How to get meetings with super busy people

By Julia Keady

Getting meetings with super-busy people isn't impossible - if you do it right. Here's a list of proven strategies.

We've all been there: desperately waiting to get started on a project or pitch an idea, but not being able to access the relevant stakeholder. Three unreturned messages or a few cancelled meetings later and you're still waiting. The good news is that busy people become busy because they know opportunities must be grabbed, and that means trial and error, which means meetings. So getting a meeting with them isn't impossible - if you do it right. Here's a list of proven strategies:

1. Get a referral

If you're yet to make contact with this elusive person, this is by far the easiest way in. So if you want to be taken seriously, do everything in your power to be referred by someone they already take seriously. Failing a direct referral, even being able to name-drop can help, but you'd better not be making it up.

2. Be exact

"Could we grab a coffee?" is the killer phrase that may make busy people jittery. It's an open-ended timeframe in an uncontrolled environment. A better approach is to make a specific request for a specific time period, for a specific purpose at a location of their choice. For example: "Could we please meet for 10 minutes to go over a business proposal at a location of your choice?"

3. Be interesting

"Could I have thirteen minutes and 24 seconds of your time?" gets attention and conveys the impression you know what you're doing. Similarly, an email subject line such as "Smart young entrepreneur needs a visionary investor" conveys both confidence and humility, while appealing to your target's ego.

4. Buy me a drink first

Don't ask for a lunch meeting with someone you don't know, particularly if you are not on the same 'level'. Make the smallest request you can. For example, ask them to "take a look", not make a commitment. Also, don't ever try to close the deal on the first meeting. Instead say something like: "I really appreciate your time. I'll leave it with you." Leave before they have to kick you out, and within the allotted time frame.

5. Do your homework

Take the time to find out who they are, what they like and how they operate. If you can discover their psychological motivators you're more than halfway home. Also, shared interests and views build trust.

6. Create your own opportunities

If you can't get in the front door, use the servant's entrance. Find out where they'll be, such as speaking at a function or lunching at a club, and engineer an 'accidental' meeting. Be funny, bright and interesting but don't pitch. Something like: "Oh, you're that John Smith. I think I approached you a while ago about an idea I had."

Getting that meeting takes a mixture of boldness, creativity and respect for the needs of the other person. How would you like other people to approach you?


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