It's been endless said that in business, "it's not what you know but who you know." There some truth to that, but it's incomplete.  Here's the real truth: "It's not who you know but who you can get to know."

Your success in business is entirely dependent upon how easily you can expand your your list of contacts and whether you can get those contacts to help you out, buy things from you, provide you advice, and share their own contacts.

Unfortunately, most people are really bad at getting through to decision-makers and setting up a meeting. That's especially true when they're under pressure, like trying to make a sales quota or find a new job after being fired.

When I got fired from my cushy corporate job (I volunteered to be laid off, but found out later I was on the list anyway), I didn't try to look for another job.  

Instead, I did something completely crazy: I decided to set up meetings with the world's most successful CEOs (like Bill Gates and Michael Dell) and ask them how I could be more successful.

My friends (i.e. former colleagues) thought I'd gone nuts.  "Why would anybody rich and famous want to talk to YOU?"

In retrospect, they had a point.  I was just a mid-level exec who'd worked in a company that was going bankrupt.  However, I did have one thing going for me: my belief that if you want something strongly enough, you will find a way to achieve it.

Rather than Cold Call, I Created a System

So, rather than just cold-calling (which even then I knew would be pointless), I decided to study how the very best "meeting-getters" managed to connect with decision-makers.

Based on that knowledge, I created a system.  And it worked.  Even though I was a virtual nobody, I successful interviewed and got mentoring from Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Stan Shih (Acer) and a dozen other top CEOs.

The result was my first serious business book, but more important, it launched my career as a writer and pundit, where I've continued to be successful largely because I know how to connect with interesting and powerful people whom I don't yet know.

Over the years, I've refined my original system and adapted it to use new technology.  It's fair to say that I've built my career around being the "guy who get just about anybody on the phone," as one editor put it.

Over the past two years, I've been sharing this system with a few people and they've gotten the same excellent results that I've gotten over the years.

If you're committed to using email to build new contacts and opportunities, you may want to sign up for my free news, where I critique reader emails and give advance notice of my "How to Get Meetings Without Cold Calling" programs.

 Meanwhile, here are some pointers:

1. Do massive research first.

The more you know about a person, the easier it will be to connect with them. Don't just check out the VIP's bio; use the Internet to dig deep and get a true sense of the person and his or her interests.

You may discover something useful, like you know somebody who knows that person well.  But even if you just get a vivid sense of their personality, you're far more likely to to find a way to intrigue them to want to meet with you.

2. Get somebody who knows them to email them.

Many "let's have a meeting" emails begin with a sentence like "John Doe (or whoever) suggested I contact you."  That's ineffective because 1) it's trite and 2) much of the time it's bullsh*t and "John Doe" did nothing of the kind.

If "John Doe" really suggested that you contact the VIP and "John Doe" is a name that the VIP would recognized, have "John Doe" send an email of introduction, copying your email.  Then you'll get the VIP attention that you deserve.

3. Keep it really simple

When writing these types of emails, many people seem to think "I'll only have one chance if the VIP opens the email, I've need to cram everything into one email."  Unfortunately, the longer the email, the less likely it is to be read.

The purpose of the initial email is simply to get a response of some kind.  That's followed by an online conversation from which the request for a meeting emerges naturally. 

I'll be sharing these techniques and much more in my "How to Get Meetings" webinar/Q&A (11/18, 1pm Pacific), so if you're interested, reserve your spot before it they're all filled up.