Investing in your time

One of my internship tasks was to speak to a client’s investors and find out who they know that might be interested in that client’s services. The great thing about talking to investors is that they are keen to help out, as they have a financial interest in the development of the company. The difficulty is that they don’t have a lot of time. This is my advice for making the most of both their willingness as well as their precious time:

1.       See them face to face

Although often difficult to attain, if you can arrange a meeting in person this clears a space in their diary that (usually) won’t be shuffled around. I’ve sat down to speak on the phone at least three times with one investor, and every time it’s had to be moved at the last minute. Seeing them in person guarantees you’ll see them, and you’ll get so much more out of it than any other kind of contact.

2.       Set your scene

Surroundings set the scene for a meeting, literally. For this kind of meeting, it was important for it to be light-hearted, so meeting in a casual place helped.  I met with one investor in a cool, quirky restaurant in Shoreditch with excellent chips. Another I met at a café in Mayfair at 11 in the morning, and while I waited I had the pleasure of watching a man wearing a dapper suit sitting alone smoking a cigar alongside his espresso.

3.       Prepare well

It makes such a difference to have done lots of research beforehand and arrive with plenty of ideas to guide them towards your goals. They want to help, and any lifelines you can throw them are welcomed. I raided their LinkedIn profiles in advance and came up with a long list of potential contacts that they could instantly eliminate or accept. This also got their cogs whirring for other similar contacts to the ones I had chosen. Similarly useful was a list of current clients, which helped investors to get a better idea of who I was looking for and further jogged their memory.

4.       Interested and interesting

I also took the opportunity to find out what they’re all about. Many of them are involved in pretty exciting projects, and finding out more about them not only gives you something fun and easy-going to chat about, but also gives you a better picture of how their network could fit with the company. Likewise, they took a friendly interest in me and my work, which takes the edge off the professional agenda.

5.       Get to the point

Be clear about what it is that you’re looking for. No need to bark orders at them, but they appreciate explicit instructions. In fact, many of them started the conversation with direct orders for me to give them direct orders.

They haven’t got oodles of time, but they want to help. Be straightforward and friendly. If all goes well, then both sides will leave happy.

By Leonie Nicks, Summer 2014 Intern