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Most cold emails that get sent out are pesky, irrelevant, or both. The busier the person, the more of these emails they receive. So when a cold email lands in a busy person’s inbox, that person usually ignores the message and moves on.
But there are exceptions. Once in a while, an email comes by that is interesting, relevant, and most importantly, compels the receiver to respond. Writing such an email is the key to opening doors for opportunities.
Over the past few years, I’ve drafted hundreds of emails from scratch. I’ve also received many emails containing a variety of messages, requests, and comments. While there’s been a large amount of trial and error on my part, I’ve started to notice trends on the types of emails that get bypassed and which ones receive a response.
Here are four tips to keep in mind the next time you send out an email:
1. Create the email with the receiver in mind.
Making demands is easy. But really thinking about what the other person wants? Incredibly hard. It’s probably why many people craft emails with only themselves in mind.
Instead, imagine yourself from the receiver’s perspective. What types of things go on in that person’s head on a typical day? What does he value? What is her reason for waking up every morning?
When you send an email without seeing things from the other person’s perspective, your email ends up sounding generic. As a result, the receiver thinks you’re sending out mass emails and promptly ignores your message.
Even seemingly helpful emails can fall into this trap. A message that reads, “If you need help with anything, let me know” may sound thoughtful, but it’s actually not helpful at all.
Why? Firstly, the other person doesn’t know you, and so she doesn’t know what kind of help, skill, or expertise you have to offer. Secondly, the receiver may not even be aware of what type of help he needs.
Tailoring your email to an individual lets them know you put effort and thought into your message.
2. Practice sincerity.
Your email should be tactful, yet also straightforward. For instance, don’t send an email that masks itself as helping the receiver when it’s really about helping yourself. People can see through messages like that easily. It comes off as insincere if you offer someone help and then immediately ask for something in return.
If you need help or advice, it’s okay to ask (within reason, of course). To get the best results, warm up your approach first. Get to know the other person.
Make insightful comments to the person about what they’ve done recently. Provide suggestions and ideas that align with the person’s work. When you take the time to understand the other person, chances are, they’ll do the same for you.
3. Make sure you’re emailing the right person.
You can execute the most brilliant emailing techniques, but if you email the wrong person, it’s all for nothing. Check that you’re contacting the right person in the first place.
So, who is the right person to contact? Depending on your situation, it’s the person who is the most able and willing to help. I once worked at a firm that frequently received messages asking about job opportunities and meetings. A number of these messages landed in the inboxes of people working at a junior level within the company.
While these emails were well-intentioned, their power was ultimately lost because they weren’t sent to the person in charge. Before you send your email, look at who you’re sending it to and figure out whether that person is the one who’s most likely to help.
4. Have a clear objective.
Have you ever listened to someone ramble on and on about how they went to the park, drove half an hour to pick someone up, went for a meeting, had to take a nap, and so forth? And at the end of everything you had no idea what they were trying to say?
An email that makes multiple requests functions in the same way. When you send a message that asks the receiver a number of things, the other person can easily end up overwhelmed. In the end, the person will struggle to provide the answer you’re looking for. If the email is unimportant, the receiver pushes it aside and doesn’t bother to answer.
When you send an email, ask yourself: What’s your one goal? Do you want to have a meeting? An answer to a question? An introduction to another person? Ending your email with your one question makes it much easier for the other person to figure out what it is you want.
Keep It Clear, Keep It Simple
The key to writing effective emails is to keep things concise, courteous, and clear. The easier you make things on the receiver, the more likely they’ll communicate and try to help you with your request.
Of course, there are no guarantees that your well-written email will receive a reply. But if you follow the above guidelines and respect the other person’s inbox, you improve your chances of getting the response you want.