Decision-Maker Meetings is an online course on professional networking in which Mara McCann, the course teacher, teaches how to build real relationships with influential decision-makers in order to greenlight your career. This course is also taught by fellow business professional, Justin Giddings.
- Use LinkedIn to connect with decision-makers
- Message decision-makers with your purpose (your WHY) in mind for the best results
- Post content on LinkedIn to establish your presence and expertise
About The Professor: Mara McCann is a creative business strategist with 10+ years of experience, specializing in emerging tech, mentorship of start-ups, and partnership development. As a strategic partnerships expert, she has managed key investment partnerships for companies in big data, mobile and smart machines. She was on the business development team at one of the top innovation labs in New York, as well as the acting advisor to the founder of a Silicon Valley early-stage technology investment incubator, who is now listed in the top 50 futurists worldwide.
Her Professional Networking Process
#1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile for your goals.
Set a goal for what you want to achieve in the next three months. Then, optimize your LinkedIn profile for that goal.
Do your best to share and convey your “AMV” (your authenticity, mission, and vision) to the world through your LinkedIn profile:
- Authenticity: reflect who you are authentically
- Mission: share what you want for the world
- Vision: convey what you want for the world as it relates to your work
Make sure to periodically update your LinkedIn accordingly over time.
#2. Search for decision-makers.
There are three main ways to do this:
- Use LinkedIn’s search bar: this is your “door” to get to whoever you want (there’s often no gatekeeper because you’re connecting with each contact directly).
- Join LinkedIn groups: more than a great way to find others, it’s also a great way for others to find you.
- Follow LinkedIn hashtags: viewing who else is following the hashtags you’re following is an outside-the-box way to discover and reach others.
#3. Message decision-makers.
Send a “purpose message,” not a pitch message. Connect with your purpose (your AMV) as the reason behind why you’re reaching out.
This is the anatomy of a purpose-driven message:
- Opening Line (Your Hook): Talk about them
- Middle Line (Your Story): Share about you
- Closing Line (Your Offer): Give your call to action
Opening Line (Your Hook)
Say something nice as your opening line.
- Compliment their work
- Congratulate them on a recent award or win they had
- Thank them for something inspiring they did or were a part of
- Thank them for an imaginative or innovative contribution (maybe they shaped something in the industry)
Middle Line (Your Story)
Share a story that “qualifies” you as a person the decision-maker wants to meet with.
Some easy ways you can qualify yourself are to share:
- What you’re currently working on
- What projects you have in development
- Your past accolades (including any quality charity work you’ve done)
- Any current podcasts, blogs, or platforms you have
- The team you’re building
McCann says here that LinkedIn is not about “performance” — it’s not about proving yourself to others as being “worthy” of opportunities. It’s about purpose — your authenticity, mission, and vision.
So, you’re only qualifying yourself to give the decision-maker a more tangible reason to meet with you, not necessarily to try and “look good” to the decision-maker.
Closing Line (Your Offer)
Offer them a closing action they can take to meet with you.
Some optional closing actions are:
- Book a zoom meeting
- Book a phone call
- Invite them to a podcast
- Interview them for a blog
- Invite them to an event
If, on the other hand, you’re not ready to meet with them yet but still want them in your network, you can close with lines aimed at keeping the loop open.
Some examples are:
You: “Looking forward to following your work.”
You: “Looking forward to hearing you speak at XYZ event.”
Here’s a script you can use for your reach-outs that McCann shares:
You: “Hi (NAME), (insert a nice line about their work).
I’m working on (insert what you’re currently working on).
Interested to introduce myself.
How’s this week for a call or coffee?”
#4. Prepare to meet with decision-makers.
The more talking points you have, the more confidence you’ll feel in the meeting (and, the more fun you’ll have during the meeting!).
- Find out any recent news they’ve shared (do a basic Google search to see news updates)
- Check their LinkedIn and any relevant social media for any job changes or updates
McCann calls this, “Mastering the 30-minute Cold Meeting.”
To prepare for the meeting before it starts, write out the following:
- What is your goal for the meeting? (This relates to your vision.)
- What do you want out of the meeting? (This relates to your mission.)
- What can you give or offer them? (This relates to your ask.)
#5. Meet with decision-makers.
McCann recommends executing what she calls “vision-based meetings.” Rather than focusing on getting what you want, focus the meeting around your AMV.
These are the qualities of a vision-based meeting:
- Seek to build a relationship real enough to be able to call them afterward
- Ask them what their creative vision is and search for commonalities between their vision and yours
- Know your own business, project, and vision
- Listen for what motivates and inspires them and what they’re passionate about
- Leave room and time for exchanging ideas in the meeting
And, this is the anatomy of a vision-based meeting:
- The Set-Up
- The Delivery
- The Punchline
- Introduce yourself.
- Set the agenda.
- Share your personal story briefly and impactfully: what got you to where you are now?
- Ask them about how they got to where they are now: for example, say, “Love to know more about you, what you’re working on, how you got here.”
- Ask them about projects they are the most passionate about: you can start by asking them what project they’re most passionate about and go from there.
