The Cold Email

Over the last several weeks I have received emails from people seeking things. Sometimes they are “warm” emails, meaning a follow-up from an event where I spoke and invited the audience to reach out to me. However, I have received a few “cold” emails from people on LinkedIn. The cold email is where you email the person out of the blue without an invitation or a mutual introduction.

Now there is lots and lots of advice on how to write great “cold” networking emails, but here are a few tips of what will actually work.

1) Do keep your email short and well-written

Your email is going to be the first introduction the person has to you. Let the person know why you are choosing to contact them. Write your email as if it is being read on a mobile device since most people are reading emails on the go. Make is clear and concise. Bullets help, but make your bullets relevant. If you are using a form email, have someone read it before sending it out. This email may be your only communication with the person and you don’t want it ignored simply because you didn’t know the difference between your and you’re (and stay away from contractions in general). A good writing tip is to keep it simple. Trying to sound smart in an email generally comes off as arrogant. Do not type these emails on your phone (or replies). Trust me, the autocorrect errors are worse than anything you could come up with on your own. Another tip is to write your email and then wait a day and re-read it before sending it.

 2) Do do some research on the person prior to emailing them

Several times I have received emails addressed to Mister when a simple Google or LinkedIn search would have prevented this very careless error since my picture is very clearly displayed all over the web. At a minimum, making a mistake like this shows me that you are just either mass emailing or careless. It’s an immediate put off. The other benefit is that researching allows you to connect with your subject in a very personal way. You may find an article they have written or a panel discussion they have sat on in your field. There is absolutely zero excuse to doing research on your contact.

3) Do not immediately ask for a job or job help

To the person you are emailing, you are a stranger. You are unproven. What you are asking them to do is use their political capital to get you an “in.” Capital is a resource and is limited. Don’t ask for a referral until the person knows you and is actually willing to vouch for you. Why should I use my political capital on a stranger? A better option is the informational interview. I may be willing to help you out after I have met you and have gotten to know you better. I still may not, but don’t badger me which leads into…

4) Do not follow up incessantly

I have read various articles and in some cases they recommend following up in as little as 2-3 days after sending an email. You shouldn’t follow up for a least 2 – 3 weeks. Again, you have no idea what the person is going through in their life right now. They might be in the midst of a wedding, childbirth, switching jobs, or anything. You should be respectful of their time. And at most, a second follow-up is all you get. I will not respect you for your persistence as several articles have suggested. I am busy and you want something from me.  Even for people I KNOW and want to reply to, it could easily be a month before I get through and reply. This was even more true when I was a consultant. I was managing my work inbox, a client inbox, my personal email and flying thousands of miles a month. Well, you get the picture.

Remember that you are dealing with people in real life when you email. While it may seem like it’s not a big deal, you always want to have your best foot forward.


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