I’m a big believer that making yourself more accessible is key to increasing the impact of positive serendipity and opportunity both personally and professionally.  Helping people feel comfortable approaching you (in person, via email, via phone) simply increases the chances that you’ll find the next great job, the next big opportunity, your next long term client or partner.

Of course, this can be a slippery slope.  If you had coffee with everyone that inquired, that might be all you do.  If you gave everyone the time they wanted, it would drain your ability to focus on your objectives and priorities right now.

I’ve come to believe and operationalize a middle ground.  I want to be generous and scarce at the same time, meaning I make it really easy to get ahold of me but I also have systems and processes in place to triage, redirect and manage those inquiries appropriately.

It’s critical that I manage my time every day to focus on what’s most important to my business and objectives.  But part of that time is still devoted to engaging in serendipity and chance.

For inbound inquiries (whether in person or via phone or email) here’s how I do it (and what I might recommend for others who want to do the same):

  • Publish your contact information (phone and email) in your LinkedIn profile and (if appropriate, such as if you’re a consultant or small business owner) on your Web site
  • Feel free to ignore blatant sales pitches
  • For the rest, put them in a special folder outside of your normal inbox (I have one called “@Action”) to group follow-up later
  • Spend just a couple minutes each day replying quickly to the rest, thanking them for their time (you can templatize 90%+ of these so it’s cut-and-paste fast)
  • If they want a meeting, encourage them to ask their question via email first
  • If they want to talk, and you think there might be value, schedule it as a 10-15 minute phone call first at your convenience
  • If the meeting is worth taking, do it on your terms and/or at your location (and never for more than 30 minutes)
  • Delegate appropriate conversations to others on your team (or outside your organization)
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn if you haven’t already done so

Yes, this takes more time than ignoring everybody.  And yes, it takes more time than making yourself difficult if not impossible to reach.

But chance encounters, unexpected inquiries and potentially promising conversations just might be the difference between your current path and an accelerated push to greater success.  Isn’t that worth your time?