Contacting celebrities can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming at first. But in his New York Times bestselling book, ‘The 4-Hour Workweek,’ lifestyle guru Timothy Ferriss urges us to step out of our comfort zones with this assignment:
“Call at least one potential superstar mentor per day for three days. E-mail only after attempting a phone call. I recommend calling before 8:30 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. to reduce run-ins with secretaries and other gatekeepers.
Have a single question in mind, one that you have researched but have been unable to answer yourself. Shoot for ‘A’ players – CEOs, ultrasuccessful entrepreneurs, famous authors, etc. – and don’t aim low to make it less frightening.
Use www.contactanycelebrity.com if need be, and base your script on the following.
Unknown answerer: This is Acme Inc. [or the ‘office of Mentor x’].
You: Hi, this is Tim Ferriss calling for John Grisham, please. [Said casually and with confidence, this alone will get you through surprisingly often. ‘I’d like to speak with Mr./Ms. X, please’ is a dead giveaway that you don’t know them. If you want to up the chances of getting through but risk looking foolish if they call the bluff, ask for the target mentor by first name only.]
Answerer: May I ask what this is regarding?
You: Sure. I know this might sound a bit odd [I use this type of lead-in whenever making off-the-wall requests. It softens it and makes the person curious enough to listen before spitting out an automatic ‘no’], but I’m a first-time author and just read his interview in ‘Time Out New York.’ [This answers the questions they’ll have in their head: ‘Who are you and why are you calling now?’ I like to be a ‘first-time’ something to play the sympathy card, and I find a recent media feature online to cite as the trigger for calling] I’m a longtime fan [I call people I’m familiar with. If you can’t call yourself a longtime fan, tell them that you have followed the mentor’s career or business exploits for a certain number of years] and have finally built up the courage to [Don’t pretend to be strong. Make it clear you’re nervous and they’ll lower their guard. I often do this even if I’m not nervous] call him for one specific piece of advice. It wouldn’t take more than two minutes of his wtime. Is there any way you can help me get through to him? [The wording here is critical. Ask them to ‘help’ you do something] I really, really appreciate whatever you can do.
Answer: Hmmm… Just a second. Let me see if he’s available. [two minutes later] Here you go. Good luck. [rings to another line]
John Grisham: John Grisham here.
You: Hi, Mr. Grisham. My name is Tim Ferriss. I know this might sound a bit odd, but I’m a first-time author and a longtime fan. I just read your interview in ‘Time Out New York’ and finally built up the courage to call. I have wanted to ask you for a special piece of advice for a long time and I shouldn’t take more than two minutes of your time. May I? [Just rework the gatekeeper paragraph for this, and don’t dillydally – get to the point quickly and ask for permission to pull the trigger]
John Grisham: Uh… OK. Go ahead, I have to be on a call in a few minutes.
You (at the very end of the call): Thank you so much for being so generous with your time. If I have the occasional tough question – very occasional – is there any chance I could keep in touch via e-email? [End the conversation by opening the door for future contact. Start with e-mail and let the mentoring relationship develop from there].”