Get them excited about it
In addition to who you are, your introduction should strongly reflect your value to the VIP. Tell them exactly what you want from them straight away, but do it in a way that suggests that they’re coming out on top. This makes it a sweeter sell—they’re getting publicity, a share of your success, even the satisfaction of having done you a solid (although that last one’s pretty risky). If you’re just asking for advice, be straightforward and let them know you’d simply be thankful to pick an expert’s brain. Most of all, be brief.
Don’t make them work
If you’re coming to them, chances are you know exactly how they can assist your cause—don’t ask them to help you and then expect them to do all the work. Give them options. Anticipate what steps they’ll need to take to fulfill your request and list them, including a choice between varying degrees of involvement. For example, suggest that a prospective spokesperson give a speech at your foundation dinner, or else tweet out a link to your donation website. Oh, and if you give them an exit strategy? They’ll probably take it.
Think of what their objections might be
Speaking of exit strategies, one of the quickest ways to lose a VIP’s interest is by giving them room to raise issues with your request. Once they come up with a reason not to help, the damage has already been done. Counterintuitively, it helps to beat them to the punch and bringing up any obstacles yourself. It’s a good tactic to show you are engaged with them and their sensibilities, so long as you head off the inevitable “no” with why it has already been taken care of.
Okay, so you’ve got your VIP’s attention, and now they’re wondering—”Why me?” There are plenty of other people you could have gone to with your request, so be specific as to why this person in particular is the only one who can really get the job done. Tell them you read their book, or that their personal brand caught your eye. A VIP who feels like they’re in a unique position to help someone else out is more likely to do so than a person receiving a form email.
Show them they’re in good company
Assert your right to take a VIP’s time by telling them your track record. If you have other high-profile contributors on your team, list them for a bit of name recognition. Likewise, if a previous project turned out especially well for another VIP you’ve linked up with, give them the rundown. Of course, if your request is breaking new ground, tell them what kind of numbers and concrete results they can expect. The only thing better than promising them benefits is showing them you consistently deliver a job well done and their involvement won’t be a waste of time.
Give them a call to action
If all goes well, by the end of your request, they’re ready to go—but you still have to tell them what the next step is. “If you’re interested in helping me out, just give me a shout via email or by phone. It shouldn’t take long, but I’m looking forward to it!” is much more effective than “Sound good?” or nothing at all.