How to get influential people to help build your business
Today, I have a question from Theoaris. He asks:
“Let’s say you want someone influential to come on a podcast or use your product. What’s the best way to convince them to help you when you don’t have enough clout to do something in return?”
Let me share my experience with you. When I was starting out, I tried to meet with different CEOs and all these people. I thought, “Why the hell are they going to take my meeting? Why are they going to respond to my email?”
What I have come to see is that all of us have this fear. And for some people, it’s crippling. They don’t even send the email. But what’s the worst that can happen? They ignore you?
To improve your chances at getting someone influential to notice you, I want to share some tips.
Start with someone closer to home
This first is an uncomfortable truth: Maybe you’re aiming too high.
Have you ever had to answer the question: “If you could have dinner with anyone from history — dead or alive — who would it be?”
Most people say the president or some other famous historical figure. But seriously, what would you talk about with someone like that? National security policy? Let’s get real.
The conversation would be better if it’s someone you’re a big fan of. Maybe an author or comedian. For me, it was Chris Rock.
So if you’re starting out, reaching out to someone like Daymond John doesn’t make sense. He won’t listen to your podcast and doesn’t care about what you’re up to. He’s too busy.
Instead, start off with somebody closer to your level.
Build your connections over time
As you start reaching out to people slightly more advanced than you, something happens. It’s a domino effect. You start to get access to even more influential people.
Instead of trying to go in cold, you say, “So-and-so recommended that I talk to you.” And that becomes your way in.
That’s the beauty of starting with people closer to home. It’s less intimidating, more doable, and gives you access to way more people than you thought possible.
Now, why don’t people do this?
It’s because it’s uncomfortable. It’s a lot of work.
Which is why most would rather dream about emailing the president rather than the person who’s adjacent to us right now.
Get anyone’s attention by offering value
Now, how many pitches do you think influential people get? Tons. And I can tell you from experience that most of them are bad.
Most of them say, “Listen to my podcast. Download my product. Can we talk on the phone for 20 minutes so you can give me advice about my personal finance app?”
I have way too much going on, so I say, “Thanks, but I’m too busy.”
The pitches that work are the ones that offer me value first.
One time this guy named Charlie emailed me saying, “Hey Ramit, I noticed you’re doing a lot of videos. Let me give you quick suggestion: If you do X, it’ll be way more effective. I edited a couple of your videos just to show you what it would look like. Feel free to use this.”
Whoa! I ended up hiring him and working with him for years.
He wasn’t pitching his video editing service — he just came to me and offered me value.
I even do this from time to time.
For example, when I was building relationships with reporters, I would send them story ideas. And I told them, “If you ever need somebody to talk to, like anybody who’s young, related to money or careers, come to me. I’ll get you somebody within one hour from my group.”
They all loved this even though many of them didn’t take me up on it. And I continued adding value to them.
One day, I got invited to speak at a conference for personal finance bloggers. So, what did I do? I emailed all the journalists that I was building relationships with and offered to introduce them to the guy running it.
Create a win-win-win situation for everybody
This is the game being played around you. Becoming popular in the business world isn’t an accident.
When I invited journalists to the personal finance conference, the guy running it loved me because I was inviting national reporters to his event. So that was a win. The journalists loved it because they found out about a conference they had no idea about. Another win.
And then when they came to the conference, everyone saw me as the keynote speaker. That’s called win-win-win. And that’s what led to my 6-page profile in Fortune magazine.
So the lesson here is to offer value to people instead of going to them with some agenda. Stop looking at relationships as transactional. Help people out without wanting or needing anything in return. Then, when the time comes that you need something, everything will work itself out.