You probably know that powerful people receive dozens, if not hundreds, of unsolicited requests every day. And at networking events or speaking engagements, the most influential folks in the room usually have to fight back a scrum of people hoping to get a word in or hand off a business card.
To get on their radar, you have to do more than cold email and hope for the best, or push your way to the front of the line at industry mixers.
The better way to connect with superstars isn’t to get in front of them and ask them for things. As Duke University professor and author Dorie Clark put it, “The world is competing for the attention of the most successful people,” she wrote for Harvard Business Review. “If you want to meet them—and break through and build a lasting connection—the best strategy is to make them come to you.”
Here are a few ways to do that.
1. Promote Their Products
Entrepreneurs are usually extremely passionate about the products they’re creating, so one of the best ways to get on their radar is to praise their products or services—publicly.
Of course, only do this when you’ve genuinely gotten value from them. After all, many people can smell when a compliment is fake.
Whether it’s recommending their book on Facebook or explaining how their workshop or event changed your life or business in a blog post, you’ll be surprised at how often influencers notice these little things. It’s a great way to attract their attention and begin to build a relationship.
2. Sign Up for Their Classes (and Be a Star Student)
Many of the high-profile experts you want to connect with offer programs or teach courses you can enroll in. Being a student is one of the biggest gifts you can give them. When you become successful with someone’s teachings, you become a case study—a living proof that their methodologies work.
I met one of my mentors by signing up for several of his courses and worked hard to become a star student. Over time, we developed a strong relationship.
3. Offer Help During Challenging Times
One magazine editor I know sent a mass email sharing that the magazine she was working for had closed down and that she was looking for new opportunities. I responded right away and offered to put her in touch with people in my network for leads.
When you help people during challenging times, they’ll remember your generosity for years to come. Think about it: If you were in their position, you’d feel the same way.
4. Connect Them With Resources
Just like the rest of us, powerful people share their updates, news, and challenges with their networks on social media and elsewhere. If you spot a way to help, do so.
Maybe you can recommend a great local restaurant or attraction if they’ll be visiting your city, or a great article or book that addresses the issues they’re facing. Passing along this sort of help demonstrates your interest in building a mutually beneficial relationship, rather than just asking for favors.
5. Introduce Them to Connections in Your Network
People in your network are always looking to make other great connections. It doesn’t take long to write an email introducing two people to one another, but those few minutes can result in someone getting a new client, a new referral partner, or their next big opportunity.
(Just make sure the connection is mutually beneficial, and that both people opt in before you make the introduction, or you’ll be in for some awkward conversations down the line.)
I tried this approach myself when I found out an entrepreneur and podcaster I admired was coming to New York, where I live. I wanted to connect with him, but I knew he was a very busy guy. Instead of trying to set up a one-on-one meeting, I offered to host a dinner party with him, and a few experts in my circle who I thought might interest him. The next thing I knew, he invited me to be a guest on his podcast.
So if you’re worried that asking an influential person to make time for just you is a tall order, think about who else in your network they might find value in—and pool your resources. That’s what networking is all about, after all: It’s not who you know individually, but collectively that makes all the difference.
This article was originally published on Fast Company. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of people networking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.