When proposing…well…anything…it’s critical that you get to the decision maker. While that’s true, don’t rush it! Take your time because you’re ultimately going to need some help.
Don’t Jump Over Your Current Contact
Tread smartly before you ask to meet Mr./Ms. Big. What I mean is make sure your current contact understands and blesses your meeting. Don’t jump over them just because you see an opportunity to move up the chain. Your contact is your way in and they need to partner with you to get the next meeting. Better yet, it should be their idea! If you’ve done your job well, they will see the benefit for themselves first and will champion a meeting since it will make them look like the hero. They also need to have the confidence in you that you will lift them up during the meeting.
Know the Goals before Knowing the Boss
Often in business development opportunities there still is a sole decision maker. But it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure you’ve found, prioritized and met ALL possible decision makers before Mr./Ms. Big. Knowing the team’s goals and challenges is critical to contextualizing your eventual recommendation. It’s also impressive to walk through the intel you’ve gained from their direct reports. Bear in mind the adage; it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and thirty seconds to erode it. With today’s marketplace pressures, there is competition, huge accountability, and people spread thin. These exogenous forces can cloud people’s judgment. Execs are often pressured to make decisions in a short amount of time without a lot of intel to aid in their decision-making process. And on top of that, they’re accountable for every action they take. You will need to gain an understanding of the climate of Mr/Ms Big’s organization before you meet them. This is paramount to understand.
Probing Questions to Ask Your Day-to-Day
Ask these questions to align with your day to day contact to shine with Mr/Ms Big:
1. How has work been going recently?
2. What goals do you and your team have this year?
3. What challenges are you wrestling with?
4. How’s the team’s overall chemistry?
5. What’s important to you relative to your image with your team and boss?
6. How would you like to be perceived by them?
7. How open will they be to our meeting?
You are under pressure to produce results. Your tendency might be to pressure your contact for a meeting with the head honcho. Don’t do it! You will sabotage your relationship with the very person who can help you gain the trust of the executive you want to meet. Give it time…and effort…and you will be successful.