Building Relationships With Influential People

I just called to say…

“Hold on a moment, I‘ll just give her a call and ask.”

Wouldn‘t it be nice to have that sort of relationship with top business influencers? Having a list of CEO‘s, business advisors and investors on your phone‘s speed-dial is the dream of many startups and would-be business people?

But, it‘s highly unlikely that the average entrepreneur or budding business person has access to the movers and shakers of modern business – as much as they would like the idea.

Symposiums, conferences, and trade shows are the arena of both the entrepreneur and budding business person wishing to rub shoulders and press the flesh with the influencers whom they admire most. These situations offer them real-time opportunities to meet their heroes, and more importantly real opportunities to make an impression and create a lasting and rewarding relationship.

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Building relationships during conferences

Ok, so you‘re attending a conference and manage to steal a brief audience with your hero. Try not to mess it up.

Firstly, be yourself, relax, be nice – sounds simple, right? – and then, offer something of mutual interest; a contact, a love of hot air balloons, whatever it is, we‘re just human and it‘s that commonality which unites us time and time again.

If you have a specific question, ask it. Wait for the answer, and listen politely without jumping in to make point after point. You‘ve asked for their advice, not the other way around.

When you‘ve had your moment of glory and received the level of contact you were seeking in the first place, try not to hog the person‘s time – and be sure to let them know you value their time.

Thank them politely for the opportunity, assuring them that their response or suggestion was both interesting and also perhaps something which may work for you and/or your firm. One last and highly important point. Before you part company, inform them that you‘ll be sure to send them the results of their advice once you get around to trying them out. Promise made and first steps achieved.

Keep that promise

If you made a promise to contact your new hero, DO IT! You‘ll be surprised by how interested they may be to know how things worked out for you. Was their advice of value to you? Did it succeed or fail? Did it increase business? These are the questions which constantly drive all successful business people, and ones which they expect to hear on a regular basis.

With your follow-up contact – email is probably best – be sure to sign off with another engaging question; one which keeps the door of communication wide open for the future.

“Thanks so much for the advice you gave me at the show in Munich. My sales team tried some of your ideas and our lead return was really impressive. Perhaps you can advise how long we should leave it before proceeding to the next level of engagement?“

It‘s just business, don‘t get jealous

Don‘t get upset if your‚ new ‘friend‘ doesn‘t reply immediately; they didn‘t become successful by answering every question from every stranger they met at a sales conference. But if – and when – they do answer you can be sure that you‘ve done something right.

If they decide to reply back with a second, third, or even fourth reply to your emailed enquiries or suggestions, you can be pretty sure that you‘ve found some sort of common ground, which is the basis of every decent working relationship.

building business relationships

Don‘t make any further contacts complex, or boring. No two-hundred-page reports, no time-consuming instructional videos, and definitely no long-winded and confusing graphs, charts and diagrams outlining where you see yourself in five years time. They don‘t care; at least not for now.

Keep them hooked

To use a fishing analogy it‘s important to keep the fish on the line, but sometimes the best way to do that is by letting the line go slack for just long enough. Then, when you think that enough time has passed try offering something of value to your new contact; a good news story, a mutual interest piece – which further adds to developing a personal relationship – an invitation to an event or show.

This slack-up interaction shows that you‘re not trying to get in his/her face, and that you actually are a pretty decent person to deal with. If you learn something new in business, some new means of getting a task done quicker, a more streamlined sales process, or just a cool new range of images to decorate the offices, be sure to pass them on. But not every day, right!

Show that you care

Be sure to congratulate your new acquaintance on any success or milestone; let them know that you‘re interested in their business and where it may be headed next. They will feel a far greater bond with you and your business the next time you meet. virtually or face to face.

Show me the money

Investors are the backbone of many businesses, but sometimes they‘re kept out of the picture – for whatever reason. Just like your influencer friend it‘s vastly important to nurture and maintain a healthy relationship with investors. Give them the same care and attention as your influencer. Ask for their advice, send them reports and updates on how business is progressing and projections of where it‘s going.

building relationships and showing money

If you‘re holding a corporate event, invite them along and get them to meet the team. Introduce them to companies you work with or plan to work with. In essence, treat them like good humans, they are the ones who have invested in you, or who may do so in the future, show them the respect they deserve.

It doesn‘t stop there

Keep the love alive. Just because you may have achieved your goal of making contact with a top influencer or investor, the job isn‘t finished there – far from it in fact. Making those follow-up calls, sending those emails, blog links and invitations is what will keep the relationship sweet, long into the future.

If you have problems with your business, be human, reach out for help from those who‘ve been there. Ask for advice or suggestions and enforce the fact that failure is often as important as success on the journey. Influencers like to show their humanity too, especially if you‘ve made a good impression throughout the early days of your relationship. They are usually more open to help a human situation than to help an entity, so keep that humanity no matter what happens or how successful you become.

As the saying goes, it‘s nice to be important, but it‘s much more important to be nice.


Abe Dearmer

Abe has a vast experience running multiple SaaS companies and is an expert on all things Sales, Marketing and SEO.

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