At a certain point, trying to meet a VIP can start looking as if you're stalking the VIP. So, if you do something truly over-the-top, be mentally prepared to end your campaign if it doesn't work.
Again, though, I must emphasize that 99 times out of a hundred, your best (and least expensive) way to get a meeting with a VIP is a well-researched, well-crafted short email, with a clearly articulated and simple call-to-action.
But it doesn't hurt to have some extra tools in your bag of tricks.