How to Sling-Shot to the Top and Join the A-List

Pay close attention. In this article I’m going to share five no-B.S. action plans that will help you get the attention of the big dogs in your market and climb to the top in a matter of months rather than years.

You’ll also get to be a hero and make lots of friends while you do it. Here’s how it works.

Every market has a hierarchy. At the top are the  thought leaders that all the other bloggers and marketers talk about, quote and refer to. That’s the A-list. You also have a B-list, C-list and down to a D-list.

The further up the ladder you are,  the more influence and attention you attract. It’s just like Hollywood. Everyone wants to work with Tom Cruise or Will Smith because if they give an endorsement or attach themselves to a project, success is practically ensured.

When you get the attention of the “higher-ups” it leads to a lot of benefits such as:

  1. High-level mentoring
  2. Promotion to their audience
  3. Connection to their network of contacts
  4. Investment in your brand

Relationships with the right people will slingshot your progress. Anyone at the top that tells you otherwise, is lying.

But how do you get the attention of the top dogs? Better yet, how do you get your own ticket straight to the top?

I’m going to give you a formula for making it happen.

Your Ticket to the Top

To continue with the Hollywood analogy, achieving success is often a factor of who you know. And while that’s true, I like this idea from James Clear of Passive Panda even more.

There’s truth in that. Success and sales coach, Zig Ziglar, says:

“You get what you want by helping others get what they want.

OK. So far we have two things to work with: hierarchy and generosity. The pieces of our formula are almost complete.

(Generosity * Magic Ingredient) + Hierarchy = Your Ticket to the Top    Click Here to Tweet

By applying this formula you get the A-listers talking about you and then eventually you climb to the A-list yourself.

So what is the magic ingredient?

The stark truth is that most people care about what’s in it for them than much more than they care about what’s in it for you. But that’s okay.

If you realize and accept that, then you can start getting what you want by helping others get what they want.

The Magic Ingredient that Motivates

The fact is that we are all self-interested.

That’s why we do what we do. It’s what gets us out of bed. Self-interest is the magic ingredient. But not your self-interest, the self-interest of those you want to meet.

The easiest way to get someone on your side is to appeal to their self interest. And don’t just appeal to their self-interest, but be insanely mindful of and invested in their self-interest with NO concern for your own interests…at least for now.

This is the formula. When you take someone’s self interest, multiply it by your generosity and apply it to the existing hierarchy in your niche, you get your ticket to A-list attention followed by your own A-list status.

(Generosity * Self-Interest) + Hierarchy = Your Ticket to the Top

The primary motivators and interests of the people you want to reach fall into five categories. They all want…

  1. More sales (to boost their income)
  2. More reach (to expand their impact)
  3. More recognition (to have fulfillment and an ego boost)
  4. More fulfillment (by realizing their vision)
  5. More enjoyment (who doesn’t want to have a good time)

These are the magic self-interest multipliers in the equation above. When you apply your generosity to these, the results will be significant.

Let’s take a look at five action plans that tap into these motivators. Then we’ll finish up with a critical principle about the hierarchy (which most people totally screw up and that’s why they never make it to the top).

Ticket to the Top #1: Show Them the Money

Self-Interest Multiplier: More Sales

“Hi, is this Jason?” The caller’s voice sounded familiar.

“Yes, this is Jason,” I answered.

“Hi, Jason. This is Jeff Walker.”

“Uh, hi Jeff Walker. How can I help you?”

“Well, I’d like to know how you just beat Frank Kern in my affiliate contest for Product Launch Formula. I’ve never heard of you, but you just sold a lot of my course. In fact, you were my number one affiliate.”

I was on the phone with one of the top “gurus” in my niche and he has called me. Not only that, but he was asking me how I got sales. Needless to say, I was excited.

Jeremy and I had taken Jeff’s course, Product Launch Formula. We’d gotten a lot of value and success out of it. Now we wanted to work with Jeff himself to learn the insider secrets from the product launch master. We set that goal and went into action.

So we sold a lot of his course. We sold even more than guys with lists 10-15 times the size of our own. It definitely got his attention.

Since then we have had the opportunity to learn directly from Jeff and have him promote our own products. This resulted in attending an exclusive invite-only networking event, our biggest launch to date and tripling the size of our list.

Action Plan

  1. Sign up as an affiliate for an A-lister
  2. Create your own series of content to promote their product.
  3. Share with your followers the results that you’ve had with the product. Offer additional insights.
  4. Offer your own bonus to anyone that buys through you.
  5. Sell, sell, then sell some more.
  6. Wait for your phone call. :) If it doesn’t come, then e-mail them when you get your affiliate commissions. Thank them for the commissions.
  7. If the call still doesn’t come, contact their affiliate manager and ask for input on how you can convert even more sales for them. Use this relationship as a gateway to the guy at the top.

