“Hi mate. Just thought I’d reach out to you. You seem to be doing some interesting things and I’d love to buy you a coffee sometime and chat.”

I got this Linked in message recently from someone who I didn’t know. He wasn’t referred to me and he didn’t provide any details about who he was, what he wanted to talk about and why that might be interesting to me. Basically it was a lazy cold call. Chat and coffee with a stranger for an undefined purpose? No thanks.

Compare this to an approach I had from another person (abridged version):

“Hi Bull. A mutual colleague ‘Joe Smith’ speaks highly of you and suggested that I make contact to discuss a potential business synergy that we both think might be valuable to you. As an aside I have been an avid reader of your blog and I have followed your work for quite some time. I know that you are really busy and I don’t want to waste your time but if you can spare me 10 minutes to talk through my idea I would be really grateful. John.” 

I called him and we ended up doing business together. Why? Because he did some homework – got a strong referral, was respectful, had something to offer me and promised not to waste my time. It’s an irresistible combination, no matter how busy you are.

One of the best stories I ever heard was at a conference from a successful entrepreneur who was describing his start-up days in the mid-1990s. He desperately needed to meet an investor who he believed could provide much-needed capital and expertise to allow his fledging enterprise to get off the ground. The problem was that the investor was extremely busy and seemingly unreachable.

Not sure how to get the investor’s attention he chose to write him a letter detailing the warts and all journey of his venture so far and how much he could benefit from 10 minutes of his time. He got no response. Undeterred he wrote eight more letters – one each week and personally hand-delivered each one. He never got past the receptionist’s desk. He changed tactics and took to calling the investor every week as well as continuing to write weekly letters describing his latest progress. For three months he got no response.

Finally the investor called him and asked bluntly – “what do I have to do to get rid of you”? The entrepreneur responded with “Give me 10 minutes of your time.” “OK, be at my office at 8am tomorrow and don’t be late.” The 10 minute meeting led to a relationship that endured for 10 years. Sometimes extreme circumstances call for drastic measures to be taken.

Successful people are always busy and have limited time available for coffee, lunch or other niceties. In a perfect world they’ll respond to every request made of them. But that’s impossible so it’s only the ones that are interesting that will get their attention. Interest gets created if the other person believes there is a good reason to meet and your job is to demonstrate that to them. Getting a referral from a trusted source doesn’t hurt either. Nor does being respectful, empathetic and persistent. Good luck!

Featured image by Oriol Lastminute