Since it's Thursday, I want to take another look back at a throwback: one of my favorite stories about how it is possible to score a meeting with almost anyone.
When these guys come knocking, who wouldn’t answer the door?
Have you ever been desperate to land a meeting with someone – a potential client, investor, mentor, et al. – but just couldn’t get on their radar?
You want nothing more than a few minutes of time with them. You try everything: persistent calls, emails, tweets, carrier pigeon. But nothing works.
I like to think of myself as a fairly successful entrepreneur, but this used to happen to me all the time. Then I discovered a way to reach almost anyone.
A couple of years ago, I was trying to score a meeting with a grand poobah at a bank in Midtown Manhattan. I can’t tell you this gentleman’s name, but trust me, it’s a big name.
Nothing worked. Not the calls. Not the smoke signals. Not even the singing telegram on his birthday. (Okay, I didn’t send him one of those, but I did some similarly desperate things.)
Then I had an idea. Since he’s a New Yorker, I wondered if Mr. Big didn’t idolize a New York Yankees baseball player or two.
I called Mr. Big’s secretary and before she could pass me to his voicemail for the umpteenth time, I said, “No, I need to speak to you.” I asked her if Mr. Big was a Yankees fan and learned he was a huge admirer of Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. With that news, the heavens parted, the angels started singing and I saw the light.
I immediately had my trusty assistant send Mr. Big a small plastic cube — an empty baseball case — with a note attached.
“I heard you love Mariano Rivera,” it read. “Here’s a case for a Mariano-signed baseball. When you and I meet within the next two weeks, I’ll bring you the ball.”
Wouldn’t you know it? Big called me that day. And we met the next week.
Maybe you’re thinking: “That’s a cute story, Brandon. But what if the person I need to reach doesn’t like the Yankees or even sports? And what if I don’t have any special connections?”
You’re still in luck. The philosopher Joseph Campbell showed us that there’s a bond connecting human beings that’s even stronger than those of death and taxes: hero worship.
Every culture, throughout history, has told its own hero stories — whether they take the form of religion, myth, or, in our society, pop culture. Be it an athlete, actor or singer, every American has a hero. I guarantee you that the big fish you can’t reel in has a hero or two of their own.
Sometimes this hero is relatively easy to identify. For instance, a quick look at Barack Obama’s Facebook page shows that the president loves Bob Dylan. So, if I wanted to land a meeting with him, maybe I’d send him an empty Blood on the Tracks record case, with a note saying I had an original vinyl copy I’d like to give him in person. (Obviously that’s an outlandish hypothetical, but you get the point.)
Are you there Barack? It’s me, Bob.
Sometimes the hero will be more difficult to find. If a little internet stalking doesn’t turn anything up, do what I did: chat up the personal assistant, or someone else who might know.
Maybe you can’t afford to send a high-end totem. In that case, be creative.
For instance, say the person you’re trying to meet is a fan of the show Mad Men. You probably can’t have Jon Hamm make a phone call for you, but you can send a reasonably-priced and eye-popping photo of the actor (there are great shots available on sites like Crestock.com) with a note saying: “I work as hard as Don Draper and I’m almost always more sober.”
Who could say no to this face?
The “bait” doesn’t have to be shiny and expensive. It just has to stand out from the dozens of other requests your prospect will receive that day.
The only necessity, really, is to abandon the business or sales angle and channel a hero’s voice instead. Of course, once you get the attention you’ve worked so hard to score, the rest is up to you.