Of course, this plan requires that you have a following. So what if you don’t have a list yet? That brings us to the next ticket.

Ticket to the Top #2: Do Something for Them that They Can’t Do Themselves

Self-Interest Multiplier: More Fulfillment

When Ryan Deiss and Perry Belcher launched Social Media Money System, we noticed that there was a critical hole in the material. The course was chock full of solid information, but there was nothing about podcasting.

This was a our chance. First we bought the course. We went through the modules to have a good understanding of their approach.

Then we put together an entire module all about how to podcast. We referenced material from earlier in the course to make it seamless.

We contacted their office, explained that we had been making a full-time living at podcasting for awhile and would love to offer them an entire module to use as a bonus for the students.

It got their attention. We brought tremendous value to their students, without Ryan and Perry having to do a thing.

Not only did this put us in front of their audience, it  also got us invited to one of their top events for free. Then we were invited to a high-end exclusive mastermind we learned valuable strategies that no one shares except in closed-door meetings.

This doesn’t just apply to courses. Everyone has a passion project they are working on right now. Find out what they are  most excited about. Then figure out a way to bring something to to the table that they couldn’t bring themselves.

Action Plan

  1. Identify a course by one of the A-listers that you can add to
  2. Buy the course
  3. Go through the course
  4. Create a module or bonus material. Make sure it integrates well with the current material.
  5. Contact their office. Let them know you are a student. Let them know you have bonus materials that their students will find really helpful. Share results that you have had with your info.

Ticket to the Top #3: The Star Pupil

Self-Interest Multiplier: More Fulfillment, More Recognition

Every time we hold a coaching course, there’s one or two students that jump in with such gusto and passion, they quickly pull ahead of the pack. It’s clear they are ready to do anything to succeed.

They become our star students. They give us our best testimonials. They stand as shining examples of the results our courses produce.

Not only is this very fulfilling for us, it’s also extremely helpful for our future sales. We’ve had a lot of students, but these are definitely the ones that stick out in my mind the most. When they e-mail me, they get an immediate response.

Every business needs star students. Make sure that’s you.

Action Plan

  1. Buy a  course from an A-lister
  2. Take massive action. Work your butt off and apply immense resources to implementing what you learn.
  3. Track your progress.
  4. Share your results publicly.
  5. Express lots of gratitude for their help.
  6. Send them a shining testimonial (ideally video).

Believe me, they won’t be able to stop talking about you.

Ticket to the Top #4: Bring Them New Blood

Self-Interest Multiplier: More Reach

Fresh traffic and leads are the lifeblood of any business. For a long time our business has been in a unique position because we get so much of our traffic from our show. Lots of marketers out there don’t do what we do to get traffic. That means we attract the attention of people that they are not reaching.

Any time you have a platform that can put someone in front of new people (especially if you do it along with your own glowing endorsement), they will be deeply grateful to you.

We’ve started numerous relationships just by inviting top experts in our market to be on our show.

They do so gladly, because they know they’re reaching new people. This is an amazing way to start a relationship with a key contact.

Our friend, Andrew Lock got interviewed by a big media outlet simply because he first brought one of their head honchos on to his own show for an interview.

Action Plan

  1. Offer to do an interview, webinar, etc. with an A-lister
  2. First “introduce” her to your audience to let them get to know, like and trust the her. Ask insightful questions. Highlight her expertise and how it can help your audience.
  3. Later, arrange to do promotion for their product.
  4. Create special content that shows why you recommend the product. Ideally, share your results.
  5. Send leads to their site, ideally ones that sign up for their e-mail list.
Don’t forget to use affiliate links. There’s nothing wrong with still getting paid in the process.

Ticket to the Top #5: Show Them a Good Time

Self-Interest Multiplier: More Enjoyment

This is a great tactic when attending live conferences. You have the opportunity to meet someone in person. People tend to be in a good mood, especially in the evening around the bar. Buy lots of drinks. Invite people to dinner.

I’ve dropped over $1000 at a steak house in order to show someone a good time and get to know them (and their team) in a casual setting. Jeremy has attended Broadway shows with contacts, reminiscing about when they both used to do theater.

We’re not a golfers, so we resort to food, drink and fine culture :).

This is how business is done. People do business with people they like. Show them a good time. Create memories with them.

In June at BlogWorld Expo, I put a number of marketing friends into a limo and treated them to the best Jewish pastrami Reuben sandwich that Manhattan has to offer at the world famous Katz’s Deli. The entire outing cost us about $300. It was totally worth it.

