Published June 16, 2020
How to Network with Senior Business Leaders
Networking can be challenging for many people but networking with senior executives can seem daunting and often impossible to achieve. Are we over-thinking a simple act of communication that can lead us to meaningful business?
Whether you find networking easy or awkward, getting time in front of a senior executive is a difficult process. In a pre-COVID world, networking with senior business leaders was a regular part of attending in-person events. Networking groups would have included; networking drinks, dinners, networking lunches, groups, engagements and workshops. Most of these meetings would have taken place at; a conference, an event, exhibition or gathering of a key group of executives at one time. This entrepreneur-level, meet-up approaches would often create a business to business engagement, building credibility within brands and establishing long term relationships.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the opportunity to network in person has temporarily been suspended. Senior business leaders still need to network and sales and marketing executives have had to very quickly re-think their approach to networking opportunities. As a result, most forms of networking are now taking place virtually and digitally online.
When it comes to initiating contact with senior executives, LinkedIn has always been a significant pathway to establish contact. It enables you to connect and introduce yourself to key prospects. Viewing LinkedIn profiles and an executive’s interaction with other leaders within the field can help you to know how to position yourself to the executive to see how you may network with them. Using InMails and LinkedIn Groups will increase your chance to build long term relationships, leading to meaningful engagements.
Other forms of social media such as Twitter, will also allow you to introduce yourself. Following people and companies will give you a bigger picture of their business needs and searching through hashtag threads will provide an insight into business challenges and brand awareness.
The revival of cold calling
Senior business leaders are trailing through their inboxes and will not always have the time to prioritise an email from you, no matter how important you sound. Simply picking up the phone and reaching out to them in person could be a game-changer at this time. It’s the easiest way to speak directly to an executive and too often avoided. Whether it’s in fear of rejection or being a nuisance, cold calling could be a pleasant distraction from numerous emails and LinkedIn requests when a business leader is at home and possibly able to take the call. It has many advantages if you do it right.
Whichever approach you take to introducing yourself and establishing a connection, you will then be using virtual webinars, conferences and roundtables to network with executives on a more profound level.
When engaging with senior leaders to network at this level, it’s important to;
- Make a connection and to be human. Don’t over-think their status because they are human and maintaining a human approach will be refreshing to them.
- Be strategic. You need to plan and prepare to engage.
- Be approachable and back this up with appropriate body language. A smile will help to break down barriers. Be aware of your gestures and the impact that they have on camera.
- Listen. Do not over-share.
- Follow up. Once you have made the connection, it’s polite to follow up and regularly ‘check-in’ with the executive. You want to nurture and grow the relationship.
The power of language
Communication and the language that we use both in written and spoken form will have a huge impact on how you are perceived and ultimately accepted. Senior leaders are pushed for time, so getting them to recognise and listen to what you have to say is a skill. Ultimately, to get their attention you will need to be direct and assertive without being harsh and aggressive. This can be achieved by communicating with both abstract and concrete language. Practising this will allow you to be heard and to get attention. In return, it’s important to clarify what you hear or read by asking relevant questions; “what, how…etc.” Your tone needs to be appropriate and concise. Planning is essential.
In a post-COVID world, there will be a new normal to how we network with senior business leaders. There will, fundamentally, be less travel but this could allow more time for face to face connections. There will be huge leaps forward in the virtual world and the advancement of online networking could lead to more meaningful business being done virtually. From a sales perspective, online developments are providing multiple touchpoints for networking with senior leaders. How we choose to use these will determine the level of meaningful engagement that is achieved.