Sometimes, you really need to connect with someone, and there’s no other choice but to email them directly. It seems pretty straightforward, no? Isn’t it as simple as just finding their email and shooting them a message? There’s actually so much to say on this subject, but we’ll try to break down some practical tips bit-by-bit.
Tip 1 – Cold Emails Are The Last Resort
Your first thought should be to avoid sending any cold emails at all. When was the last time you received a cold email from a random person, and you actually took the time to open the email, read it, and respond to it? Most likely…rarely.
If you can, try to see if you have any mutual connection at all, and if so, ask them to make an intro. Let your mutual connection know the context of your request, since people are generally protective of their contacts, and rightfully so. To lessen the work for the connector, you can even share with them our intro email template and write the actual intro email for them to copy and paste.
Tip 2 – Use an Email Finder Tool
We won’t go too deep into this, but there is a plethora of tools to find people’s emails that are in the area of “sales lead prospecting” tools. Some of our favorites are Hunter, Clearbit, and Datanyze. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but we recommend using these types of tools to save time looking for email addresses that are legit and accurate.
Tip 3 – Use an Email Tracking Tool
Since cold emails have a high probability of getting ignored. It’s a good idea to use an email tracking tool to see if the recipient is actually opening and engaging with your email. Once again, there is a plethora of tools for this, but the one we use most is Mixmax. It integrates seamlessly with Gmail and lets you see if your email has been opened by the recipient, how many times it’s been opened, and when it was opened. These are all valuable insights to help you strategize any follow-up emails you may send.
Tip 4 – Do Research and Customize Your Email
There’s nothing more annoying than when someone reaches out cold, knows very little about you, and the email looks like a canned generic email. Try it. Send out a couple of these, and you’ll quickly find your rate of reply will be abysmal.
These networking/connection intro emails are NOT SALES EMAILS. I’m assuming your purpose of connecting with someone is to build a professional relationship with this individual…so treat the intro email as such. Find out something interesting about them, refer to something they just did or even a tweet they just posted, find a way to be helpful…whatever it is, write a short blurb about it in your intro email to show them you’ve done your homework and are engaged in their life on some level. On the flip-side, don’t be overly creepy. Just the right amount of nuanced admiration can go a long way.
Tip 5 – Make a Tangible Request
When reaching out with your cold email, make sure there’s a tangible request in there. In other words, don’t just reach out to say hi with a wish to stay in touch. There’s nothing to reply to in this type of email, and your opportunity to develop a connection with this person drastically decreases, even though you might be trying to be considerate of that person’s time.
Generally, people want to be helpful…but they need to know what you’re requesting. Remember, it’s not their job to figure out how to be helpful to you…so you must have a clear ask.
Here are some things you might consider asking in the context of building a professional connection:
- You want to schedule a 15 min call to chat about [something]
- You want to meet for coffee and chat about [something]
- You’d value their advice and feedback about [something]
- You want to invite them to [something]
Tip 6 – Follow Up
If you get no immediate reply (which is highly likely)…don’t get dismayed. Often, people are busy and replying to strangers they don’t know is the last thing on their todo list. The person you’re trying to connect with is likely hard to reach, so it’s your job to follow-up. I’ve heard time-and-time again that executives often wait for the follow-up email before responding, even if they saw the first one. It’s a somewhat common filtering mechanism busy people use to see how important that original email is or how persistent the sender is.
If you followed Tip #3, you know exactly if and when the recipient opened your email. This is very useful insight. If the recipient hasn’t opened the email at all or maybe just once, we’d recommend replying to that original email in 3 to 4 days, and write a quick blurb to ask if they got your email. You’re doing this cause they might’ve just never even seen it or gotten to it, and you’re just trying to bubble your email back up in their email queue. So reply with something like:
Just following up on my previous email. Not sure if you had a change to read it, but I’d love to connect!
On the other hand, if your email tracker shows that they’ve opened your intro email several times over the course of a couple days, you might actually assume they’re curious about engaging and haven’t done so yet. In this scenario, give them about a week before following-up. There’s a good chance they’re busy and have an intent to reply, but just haven’t gotten to it yet. If they haven’t responded after about a week, then follow-up with a reply email. They just might need a bit of a nudge to encourage them to connect, or some tangible next steps to reply with. Here’s a follow-up reply email you can use in this scenario:
Just wanted to follow-up. I’d love to connect on [something] and wanted to see how your schedule looks this week. Let me know if you have 15 minutes to chat. Happy to book some time on your calendar if you have one to share. Thanks!
Tip 7 – Engage on Social (Optional)
A tactic that’s commonly done in cold sales email strategies is to follow and engage with a prospect on several social media platforms, before sending the cold email. It’s debatable if this strategy is appropriate for this context. Creating professional networking connections versus sales connections has nuanced differences. In sales, this “intrusive” behavior has almost come to be expected. In professional connections, however, your goal is to build a relationship…so we’d trend on behaviors that aren’t overly intrusive or short-sighted.
In the long-game of building a professional relationship, perhaps it’s somewhere in between. We recommend to not bombard someone on multiple fronts, but it’s totally legitimate to choose one platform, whether on Twitter or LinkedIn, follow them, engage with some of their posts, and then send out a cold email two or three weeks later. This feels like socially acceptable behavior, where you appreciate some of their public thoughts and ideas, and decide sometime later to connect directly with them.
The Cold Intro Email Template
Without further ado, here’s a cold intro email template you can use to connect with anyone:
Choosing a subject line really depends on the context of how you know them and what you’re contacting them about. The most important thing is to keep it short, don’t make it sound spammy, and intrigue them to read more.
- [friend] recommended we meet
- Appreciate your thoughts on [subject]
- Would love to connect on [subject]
- Admire your work on [subject/company]…
For the main content, we really recommend you craft custom emails for these cold introduction emails, but we’ll try to recommend a standard structure and even a sample cold intro email template below. For the standard structure, you’ll want to keep your intro email pretty concise with these main parts:
- How you know them
- As we mentioned above, preferably you have a mutual connection who you can at least name drop in the beginning of the email message. If you have no mutual connections, then you can give some context of how you know of them or where you follow them.
- Some context of who you are
- Since this is a cold email, they have no idea who you are and probably think you’re trying to sell them something. Quickly let them know a bit about yourself and that you’re just looking to connect vs sell.
- Requests and next steps
- Finally, this is where you make your request and they see their call-to-action. Remember, don’t require them to make a bunch of decisions. Simplify their reply by giving them some concrete options.
Drawing from this standard structure above, here’s an actual cold email template you can use below:
Sample Cold Introduction Email Template
I’ve been following your Tweets on marketing and felt compelled to reach out.
Currently, I’m working on some marketing initiatives for my startup, widgets.com (I’m the founder), and I’d love to pick your brain about some strategies we’re currently considering.
Do you have time for a 15 min call next week? Here’s my availability on Calendly…but feel free to share yours or suggest some times, and I’ll gladly rearrange my schedule.
Thanks and I look forward to connecting!