It blows my mind when I meet entrepreneurs who get advice for major decisions from someone who hasn’t achieved success in the area they’re seeking to conquer (ex: parents, friends, business partner). A mentor is someone who’s been there, done that, and is willing to help you out. It’s that simple.
Do Your Homework
Google them, see if they’re on linkedin.com, and if you’re lucky, they may even have a personal blog or twitter account. Read everything you can find. Don’t bring everything up in the meeting, but being aware is VERY important.
Try to find something you both have in common; a hobby, special interest, an association, maybe it’s a friend. Being able to casually ask about this can accelerate your ability to “connect” with them quickly.
Get an Introduction
If you can (it’s not necessary), find someone who knows the potential mentor and ask for an introduction. If you can’t get a “warm introduction,” then name dropping might be your next best bet.
Ask him if you can stop by his office, and bring coffee for a quick introduction.
Tell him what you are seeking advice on; for example, business growth, partnerships, financing, hiring, even leadership.
Add Value (Important)
If possible, ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. I always try to add value first, before ever asking for anything. One great questions is: “What does your ideal customer look like?” – then, down the road, you can send referrals or relevant news snippets, etc.
It may take months before you can get a meeting. It doesn’t matter. Keep trying. People are busy, and your not high priority in their lives (yet :-). Passion and persistent are your most important assets, keep trying different approaches, without being annoying, until you get a meeting.
A Few More Tips:
- Create a list of 20-25 mentors you would like to connect with, review it weekly.
- When you send your email, keep it for reference in the future; it’s a template to some degree.
- Keep it short, sometimes saying less is better and won’t make them have to read/think too much.
- Try to show that you’re passionate about your work! Do you have a big goal? Share it.
- Don’t stroke their ego first meeting. Ask open-ended questions – don’t act like a fanboy.