Guest post from the the wonderful ladies a Like a Boss Girls!
Success isn’t always about what you know – but it’s often about who you know and what THEY know.
Learning from people who’ve been there and done that is invaluable. They have wisdom, inspiration, useful advice and sometimes even useful-er admonitions.
Asking for an informational interview or for an opportunity to meet doesn’t have to be hard. There is nothing wrong with contacting someone you’ve never met. However, every business person puts a value on time. Before they commit to a meeting, they want to be certain that time is going to be wasted. If you’re contacting a complete stranger, ask for something that promises to be shorter than lunch. Ask for a phone call or a discreet amount of time (no more than 30 minutes) at a location convenient for them.
If you do have some connection, be sure that you point this out in the first sentence of your email or phone call. Even better, include it in the first five words: “Dear Ms. Benson, Theresa Scanlon suggested I reach out to you…”
After you establish your association, get to the point and don’t be wishy-washy about it. “I’d love to bounce some ideas off you” is meaningless. If you want to find out more about someone’s pioneering marketing techniques, say it straight out.
For their convenience you can always ask to meet at the person’s office. But if you really want this to be the start of something big, try inviting this new would-be mentor to lunch. (Avoid the whole fighting-over-the-check situation by casually noting that this is your treat. “If you have time this week, I’d love to take you to a quick lunch.”)
While your first business lunch can be nerve-wracking, it gets easier each time. Just keep it simple and take it bite by bite:
This is not the time to get all hoity-toity. Not only will suggesting a five-star restaurant with a seven-course meal come across as pretentious, it requires a greater time commitment than most can accommodate. Remember, a tightly-scheduled CEO won’t want to spend three hours at lunch no matter how charming you are.
Choose an eatery that doesn’t clash with your brand. If you’re launching a new yoga apparel line, suggesting that you grab a bite at the Heart Attack Grill will raise eyebrows. You want to demonstrate that your organization’s values are consistent with your own.
Since you’re the primary beneficiary of this lunch, you’re the one who travels. If possible, suggest a restaurant within ten minutes of your guest’s workplace.
What to eat? Don’t over-think it. There are however, some items to steer clear of: food that’s likely to wind up decorating your shirt (pastas with sauce, chips and salsa, chili) and meals that take a long time to prepare (like risotto), for example.
Keep the special food requests to a minimum. Even if you’re a lo-carb lactose-intolerant pescatarian with a peanut allergy and have to ask for changes. While one or two substitutions are fine, asking the chef to completely remake a dish to suit your needs sends the message that you are high maintenance and difficult to work with. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to find something you can eat, go online, check out the restaurant’s menu and choose something ahead of time.
If there’s absolutely nothing you can ingest without sending written instructions to the kitchen, do everyone a favor and simply go out for coffee instead.
THE WRAP UP
Unless the conversation is flowing like the Niagara, look to wrap things up around the 45-minute mark. This may mean forgoing dessert and coffee. Take a cue from your “date”; ask if they have time for coffee/dessert. If she/he is in a rush, have your credit card ready as the check is delivered and hand it over after taking a quick glance at the bill.
Just as important as the actual lunch is the day after the meeting. Be sure to follow-up with a thank you email, letting your dining companion know you appreciate their time. These meetings can and should be mutually beneficial. Offer up something to show your appreciation, even if it’s just mentioning some of the things you learned and how you’re going to follow-up.
Always remember: The real power in power lunching lies in the magical alchemy of connection!
For more tips on how to live, work, and rock like a boss,
check out Likea BossGirls.com!