I frequently get asked, “Al, how and where can I meet the right people to help my business?” Generally that’s people that can help you win new clients, set up meetings with investors or source better suppliers.
In my experience, there’s no one thing you can do. It comes down to a series of actions or behaviours that will eventually result in you being in the right place at the right time. When that happens you will build relationships with people that will contribute to your company’s success. Here are a few things to consider…
Know your goals and needs
When you are clear on your goals and needs, you can figure out what additional business contacts you need. Whether your objective is to find more clients, penetrate a new market, find an investor, or source distribution partners in a specific geographic region, once you know then you can plan whom you need to meet or align yourself with.
Outline the types of places you can find people that can help you achieve your goals
Now you know your goals, think- where are the right people most likely to be? Are you going to the right places? Are you engaging and making connections with the right people?
Do your research and look for specific events, places, or opportunities where you are most likely to meet those people. It could be industry events, networking events, LinkedIn groups, a friend’s birthday party or a supplier conference. Think creatively and mix things up. Don’t carry on going to the same places for months without getting any results, no matter how good the coffee is.
Always be networking
I fly to the UK on average every couple of weeks and I always make a habit of speaking to the person sitting next to me. Last week I met a VC of a video conferencing business. Not of much interest to me from a speculative point of view, but who knows when one of my investments will need that technology or I need an introduction to a manufacturer.
You won't meet influential people unless you make the effort to speak to them.
Don't be afraid
Early in my career I approached a number of high profile business people and asked for advice. Don’t be the person in the room that wants to approach Bill Gates but doesn’t have the courage.
Get to the point
Business angels like Ron Conway and Jeff Clavier are busy. They are incredibly rich, so the only thing that is finite in their life is time. You are taking away some of their most precious resource, so get to the point as eloquently and succinctly as you can. Don't try to make small talk or ask about their pet dog. Go right for the big ask. They are used to it and will respect you for getting to the point quickly.
Flattery is nice, however...
These people are used to being flattered, and it's always nice. But don't lay it on too thick. No one likes a sycophant.
Know your elevator pitch like the back of your hand
Ensure that when you’re finally in front of the right contact you don’t waste your time or theirs by fluffing your elevator pitch. Ensure you have your 2-minute value proposition down to a fine art. Read Bruce Leith's blog on finessing your elevator pitch to find out how.
Finally when you do get into good conversations with business angels, industry leaders or subject matter experts LISTEN.
If they say your idea is rubbish, listen to the feedback, take notes, and ask for contact info. Then go fix the problems, or come up with another idea and demonstrate you listened. It will, at the very least, keep the dialogue open with a useful contact.
What works for you?
Do you have your own methods for finding the right people to connect with? Why not share them in the comment section below and start up a conversation with Tern?