This is the kind of thing that people won’t forget. It makes a deposit in what I call the “social capital” account. You need to make deposits in that account long before you ever make withdrawals by asking for something.

Action Plan

  1. Find an opportunity where you will be in-person with someone you want to meet (e.g. meetup, conference, etc.)
  2. Before you go, identify a list of people that you want to meet. If possible, find contacts that you already know that can introduce you.
  3. Offer to buy drinks for everyone. Be generous.
  4. If it makes sense, offer to buy them lunch or dinner. Make it clear you are not looking for free consulting. You just want to get to know them since you have common passions.
  5. Do it up right. Take them somewhere really nice or really fun.
  6. Don’t take up too much of their time. Be respectful of the fact that they have other people to meet and talk to.

The Big Mistake that Everyone Makes

Pick one of the tickets above and start making your way to the top this week. As you plan your trip to the sky, keep one more thing in mind.

You can’t jump straight to A-list.

You climb the ladder one run at the time. The big mistake I see people making (and I’ve made it myself) is that they try to go directly to a head honcho. Their efforts don’t work.

Here’s the secret. Remember earlier when I mentioned that every market has it A-, B-, C- and D-list? You start at the bottom and climb one level at a time.

Start out helping the D-listers. Eventually they introduce you to a C-lister. Then you leverage these relationships to meet B-listers and so on.

This is the hierarchy part of our formula. When you realize how this part works, everything comes together and works in your favor rather than falling flat.

(Generosity * Self-Interest) + Hierarchy = Your Ticket to the Top

Today’s D-List is Tomorrow’s A-List

Not only that, but today’s D-listers become tomorrow A-listers.

Back in 2006 I was at a meet up of podcasters in Boston. My book, Promoting Your Podcsast, had just been published. I had a limited number of promo copies to share with the biggest influencers I could find.

At the end of the  event, a podcaster that I’d never met or heard of came up to me and asked if he could get copy of my book. I’ll admit that at the time I was resistant to hand out one of my precious promo copies.

In the end, my intuition told me to go ahead and hook him up. That guy, was Chris Brogan. I’d be surprised if anyone reading this today hasn’t heard of Chris Brogan. His rise to the top has been meteoric. In fact, he is a perfect example of someone that knows how to apply the generosity formula.

When you first enter a market, start with people at the same level as you or just above. Gradually build your network. As you meet people, have them introduce you to others that they know.

And here is a really important part. Put together a group of D-listers right now, all dedicated to helping each increase their reach and fulfill your vision. The rising tide raises all ships. These are not your competitors, they are your most powerful partners.

Start now. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your success.

Time to Take Action

You can start out being generous right now both to us and your followers by clicking here to share the formula.

(Generosity * Magic Ingredient) + Hierarchy = Your Ticket to the Top

Now you have the tickets. It’s time to start the journey. Which of the five action plans above are you going to use first? What questions do you have about getting the attention of your market’s biggest influencers?

Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

Thanks go to Derek Halpern for the inspiration to use a tweetable formula.


  1. Hey Jay,

    Brilliant article man. You’re absolutely right, we are all self-interested, and it is very true that helping others is one of the best way to help ourselves.

    The psychology behind the slingshot effect in helping others is in reciprocity, as explained by Robert Cialdini in his book influence. When we give others the gift of our help for free this creates an obligation imbalance, and if we make an offer to that same person they are much more likely to act on it than if we had done nothing for them in the past.

    Helping people for free builds trust, and people like to do business with people they trust.

    Even this comment and the tweet about this post I’m going to send are a part of my way of reciprocating the free help you’ve given me in growing my online business. Thanks Jay.


    Garin Kilpatrick

    @Garin on Twitter

  2. Thanks, Garin, for sharing the love.

    You are absolutely right. Humans are wired that way. When you know how to use that, it’s powerful. Hopefully it gets used for good and not something else.

    Love the Cialdini book.

  3. Thanks Jason! Really great information and a reminder about the importance of the relationships we build in our lives.
    You are also reaffirming that it is ok to be self serving. So many of us feel guilty about this when the truth is that’s it’s exactly what we all do. The most giving person in the world “gives” because it makes them feel good to do so. So basically it’s still a selfish motive, however with a positive intent. (funny side note is that I have debated this with my 73 year old father several times. He swears that he gives only to make others feel good and it has nothing to do with his own feelings. I know that he takes pride in his service to others, which by the way I am very proud of him for, however he refuses to acknowledge his pride)
    So, all that said, tuning in to the fact that we are all self serving. Helping others achieve what they want can only serve to help us with our desires in return.

