Editor’s Note: ERE’s Joshua Jones spent this week at SXSW Interactive in Austin where he was playing with new technology and mixing with those who create it.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to catch up with Anand Chopra-McGowan, head of enterprise of new markets at General Assembly, after he delivered a popular SXSW session called “How to Get to the First Meeting.” During his presentation, Chopra-McGowan shared the methods used by him and his team when they try to make headway with large organizations. He and his group have sold services to an assortment of fortune 100 companies and they have a proven track record of making sales that other teams may have found impossible.
As I listened to Chopra-McGowan, I realized what he was teaching could be applied to talent acquisition and achieving first round conversations with high-level candidates. If someone is recruiting staff accountants, getting someone to commit to a first round interview might not be much of a challenge; if someone is recruiting CFOs and VPs, setting up that first phone screen can be a daunting task. Just as selling c-suite professionals on career changes is tricky, selling services to entities like GE and L’Oréal (two organizations Chopra-McGowan’s team has partnered with) can be quite a hurdle. There is a definite overlap in processes.
A Three-Point Formula
Chopra-McGowan advocates clarity, persistence, and creativity.
He explains that outreach should be clear and concise. Emails should be brief and voicemails should be to the point. The recipient’s time should always be respected.
Persistence is critical. He urges marketers and business developers (and recruiters too, although he didn’t mention them) to be willing to reach out to a person multiple times in order to create a dialogue. Professionals who are conducting this type of outreach must manage their expectations on the front end, i.e., plan on several attempts occurring before achieving success. Chopra-McGowan explains that many c-suite executives ignore first contact attempts by default, meaning they absolutely will not acknowledge a stranger’s first email or voicemail, and getting their attention can take 6 to 8 weeks or more, with multiple attempts at contact. Many top-level execs only reward determination. If someone does not following up on a first attempt, they’re often inadvertently letting the recipient know their content does carry enough value to merit attention. Recruiters and marketers alike are guilty of only trying once to reach a person and never following up on initial attempts to communicate.
Chopra-McGowan insists on creative outreach. Committing to several attempts at reaching someone is simply not enough if a marketer is going to reach out to that person the same way repeatedly. Chopra-McGowan
encouraged attendees to change things up. If a first email is of medium length and asks a recipient to schedule a call, the second outreach should be much shorter and have an alternate action request (such as asking for their opinion on a recent article, or requesting to be introduced to someone in their network).
The Pieces of the Overall Process According to Chopra-McGowan
Target List – Develop a roster of targets. Chopro is a huge advocate of having a list and managing data in an organized way. Use press releases to figure out which people are affiliated with which functions within organizations. These are easily found on company websites; don’t wait for these communications to hit conventional news channels. Scan directories. Scan (and attend) events. Figure out what people are talking about and who they’re talking to. Take notes. Gather contact information. Organize the data.
Content – Be mindful of what is being sent and produce compelling deliverables. Have prepared points in hand with a single-line company explanation. For example: “My name is so-and-so, my company does this, I know you do these things, and I can be of benefit to you because . . .” The content should be created with a unique recipient in mind. This model applies to marketing as well as recruiting.
Outreach Tools – Once it is figured out where a target audience resides, the proper methods should be used to reach the audience in a variety of ways. If they’re on Twitter, use it. If they’re on Instagram, establish communication there. Chopra-McGowan mentions that introductions are the most powerful tools a business development professional can have. Business experience, alma maters, and affiliations with social organizations should all be used. He also recommended Chris Fralic’s method of sending a self-contained email that can forwarded to individuals he’s approaching for an introduction to another person. Sending a person an email requesting an introduction to someone else can be quite effective. Emails should be sent with embedded content that can easily forwarded. This tactic saves the recipient the trouble of having to formulate a message on the behalf of someone else. It also eliminates the risk of having another person incorrectly or ineffectively explain the intentions of a business developer.
Outreach Patterns – This was mentioned above. Chopra-McGowan says to design a plan for messaging. If a first email is of medium length and asks for a conversation to be scheduled, the second attempt should be short and contain a different call to action. Variety and novelty was mentioned on two different lists Chopra-McGowan shared, a strong indicator of how highly he regards this strategy.
Chopra-McGowan had great recommendations and his ideas truly apply to marketing and recruiting. Whether a startup is selling a service to the CFO of a fortune 100 company or a recruiter is trying to encourage a CHRO to consider a new opportunity, getting that first conversation to happen can be hard. With Chopra’s tips on engagement, chances of success increase substantially.
Here’s a list of tools that Chopra-McGowan suggests people consider using: