When it comes to making and keeping the right connections, it’s important to include a few very important people or VIPs in your networking plan. These individuals have the potential to serve as powerful allies and help you accomplish your personal and professional goals.
VIPs are busy, successful people. Their time is precious and because of their prominence they can probably do more for you than you can do for them. With such relationships, you don’t want to rush to ask for assistance or favors prematurely. It takes extensive preparation and patience to cultivate relationships with these individuals.
The best way to meet a VIP is through a referral or a personal introduction. A referral ensures that someone who knows and trusts you has already vetted you and the VIP will be more receptive to meeting and doing business with you.
When I needed endorsements for my first book, Business Class, I had no idea how to ask a famous person for a cover blurb. I admired Jack Valenti, the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America.
I read that he would be traveling in 2005 to West Palm Beach to speak at a charity luncheon at Bear Lakes Country Club. I picked up the phone and made a reservation to attend the event. Although the ticket was expensive, paying for it was well worth the risk.
In keeping with my standard practice, I arrived early at the event, giving me time to scope out the premises and be prepared for whatever might happen.
“Would you be so kind as to introduce me to Jack Valenti?” I asked the event’s coordinator. “I have something that I’d like to give him.”
In effect, the program coordinator became my “connector” for this event.
“Of course,” she replied. “Approach us as soon as you see the two of us enter,“ she said. "If you wait too long, he’ll be surrounded by so many people that you might not get the chance to meet him.”
I stood close to the door so as to not miss my opportunity. Just before the luncheon started, the coordinator walked in with Valenti. I quickly walked over. She made the introduction and I presented my manuscript. Although Valenti didn’t know me, he acted as if we had been acquainted for years and suggested I follow up in a few weeks.
A month later, I sent an email. Within minutes, I was elated to receive my first official endorsement for the book.
My introduction to this famous man didn’t happen by accident. It took place because I had a plan and asked for a favor from someone who could help me.
Typically VIPs are inundated with requests for referrals and favors and tend to decline requests unless they know you well. Once you’ve established a relationship, you can take the plunge. Your polite requests will be more valid and effective if you’re willing to follow these six guidelines:
1. Greet them properly.
If you write a letter or send an email to a VIP, be sure to include his or her name and spell it correctly.
Correspondence lacking a recipient’s name or addressed "to whom it may concern” is a dead giveaway that you’ve sent your request to a list of others. Using the person’s name shows that you have taken the time to personalize the message.
2. Enlighten them.
VIPs are busy people. Don’t assume they will remember you.
It’s a courtesy to discreetly remind an important person how you met each other or if you share a mutual friend. Did you meet at a luncheon, conference or seminar or were you referred by someone?
Include those details in your note. VIPs meet a lot of people every day, so take the initiative and briefly recap the circumstances of your meeting.
Influential people are more apt to help you if you have done something for them. Have you read their books, purchased one of their products or contributed to their favorite charities? Did you provide them a good resource or refer them to someone of importance? When you do something nice for people, they’re often willing to reciprocate.
4. Be specific.
Be sure your favor is clear and concise and that it contains all the pertinent information. Otherwise you may received a delayed response or none at all.
5. Provide a deadline.
If you need an answer right away, let the VIP know your request is time sensitive. Otherwise, you may miss out on an opportunity.
6. Offer thanks.
After receiving a response (positive or negative), send a thank-you note to express your appreciation for the VIP’s efforts. Let people know when their efforts were helpful. Explain how the situation turned out if you acted on advice given.
This piece was adapted from Jacqueline Whitmore’s book Poised for Success.