Does networking with senior executives terrify you? I have been surrounded by business owners for most of my career and I’ve learned a lot through their friendship, mentoring and counsel. In this blog post, I am going to offer some advice for getting comfortable with networking around senior executives.
Early Career: Networking with Senior Executives
At 16, I completed a Summer placement at Wood Group Management Services where I worked alongside their top three executives. They were as ‘normal’ as could be and I had no hesitation asking them questions. I chatted about life, what they did on the weekend, their families and sometimes asking for advice and guidance. Maybe the teenage girl in me was yet to learn the common hierarchy of the business world.
I went on to nursing where I cared for known sportsmen, a royal, a TV celebrity and many senior executives. My earlier experience remained true – they were normal people with a need (usually needing to be fixed) and it was my job to support them and their families through the process.
Don’t get me wrong, I had difficult patients. Like a few who thought that their O&G title and medical insurance should place them in a private hospital with fillet steak for dinner. Unfortunately for them, they had to be treated like everyone else. When it comes to an emergency, a private hospital doesn’t have an A&E or Trauma department, there is no special treatment for titles or high salaries. And there’s certainly no fillet steak served at NHS hospitals!
Entering the Business World: Networking with Senior Executives
Now in the business world, I have no anxieties at all about networking with senior executives. In my first job after nursing, I worked and shared an office with the company director. I was quickly networking with other directors and meeting with MDs for lunch.
Honestly, I often found middle management harder to deal with. Perhaps because by the time a person gets to senior executive level or is running their own business, they have a different manner about them. They seem to respect people who work hard, and they have a no BS policy, which resonates with me. I’ve loved dealing with people like this.
Top Tips: Networking with Senior Executives
I’m thankful for my early career experience with senior executives. I believe that it helped me build the senior level network I have today. To be able to pick up the phone and ask for advice or guidance has been invaluable for my career. Networking with senior executives is key to business development. No wonder that is where most of my clients come from.
Here are 10 tips for making the most of networking with senior executives:
- Start a conversation asking about their interests. Remember that even CEOs are human beings too and therefore want to engage in normal conversations. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- Avoid treating executives as superhuman. Simply treat them as you’d like to be treated.
- Don’t name drop as a way to get their attention. Be yourself – be real!
- Respect their time. Senior executives are usually running a business or managing a large part of an organisation, so if they give you their time, use it wisely and respectfully.
- Get to the point and make it memorable to take advantage of the short amount of time you might have with them. It will make the next part easier too…
- Follow up after your meeting. Ensure you thank them for their time and advice. This is important for relationship building at all levels.
- Offer your help if the opportunity arises. Senior leaders are not experts in everything and they could need help from time to time. Whether it’s a travel tip or information about a new piece of technology that might mitigate a challenge, offer something that benefits them (and I don’t mean a sales pitch!).
- Ask for advice or mentoring. Senior executives are often more than happy to help others. If you feel a specific leader would make an ideal mentor for you, ask them. You could also ask for feedback or advice in an area of your business or career to benefit from their expertise straight away.
- Be genuine. Truly listen rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. Give sincere responses.
- Don’t sell at the first meeting. This is off-putting to most people, and especially to the guy at the top! Invest in building a relationship first. An MD or CEO will often pass a supplier enquiry down to a colleague as this isn’t often where their focus is….do not be offended by this.
Next time you are invited to a networking event with senior executives in attendance, don’t be anxious. Be yourself, be respectful and enjoy spending time with people who are as human as you and I.