Who has time for meetings?

A lot of entrepreneurs assume that the initial way to engage with an investor is to *insist* on a meeting. It’s a relatively safe assumption that anyone on the buy side (an investor, an advertiser, an executive at a large company) receives far more requests for meetings than they can follow up on, and are constantly looking for excuses to say “no.”

Synchronous activities, such as phone calls, screencasts, videos, and webex conferences are almost as bad. If you’re trying to get the attention of an investor or exec at a major company, and don’t want to waste either your time or their time, pay very, very close attention to the cost of their time and you’ll fare better. In order of escalation, one should proceed as follows:

– Introduction – have your introducer send them an email *without putting you in the to or cc line.* That way, if the target does not wish to engage, you haven’t put them in the awkward position of having to supply an excuse or a turndown. The introducer protects their ability to be taken seriously this way.

– Once you have a response / interest, send something written for them to look over and offer a phone call, webex, or meeting as next steps. Written always beats a video or screencast, since most intelligent people can read a lot faster than they can listen. A webex demo is a crutch – if your product has to be explained, it probably isn’t ready for the average consumer. And if it’s in beta, you should at least know how to open up a password-protected demo version.

– If the target displays interest in learning more, then you can move to a call or in-person meeting.

People who insist on a webex demo or in-person meeting at the outset are forcing the target to make a high-cost decision, and are subtly signaling that they don’t value their own time, and certainly don’t value the targets’ time. They might think that they are demonstrating persistence, but one wants to see persistence in chasing the product, not in chasing dead-ends.

In short, your high-value targets don’t have time for meetings between un-screened parties, and since you’re busy building a company, you shouldn’t have time for them either.

17 thoughts on “Who has time for meetings?

  1. Definately a mindset changing article, right from your bank of experience. However I’ve come across few people who want Demo for so obvious applications and products, which even a five year old can understand easily. So differnt people, different requirements….:)

  2. Great post! Add one more thing that, which I’ve come to realise since moving to the Valley eight months ago.

    People here are brutal about email. Don’t ramble; don’t try to sell yourself – just get to the point.

    1) Who you are
    2) What you need
    3) What they can do for you (and if it’s not obvious, why they benefit involving themselves).

    If possible, make it three sentences – not paragraphs. (The best emails are those that communicate the message in five sentences.)

  3. Great advice. In general, people cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes. In general, people also cannot evaluate their own proposal through someone else’s eyes. By following the guidelines you posted, anyone can be sure that they pursued an opportunity to the best of their ability without going over the top. Great post.

  4. Great post. I’d suggest that this is also generally true of all meeting requests – not just for start-ups with potential investors – but for anyone doing business development, sales, etc.

  5. Chris Sacca said something apropos of this post at the recent Future of Funding conference. He said “your URL is your pitch deck”

  6. Great post Naval. The idea of a high cost decision is very interesting and drives down the point.

  7. Very practical. One thing I would add is that you can also ask the introducer to take the target’s temperature after the meeting/demo. Often they will be more candid with someone they know than with you directly. Especially useful if things are “in the middle” and you are getting a lukewarm or muddled response and it’s not clear what to fix before you approach someone else.

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