by Gareth Cotten on 29/08/12 at 6:51 am
There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s life when you want to get hold of someone. And not just anyone, but a director or senior executive of your target company.
Maybe you want to share how awesome your product or service is; maybe you want to want to pitch for some work you know is on offer; or maybe you just want to touch base about a great idea you’ve had that will benefit you both. Whatever the reason is, you know that you don’t want to have to work your way up the usual chain of command, as your idea is likely to die a slow death on some middle manager’s desk. But how do you get hold of the big boys? Here are couple of tips and thoughts to help you parachute in right at the top:
The social media angle
The beauty of executives is that they very often have some form of personal social media presence. Look for them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or an executive profiling site like Who’s Who. Do they have a relatively open profile, with an email address or contact number listed? One of the beauties of Facebook, for instance, is that you can drop a full-on message to someone that you’re not friends with at all (the point being not to pitch your whole idea, but to get across enough of a tantaliser to get them interested in talking to you).
On the phone
Prefer to do the voice-to-voice thing? The major problem here is that big-hitters generally have secretaries or PA’s acting as a filter or ‘gatekeeper’, with the express purpose of fielding unsolicited calls, and keeping their bosses’ eyes and ears free for their core functions. The best thing about gatekeepers, though, is that they’re more than likely on a standard 8-5 or 9-5 schedule. So, if you want to get hold of the execs directly, try phoning their numbers either very early in the morning or after the strict ‘close of business’ – they’re much more likely to answer their own phones.
Dropping an email
Want to go the unassuming email route? Great, but now your major problem is finding their direct email address (so that it doesn’t end up in some gatekeeper’s inbox instead). First plan here is to Google the hell out of them, and see if they’ve slipped up by listing it somewhere in the past that they’ve since forgotten about (even when they move up the corporate ladder, their email address has likely stayed the same). The next plan is to decode what their email format is. Assuming the business uses individuals’ names for emails (more common in bigger corporates), get hold of some publicly available underling, and find what their address is. Look at the format, and then use that format for the person’s name that you’re targeting. The most common permutations are: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; or email@example.com
Work your network
Otherwise, there’s always pressing those that you do know for some kind of connection or ‘in’. Put it out on your social media profiles that you’re wanting to reach an exec at such-and-such a company – you’d be surprised how forthcoming your network can be. Maybe you know a lower-level employee at the company, even if only as an acquaintance – ask them if they have your target’s email address on file somewhere (rather ask for an impersonal email address, as your contact may get uphill for giving away direct phone numbers). And if your contact has even the remotest relationship with your target, ask for some kind of intro. A short call, text or email that you’ll be dropping them a line will up your chances of getting a response (or at least first contact) immensely.
Gareth Cotten is one of the growing breed of SA entrepreneurs with that ‘world-domination’ look in his eyes. Gareth runs the coaching and consulting practice 'Good Advice'. Gareth is also the 'course convener' for the University of Cape Town (Law@Work) Start and Manage a Small Business course and the University of Cape Town Basics of Financial Management course. View more articles by Gareth Cotten.