As an up and coming entrepreneur, chances are you’ve been advised to "find a mentor" again and again. Not only can mentors offer sage advice about precise dilemmas you likely go through daily, they're often good sounding boards off which you can bounce potential business ideas.
The question is, how do you meet this person?
For the first year of running my business, I was stumped by that query. After all, people are busy. And getting on the radar of those you admire -- let alone, getting them to help you out -- can be doubly tricky.
So I started researching, experimenting and tracking my results. Now a couple years later, I’m happy to report that I’ve built strong relationships with several mentors, three of who I speak to regularly. Their guidance and support has been invaluable.
To help you find similar success, here's my step-by-step strategy:
1. Choose your target.
An ideal mentor for you will have achieved what you want to achieve and be someone you could see yourself going out for a drink with.
It’s important to get guidance from someone who’s actually been there and done that instead of someone who’s only read books about the topics you need help with. Plus, your mentor-mentee relationship will be much more sustainable (and enjoyable) if your mentor is someone you get along well with.
2. Do your homework.
Now that you’ve picked your targets, it’s time to figure out what makes them tick. Start researching what they've done in the past, what they’re up to these days and what they think is interesting.
Check out their blog, study their business model, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to find out more details. Be sure to also read articles about them and books they've written.
3. Determine how you fit in.
To get people to work with you, it's often a good idea to give them an incentive. So figure out how you can add value to this person's life. Here are some choice questions to ask yourself during your research:
- What skill do I possess that I can use to help them?
- What suggestions do I have on how to improve their blog or website?
- How can I help them improve their marketing, business strategy or customer service?
- Who can I connect them with that could help them with their projects?
- What challenge are they currently having that I can help them with?
Spend as much time as you need on this step to figure how you can add value. If you want to have a world-class mentor, you must be willing to earn his or her favor. It starts with this step.
4. Make contact.
Send them an email, and follow this simple formula:
- Introduce yourself
- Explain how their work has impacted you
- Share specific ways you can help them
- Ask if they’d be willing to get on a 15-minute call with you so you can share in more details how you can be of service to them.
If your email is original and well crafted, and value proposition is strong enough, they’re very likely to accept your request.
5. Get on the phone.
When it’s time to talk to them, make sure you’re well prepared. Have your notes ready, visualize the conversation going really well and get your energy up before the call. When you're chatting, share specific ways that you can help improve their lives, businesses or projects.
Don't forget to be confident, have fun and towards the end, ask them if you could email them on occasion when you have a question. Since you’ve added value to their lives, they’ll typically be happy to reciprocate.
6. Follow up.
When building relationships following up is vital, yet too often it's overlooked.
Did you ever meet someone interesting at a networking event, told her you’d email "for sure," and you never followed up? Be honest… It happens to the best of us.
In your quest to get a new mentor, you absolutely cannot afford to make that mistake. After you get off the phone, send an email the same day and include:
- A thank you note
- Any resources you mentioned on the call
- A reminder of any next steps that were discussed
- Bonus: A personalized document summarizing what you helped them with and including any other tips you didn’t have time to mention.
This email will often seal the deal. Very few people take time to do this, and your new mentor will be impressed that you did.
Do you have any particular strategies to reach out to potential mentors? Please share them in the comments section below.