Cold emailing is now a very prevalent tactic used for building connections for getting us where we envision ourselves sometime down the road. I remember how I was always told by my counsellors and friends to cold email analysts, associates, bankers and the HR folks at banks for getting my foot in the door for an investment banking gig. I was told to take care of the following aspects for drafting a well thought-out cold email -
* The initial two lines should cover my full name, where I go to school and what my professional aspirations are
* Next couple lines should talk about how I got their contact and how interested I am in what they do to make a living (which can be easily known via this beautiful thing called the Internet)
* Most importantly, do not ask for a job in the email
* Request to have a coffee meeting as per their convenience
After sending out dozens of emails following this strategy, I was unhappy with the results. I did get a decent number of responses. But I could also sense how shallow the relationship with the people I was reaching out to were. There was no personal touch or genuineness. Even after I got a reply from a banker, I could sense how half-hearted his intention to help me was. I do not blame him for it. Successful people in an authoritative position receive several emails on a daily basis from people like you and I asking for their assistance. And every single person follows the same strategy for crafting the perfect cold emails to the same people.
I knew I had to change my approach. Through experimentation, I found the answers I was looking for.What is wrong with these cold emails? It is the sheer nature of these emails that is fundamentally ineffective and misguided.
Want a solution? WARM UP those cold emails.
Why would a renowned author, an investment wizard or a highly sought-after speaker help you because you sent them aesthetically pleasing emails with perfectly organized paragraphs? Why would they take time out to take coffee meetings specifically with you to help you get where you want to get?
Cold emails essentially sow seeds for a parasitical relationship. If you are bold enough to ask for a coffee meeting in the first email, you might as well ask for a job or a million dollars in the same cold email. You might think that a coffee meeting is not as big an investment on their part. But, trust me, it is. Time is money for them. Why would they take couple minutes to reply to you or see you in person when they could be spending that time growing their own careers ?
Instead of making them feel leveraged, make them feel valued. Instead of disrespecting their time, make their lives or work simpler. They don't care about your name or where you came from unless you are Warren Buffet or Seth Godin. They do care about how you can add value to them. By helping them in the tiniest way possible, you can build a genuine relationship with someone over time such that they will make sure that they do their best to help you out in achieving your goals. I have nurtured personal relationships with successful people like Alex Banayan, world's youngest venture capitalist and Dorie Clark, a world-renowned marketing strategy consultant and the author of Stand Out and Reinventing You, by warm emailing them. No, I have not benefited tangibly from these relationships but surrounding yourself with such people can make a tremendous difference.
Instead of wasting my time drafting the perfect cold emails, I spent time researching on them to see where and how I can add some value to them. Doing so has multiple advantages for you.
Firstly, you get to learn a lot about their journeys they took to become successful and get inspired. Secondly, by being able to state something that couldn't have been known without a thorough research helps build credibility and trust. Thirdly, and most importantly, you plant seeds for building a lasting connection. The goal is not to get a response but to get yourself under their radar.
An act of adding value to someone the first time you reach out to them can go a long way. It helps in building authenticity and increases the odds of them trying to figure out how they could reciprocate the gesture.
Your efforts might not help them out in taking huge leaps in their careers and lives, but the fact that you made an authentic attempt to take an interest in their work and offer them ideas, feedback or anything that could possibly help them in their journeys holds tremendous significance. Start helping people take a step up the ladder for getting them close to their goals instead of treating them as merely a step in your ladder to success.
I actually had a major spelling oversight in my email to Arianna Huffington. A perfect cold email would not have it. But, since my warm email spoke of why my article would interest her and what made me think that she would appreciate my version of networking, the grammatical error did not matter nearly as much (I got insanely lucky there and she is just too generous). Make it about them. Not yourself. And, please check your spellings.
Either add value to them or ask for a million dollars straight up in your reach out. There is nothing in between.
Help others flourish. And, they will do the same for you.
As always, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or comments.
Learn more about value-driven, service-based networking here.
If you are interested in knowing about some of the other tactics I have used to build some relationships, please give this article a read.