Lots of advisors suggest outreach is a numbers game, where you monotonously grind out emails, LinkedIn requests etc. But if you want quality connections, with senior executives, it’s not about numbers and grind. Outreach requires thoughtfulness … word craft … sequencing … and resilience.
1. Do your homework
Nowadays executives are pestered to connect, asked for information etc. Just put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it feels like to have this day-in, day-out. Thoughtfulness begins when you ask yourself questions like:
- What’s important enough for this executive to want to connect with me?
- Where can I add value to their agenda?
- How do I make it low risk for them to agree to connect?
2. Write to influence
Lots of outreach is shallow, self-serving. and self-referenced. There is a whole series about writing better outreach emails here. Alongside the content of your message you must figure out things like:
- What will I say to capture this person’s attention?
- How can I signpost that connecting with me is useful for them?
- How will I make my email easy to read?
3. Nurture before your ask
Too many attempts of outreach are … in the words of the late, great, David Bowie … Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am! Almost as soon as the introduction is out of the way they’re making a big ask, too big an ask for a first date. Stand out from the crowd by – from the outset – taking a nurturing approach to the relationship. You can begin with an experiment using a sequence of four reaches, the last one of which is an ask. Try these at 2-3 week intervals. Try other sequences with 5 or more reaches. Notice the results you get.
- First reach – generously ask for nothing other than to connect, keep it light.
- Second reach – give, or hint at having, something of value.
- Third reach – ask the executive for a tiny little favour related to the problems you resolve. Perhaps answering a simple question.
- Forth reach – ask for the meeting where you want to talk business.
4. Pick yourself up
Even when you’ve taken time to think about the other person’s agenda, craft a collaborative message, and use a nurturing sequence … you’ll still get rejection, often for reasons that are nothing to do with you. For some people this stings and they get despondent. For others it is like water off a duck’s back and they just crack on. Neither of those responses is particularly useful, instead ask yourself:
- What can I learn from these outreach experiences? Try an after action review.
- What is my emotional reaction when I’m rejected by other people?
- What else might I try (later) to connect with this person again?
Outreach is strategic, it requires a plan. Let me know how you get on.