“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do”, a brilliantly coined quote by the American actress and TV personality – Lucille Désirée Ball. But what if you can’t ask a busy person for fear of rejection?

Busy people are busy because they’re in demand, and in demand because they’re busy. They know things, they’re active in their spaces and communities and they have a track record for handling problems and getting positive outcomes.

Everyone wants some of that, so the point quickly comes when they don’t have a lot of free time. If you want a meeting with a busy person, here’s what not to do. Don’t email them and ask for a meeting so you can ask them for information and advice or worse still, make a ‘pick your brain’ request – it is plain annoying and would most likely be ignored.

As much as that sounds like a perfectly ordinary thing to do, that’s actually the problem. Remember how I said busy people are in demand? They get emails asking for advice, guidance, information, ideas… all the time.

Some don’t read them. Some have filters in place that drop unsolicited emails straight into spam. Some filter out everything from people who aren’t on their contact list. The result? Your email asking for a meeting is never refused; it simply isn’t ever read! The recipient might never even see it.

Try approaching potential contacts through social media instead, especially through professional-oriented social media like LinkedIn. Approaches this way are far less likely to be filtered out automatically.

So, when you contact someone through their company’s Facebook page to ask them for advice… stop. Some people love to give advice, and if their advice is any good they’re usually doing it professionally, at least in terms of face-to-face meetings. Don’t ask them for a favour; they have enough obligations.

Offer them something instead.

The culture that’s grown up around digital marketing and ecommerce has been strongly influenced by the culture of the 1960s and 1970s California computer industry. Technical pioneers inventing modern computers frequently turned to their competitors for help, creating a ‘pay-it-forward’ culture in which favours were passed around, but not strictly traded. To some degree this survives, so it often isn’t necessary to offer a specific favour – in fact it’s probably counterproductive.

Instead, try approaching potential contacts with a suggestion of a meeting that’s mutually advantageous. The best trades are in information, and the best meeting outcome is a long-term, mutually informing and therefore mutually beneficial relationship. A two-way learning process is much more sustainable, and it’s often more successful to offer experience, knowledge or the inside scoop than to offer money, stock or other inducements.

If you can establish a relationship between two people who are equal but different – I have knowledge in my field and you in yours, let’s get together and learn from each other – you change the form of your approach, from a request to an offer.