    Thanks again for all that you do! (I am a new member to the Academy and I am eagerly forging ahead)

    Walt Ford

    • Hi Walt,

      Welcome to the Academy.

      Altruism vs. self-interest are certainly interesting (and heated) topics. I think there is more power when we recognize the inherent self-interest in things.

  4. Great post Jay! Just tweeted it out.

    We’ve been doing a variation of #4 with our Half Size Me podcast. We’ve been tapping into a lot of lesser known, but knowledgeable bloggers in our niche. Recently, we’ve gotten some far better known and influential bloggers to agree to an interview. Several of whom we contacted when we first started but never heard back from. Well, now that we have 24 episodes available, a fast growing audience, and 40+ 5-star reviews in iTunes, we recontacted some of them and thy’ve all immediately responded and said yes!

    It’s great to get the bigger names on, but we’re taking the attitude that we want someone on the show only if they’re bringing real value to our audience. That they have an insanely high number of followers is an awesome side bonus that benefits us.

    Thanks to you, Jay, and Jeremy for all do. The IBMA is helping me in so many ways and becoming a lifetime member was one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made

  5. Joel,

    That’s an excellent example. I’m thrilled to hear your shows is doing well. 40+ 5-star reviews is awesome. Glad to hear the Academy is helping.

    • Thanks Jason! It’s helped in amazing ways, not the least of which is the mindset stuff. I’ve been taking my time with the material, going through the modules and the bonus material, even revisiting earlier parts just to make sure it all sticks!

      I love it and I really feel we’re on to something. I mean, our podcast has only been around for 5 months and we’re getting thousands of downloads per month. It’s freakin’ awesome! : )

  6. This was an excellent post. I’m applying the principles the academy teaches and will be launching my blog shortly. The advice in this post was invaluable. I just created my Twitter Account and although I don’t have any followers yet (Next IBMA Module will touch on this) I will make this my first Tweet. I love the idea of sharing Value with people and why not start wit this post.

    Well Done!

    Twitter Frank@iblogJuicing

  7. Jay, this is one of the best treatments I’ve seen anywhere on this topic, and I’ve invested in several books and courses. You brought each of the 5 points to life with the examples you gave. Excellent and very valuable. Thank you!

    I have found this attitude of “What can I do for you?” to be extremely effective when having initial conversation with prospective affiliates, JV partners or customers.

    I ask questions to learn more about their business and find out how I can help them in their current project/challenge. And inevitably, after I’ve offered new ideas or a potential connection, the other person says, “What can I do for YOU?”

    It really does work like magic. But of course, you have to be genuine, and you have to follow through.

    Meredith Bell
    @MeredithMBell on Twitter

    • Thanks you, Meredith, for your kind words.

      “What can I do for you” feels a lot more genuine. When first getting to know someone, I put out of my mind the idea of what they can do for me. I focus on making a friend and helping them in whatever way I can. It’s more fun and feels more natural. I’ve tried the immediate quid pro quo approach and it gives me anxiety!

      • I agree, Jay. I didn’t say it, but your approach is exactly what I do. I don’t have any expectation that they will want to do something in return, and that definitely results in a more enjoyable conversation for me AND the other person. They can sense that I’m sincere and not trying to use some veiled tactic to get them to do something for me.

        It’s just fascinating to me how often the other person wants to do something in return after I’ve focused exclusively during the conversation on how I can help them. I think that speaks to the quality of people I’m talking to and the law of reciprocity that Cialdini writes about so eloquently in Influence.

  8. Jamie Leger says:

    Great post Jason, very timely for me to. Im going to start out with number 2 and write a top list post covering the most influential leaders in my industry and what things to learn from each.

    Will tweet, thanks.


  9. Exceptional post, guys…

    #1 – We’ve done this ourselves and it almost always works.
    #2 – Brilliant idea…will have to find a way to apply in the near future.
    #3 – We’ve been on both ends of this and it’s extremely effective on both ends!
    #4 – Awesome…but it seems the A Listers are more interested in doing this when they have something new to promote and they’re just doing the rounds, eh? Good interviewing skills can provide a unique perspective, though.
    #5 – We’ve done/do this for people on various rungs of the ladder. Easy way to get taken advantage of, but if you’re targeting the right people they wouldn’t do that to you.

    • Thanks, Justin.

      It certainly is interesting to get the attention of the interviewee when they have something fresh to promote. That said, we’ve had luck tracking people down in the “in-between” times.

      We try not to just be a part of the launching echo chamber effect.

      As far as being taken advantage of, I know what you mean. It is a risk at times. We try to be careful who we associate with. that said, I have a habit of always assuming the best intentions from everyone. Does that make me naive at times? Perhaps. But I guess I would rather be too generous than too guarded.