How To Get The Attention Of Top Executives: The “Sidestep” Method

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This post is a guest post written and submitted by Carl Friesen, founder of Thought Leadership Resources.

Do you ever get the feeling that your most ideal prospective client organizations are like fortresses designed to keep you out? Their senior leaders are guarded by receptionists, personal assistants, voicemail and a never-ending series of meetings.

So how do you get a chance to show what you can do to help them solve the issues they’re facing? If the front door is locked and barred to you, take a sidestep – go through the side door.

This works because military generals and captains of industry have something in common – they don’t work alone. Instead, they rely on a small army of advisors who provide specialized knowledge based on their qualifications, experience, and skills. In a business context, this includes corporate legal counsel, financial advisors, accountants, HR professionals, IT experts and others.

These “influencers” need to stay up to date on the issues that affect their area of expertise, so that they can offer good advice and answer probing questions, from senior management. This means that they can form an opportunity for you – as a side door into the organization. If you can convince some of a company’s influencers that you can help them look good to their boss in the C-suite, they’ll bring you in and recommend you to the highest levels of the organization.

The power of meeting the information needs of influencers

So how do you find the right influencers and make them aware of what you have to offer their organization – and help their careers at the same time?

One way is through creating articles, blog posts, speeches and other content that keep them up to date on the issues they’re facing.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a consultant who wants to help renewable-energy companies create effective business plans – and by “effective” we mean “able to help raise financing.”

While your main target client is the CEO of a renewable energy company, you’ve found these people hard to reach. Everyone wants a piece of their schedule. However, you’ve found that you can develop effective relationships with the CFOs and other financial people.

Accordingly, it may be good for you to consider what the CFO needs to know in order to support the drive for financing. That might include current best practice in displaying financial information, recent developments in World Bank and International Finance Corporation standards for financing which have influence on how commercial banks work, and news about newly-launched funds that are looking for investment opportunities.

This means that you need to step inside the head of the “influencers” that can get you through the side door and into the C-suite fortress. Think of the information that they need to do their jobs better, and that’s what you help them with. So your website content, blog posts, articles, speeches and other content aren’t about you and your services. They’re about how your influencers can look good to their boss.

How to create effective “influencer” content

Here are some steps for creating content that helps your influencers (so they can help you).

Think of all the advisors or influencers that your “eventual” ideal client relies upon – people inside the company (corporate legal counsel, for example) and externally (such as the company’s financial auditors).

Think of the issues and concerns that these influencers might have, and what knowledge they need in order to do their jobs of serving the Big Boss effectively.

Find effective ways to reach your influencers – through their business and professional media (for more on how to do that, see a post on my own blog here), through speaking engagements to their professional associations, posts in their LinkedIn groups, or whatever means you find effective.

Create content that is genuinely useful and shows that you understand the big picture affecting their work — and that you can help them in that work.

Develop ways to bring those influencers back to your website, to subscribe to your blog, to follow you on Twitter, or connect with you on LinkedIn, so you have an opportunity to develop that relationship.

Carl Friesen is the founder of Thought Leadership Resources, helping business professionals get recognized for their expertise. For weekly insights into how you can build your professional profile, and access a free e-book “Why you need to get working on your book right now,” click here.