In this series of articles, I want to codify how I do that...and how I go from social interaction to closing business (or just becoming friends) with Very Important People. It's like networking 3.0.
I'm going to refer to CEOs in general, but that means (for the purposes of this blog) anyone who might be at the helm of his own company or perhaps a content celebrity in her own right. Think creators of amazing products, actors, authors and the like, in addition to the more common conception of the term CEO.
Before we get into it, why I prefer to hang out with CEOs of smaller companies:
The CEOs (of the small, privately-held companies I tend to work with) run around socially and do business in cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington DC, but they're equally present in smaller towns. And unlike Fortune 500s where CEOs are beholden to shareholders and boards, the CEOs of smaller companies are often the founders and majority owners of their companies too.
It makes for a vastly different dynamic, and while I don't think you want to exclude the CEOs of publicly-traded companies from your networking mojo, I think that the big guys are less accessible and less involved in the strategic solutions you might be thinking about offering them, if you are B2B.
If you're not B2B or you're just looking to chill with the top dogs, then by all means go hang with the CEO of Dupont.
Now, onward to whale-catching!
First a few questions to get us started.
1. Why do you want to "land whales?"
Seems like a fairly benign question, but your answer will give you much insight into your success and methods.
In the past, I used to love spending my time around high-powered CEO types because it filled a self-esteem hole. I was getting my power tangentially, through association. I often dated these men too.
Now that my self-esteem space is (more or less) filled, I have different reasons for spending time around them. In no particular order.
a. They're fun! They tend to be high-energy, well-traveled, full of anecdotes and stories, have vast networks of interesting friends and love a challenge. They're also on good terms with many a maitre d'hotel, bartender, and hostess, and they like having a diverse group along for the ride.
b. They think big. CEOs who are entrepreneurial are constantly looking for growth and challenges. It's inspiring to be around them.
c. They are happy to introduce good people to other good people. Possibly for doing business. That's how it works (at every level), so why not go to the top?
d. I love working with them/coaching them. (Yes, there is a quid pro quo here.) I realized (not too many years ago) that I actually have something to offer CEOs besides being a hot date. Indeed, I have a track record now of working with CEOs individually as well as with their teams to move the needle in their sphere.
This is exciting! It means that not only am I there to soak up their knowledge, attitude and expertise, but also I have something of value for them too.
I've become a trusted advisor to some CEOs because I believed that I was good enough to share space with them and gradually gained their trust.
It's really important to me that it's not a one way street.
I like having VIPs in my network because they make me up my game and of course there's potential business to be done.
So, why do you want to chill with the VIPs?
When you know WHY you want to be around CEOs, then you can move into the next question:
2. Who are you and what do you have to offer?
We'll tackle that next time and I'll tell you why it's vital to know those answers in order to mingle with VIPs.
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