- Find commonalities between your visions: in order to frame you both as having a “shared vision.”
- Make the correlation back to your current project or future project: when discussing your shared vision, say, “Yes, and…(insert how your shared vision is related to your current or future project).”
- Clearly define the opportunities to work together: do you have an idea you can pitch them that they’d be interested in working with you on?
- Clearly define the next steps: be specific and set a timeline to follow up with them. For example, say, “So happy that you want to see the deck, I’m going to follow up and send that to you tonight. Let’s touch base in two weeks after you’ve had time to review it.”
#6. Follow up with decision-makers after your meetings.
Here, you should aim to get to the follow-up meeting that you scheduled at the end of the first meeting.
To keep in touch until that time, McCann recommends “depositing capital into your relationship banks.” (Here, we call this increasing your social capital with your contacts.)
A few ways you can give value to your contacts to stay in touch and deepen your relationships are to:
- Invite them to discussions you’re hosting on topics or issues relevant to your project and/or audience
- Share guest spots you do on podcasts, blogs, Facebook Live, or Instagram live
- Circle back with any wins and updates: which allows them to follow your journey to success
- Send them “thank you” messages: the more personal the “thank you,” the more social capital is built
A couple more ideas are to create your own LinkedIn event and invite a small group of people who are decision-makers you really want to know.
Or, engage with the LinkedIn posts of people you want to stay in touch with. (As an added plus here, this approach can also lead anyone who sees your engagement to check out your profile and what you’re working on which leads to more connections.)
Real Life Applications
- Don’t think of LinkedIn as social media.
Think of it more as “business media” because it’s a business platform that originally started as a sales platform. And, today, it’s optimized for thought leadership and storytelling.
So, also consider taking the time to identify, define, and share your AMV as a solid investment in not only yourself, but also your career as a whole because it sets you apart as a thought leader in your industry on and off LinkedIn.
- Avoid sending InMail messages.
With InMails, the contact doesn’t become a part of your network, you can’t do group messages (such as if you want to introduce two people), and you come across less like a potential partner and more like a salesperson.
- Doesn’t teach the advanced social skills for higher-level socialization
For example, McCann recommends closing with this call-to-action, “How’s this week for a call or coffee?”
In sales, that’s called the “assume the close” technique. And, it denies the receiver the freedom to decide whether or not they want to meet yet because it goes straight into assuming they will by immediately moving toward scheduling the date.
That can work with lower-quality individuals and might be a good strategy if you only care about playing networking strictly as a numbers game.
But, for intentional reach-outs with high-quality individuals, it’s best to protect their power and freedom by asking if they’d like to meet first.
- Recommends you invite them for coffee
As we’ve mentioned in other reviews, this is a “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT) fail.
Inviting them to coffee causes you to come across as a taker because it communicates, “In the middle of the day, right when you’re probably working, let’s have a casual conversation while I ask you a ton of questions. And, just in case I decide to pay, it’ll be cheap for me (that’s probably what your input is worth, anyway).”
An exception would be if you’re so high-status, your very presence raises the status of those around you (which would be a form of giving value and make going to coffee more of a win-win).
But, putting all of the exceptions aside, as a general rule, avoid this.
- Shares limited value-giving strategies for building social capital
The ideas McCann shares on how to build social capital with your contacts are only effective if your contact finds them valuable.
So, for cases where they don’t (and the value you’re sharing is underappreciated), this program would’ve been more helpful if it shared more potential value-giving strategies.
- Teaches a productive approach to the “Dogged Style”
We sometimes refer to the approach of constantly following up until you book the meeting or an opportunity as the “Dogged Style.”
It can damage many relationships because people are likely to find your relentless attitude annoying and bothersome.
But, it can also build many relationships and lead to many opportunities because it’s a persistence that outlasts others who give up easily. And, it gains the respect of others who also share in your dogged attitude (or remember a time when they had to be dogged as a younger up and comer in their own careers).
McCann teaches an approach to the Dogged Style that leads to little downsides and a lot of upsides and positive results.
- The course teacher is very active in the program
McCann takes it upon herself to not only be available for any questions anytime, she also connects her students to any opportunities she feels may be a fit for them (which I’ve found is quite often).
At the time of this review’s writing, she shares her real phone number with her students, answers any questions they email or message her on LinkedIn, and goes above and beyond to help her students see the results they’re looking for.
After having taken numerous courses in personal and professional development, I must say, I was very surprised to see how involved she is in the program. And, I found myself feeling very grateful for her time one on one.
Decision-Maker Meetings (9.5/10): This course is geared toward filmmakers and actors. So, if you’re not in the entertainment industry, you might not get as much value from it — though, it should be noted that McCann more than makes up for that with her personal support and it’s still a great course for learning networking as a practice.
With that said, if you are in the entertainment industry, this course is absolutely one of the best there is if you’re looking to connect with influential decision-makers. And, what’s really special about McCann’s work is that while she tackles the basics she also manages to enrich the more advanced students of networking skills.
You can get more ideas in this course on social strategy.