Persistence is key.
Ori Eisen, founder and CEO of digital identity authentication company Trusona, would know. He once cold called an industry leader for four months before getting a response.
Some time after Eisen became American Express’ worldwide fraud director in 2002, he decided he wanted to learn more about the issue of counterfeiting from Frank Abagnale — the security consultant and fraud expert whose past career as a con man inspired the film “Catch Me If You Can.”
Eisen wanted to create a new online fraud detection product. He had the technical skills necessary for the venture, but he wanted Abagnale as an adviser, due to his experience as a fraud expert and his criminal past.
But when Eisen called, Abagnale responded that he didn’t teach anyone and couldn’t help. Eisen wasn’t dissuaded. He kept calling.
“I’m not a person that gives up easily,” Eisen told Business Insider.
Four months later, Eisen got his shot. Abagnale’s office told him the security consultant could squeeze in a quick 20 minute chat. Abagnale had some time after his keynote speech at a Discover event in San Antonio, during the ride from his hotel to his jet.
Eisen decided he’d use the opportunity to meet Abagnale in person, rather than just talk over the phone.
“I told my wife, ‘I’m going to San Antonio to meet Frank Abagnale,'” Eisen said. “So I go. Frank finishes his amazing keynote. He immediately realized this is the pesky guy who did not give up and kept calling him.”
But Eisen and Abagnale clicked during the subsequent limo ride. After discussing Eisen’s business idea, Abagnale offered to help him start his own business and work as his adviser — if he’d quit American Express. Eisen did just that and went out to found fraud prevention company The 41st Parameter. He’s worked with Abagnale ever since. Eisen said they aren’t just business collaborators today — they’re good friends.
“Very few people follow through and do what they actually say they will do,” Eisen said. “But Frank has been there for me since that moment.”
Not everyone can hop on a plane to go meet their ideal mentor. Still, if you’re trying to connect out of the blue with an industry hero, you’ve got to persist. Eisen said to also at least offer the person something concrete, in order to rise above the flood of correspondence they’re likely receiving. In Eisen’s case, he was able to offer the opportunity for Abagnale to work on a new fraud detection venture.
“Many of the cold calls I get today, people start with, ‘Oh, I’d really like to meet you or I’d really like to talk to you’ and it is a very self-centered request,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s bad. But you have to think about it from the viewpoint of the recipient.”
This article originally appeared in Business Insider.