Over the last 15 years, I've heard this alot. From key leaders, CEO's, authors, celebrities, politicians, actors, producers, pastors, and lots of other folks. I would figure out a way to make a connection with someone, and then arrange a meeting, phone call, breakfast, lunch, or coffee. Inevitably, this question would eventually come out in the conversation. I loved hearing it. It was the honest question, and I wasn't afraid to answer it.
Now I ask it. Not because I'm someone who deserves to ask it, but more because time is precious. When you are a leader and have a team and an organization to run, besides family and friends and all kinds of other things that require your attention, and there are people who want to spend time with you, you have to make choices. I understand now why all these folks were always asking me that question... "So what do you really want?"
So next time you have a meeting or phone call or a lunch with someone who you respect and want to learn from and consider to be a key influencer, here are a few pointers on how to make sure they'll want to talk to you the next time you call or want to meet:
1. Honor that person's time. Ask how much time they have, both before the meeting and once you arrive. Once you know how much time they have, then stick to that. And actually wrap up sooner than what is expected.
2. Ask way more questions than you give answers. You're not the expert, they are. So leverage the time and soak up their wisdom. Don't use the time to share your story, unless the person truly wants to know.
3. Pay for it. If you are at breakfast or lunch or dinner, pay for the meal. I don't care if you are meeting with Bill Gates, pay for it. It is a sign of respect. Even if you are a non-profit and trying to raise money, pay for the meal. Seriously.
4. Tell the person what the agenda is. If you are planning to ask them for money, tell them that. If you want a favor, tell them that. If you have a certain need you want to get their advice on, tell them that. If you have specific questions you want to ask and get their answers on, tell them those questions. Be upfront. Be honest. Be real and authentic.
5. Be prepared. Know everything you can about the person you are meeting with. Have 8-10 questions prepared for the conversation, plus several items of interest you will want to cover. Do your homework. The more you know about someone and have a good understanding of who they are and what their interests are, proves that you value and respect their time.
6. Write it down. Bring something to write with, and write down the good stuff. And write down the key connections and things you can follow up on later.
7. Follow up. First, write a personal hand written note to say thanks for the time. Then, figure out ways you can serve that person. If that person likes a certain coffee, send them a gift card. If that person likes a certain college team, make a connection about that team a month later. If you can make a connection for that person that will serve them, do it. If you want to create a long term value add friendship, you'll need to be intentional around their likes and interests.