Industry captains, high-flying executives and entrepreneurs inspire and sometimes even intimidate. But there comes a time when every business owner needs to approach such 'top-game' professionals. Just like companies research before launching into new markets, you need to research your top-game targets before approaching them.
Research is a central concept in Christopher Kai's book Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities. The networking guru spent over 15 years helping companies drive revenue through big-game relationships. His advice? "Success isn't about who you know. It's about who you want to know."
Pin them down
Say you've thoroughly researched your targets’ background. Now, how do you meet them?
Since high-flyers are tricky to get appointments with, you have a better chance crossing paths with them at VIP events, such as business conclaves and charity balls. Try to find the ones they frequent, as well as any events they're listed to speak at.
To get behind the ropes, Kai advises volunteering and applying for media passes. If that doesn't work, hang around the lobby to catch the high-flyers as they are leaving.
You're approaching your target, but your heart's racing. How can you stay calm?
One way is to adopt psychological techniques that athletes use to boost their performance under pressure. Sports psychologist Martin Turner coaches athletes to use positive mental preparation to overcome their body's stress reaction, which hinders decision-making. His method involves positive visualisation, self-talk and calming 'game routines' to prevent panic.
Know your pitch
Now that you're calm, what should you say to your target?
Perfecting your pitch is critical when talking to top-game people who get approached all the time. "You should be able to precisely communicate how your product would add value and solve their existing problems," said Smriti Kataria, director, Marketing and Research at Near.
The Singapore-based location intelligence startup has scored top-game investors and clients alike – including Sequoia Capital, Nike and Samsung. When approaching such high-flyers, Kataria recommends that entrepreneurs come prepared with case studies demonstrating the value of their offering. "Have very clear answers for why they should choose you over other players," she said.
What if you're not pitching a venture, but yourself?
The same rules apply: you need to hone your 'personal pitch' so that your target remembers you. Kai does this by telling a memorable story about his name, Chris. It's fairly common. But as Kai tells it, his mother actually named him after Christopher, the patron saint of transportation.
Go the extra mile
The final trick to catch top-game individuals is to put your needs aside and consider theirs. Offering something people need turns encounters into relationships. As Kai said, "even billionaires want people to help them."
When you are providing for top game, ensure your own game's up to scratch. "Go the extra mile," advises Jionghan Ng, founder of BluePerks. The Singapore-based startup provides digital marketing and analytics services to consumer and business-facing companies. "If you take care of your clients, your clients will take care of you – referral is the tried and tested way to break through to a high-profile client, regardless of the industry," Ng said.
Whether you're seeking a mentor or growth, building your top-game network can help. While they seem to function on another level, if you research, sell yourself and go the extra mile, top-game people can be well within your reach.