How to ask for something from an important person (and actually get it)
January 20th, 2014 - 13 Comments
Today, I’ll show you the actual email I used to get bestselling authors and famous celebrities to contribute to an ebook I put together.
Hint: the email does not look like this (an actual email I received):
With emails like these, I hope you appreciate the mental fortitude it takes to not go insane every day of my life.
But instead of just mocking the dumb people who read my blog, I want to talk about the very best ones — the people who know how to reach out to VIPs and get a response.
This is important. A lot of people think success is just a matter of “figuring it out” and reading a few books.
Top performers know that they can leapfrog everyone else by getting personal advice from people who’ve already been through the fire. Ask any successful person how a mentor/advisor/expert has helped them, and they won’t be able to stop talking.
So how do you do you ask an elite level performer/VIP for help with something in a way that will actually get a positive response? Maybe it’s to get a recommendation for a job…or to get invited backstage to meet your favorite band…or even to get some advice on a tricky business situation.
The answer is to shift your focus from a “me” perspective to a “you” perspective. For example, years ago, I was hanging out with Charlie Hoehn, who’s worked with me, Tim Ferriss, and Tucker Max. He told me how working behind the scenes has taught him about how to work with these kinds of people. “Everyone wants something from you guys,” he said. “Now I know how to stand out. Just don’t ask for anything! Actually add some value first.”
This “you first” approach is how I’ve been able to get the advice of best-selling authors, superstar CEOs, and all kinds of fascinating people.
Tim Ferriss and me
Me with Chase Jarvis
Here’s an example.
I’m putting together a short free ebook with fascinating/actionable test results (e.g., material on marketing, business, lifestyle design, social dynamics, career hacks, etc). [Quickly introduce what I'm doing and get them excited about it. Note how I skip over introductions because I already know Ben. If I didn't, it would be important to introduce who I am and why he should read this email.]
I’d love to have you contribute, and wanted to see if you’d be interested. I already have a great idea of what your test result could be. [VIPs expect you to want something from them. Get to the point. Again, this is not the approach I would take with everyone, but it works here because Ben is (1) insanely busy and (2) a friend.]
I’ll be putting IWT’s marketing muscle behind it — we’ll be sharing it with our list of 200,000+ and we expect to have at least 500,000 other emails going out. The emails will have links to your site. [Benefit. Why should he care? Note that almost anyone would love to get this kind of exposure. (And note the meta lesson of me promoting Ben in this very email. His blog is awesome and you should read it.)]
All I would need from you is ONE great test/result that you’ve run. For example, one of the following list:
1. How I started waking up earlier (lifestyle)
2. One phrase I always use when I meet someone new (social dynamics)
3. How I got more people to join my email list (business/marketing) [Anticipate the needs of the reader. As he reads, he's saying, "Hmm...so what would this require?" BOOM -- proactively hit him with specific examples.]
(For you, I’m thinking about conversational techniques you used to become more interested/interesting…or how you elicit people to become more open by being transparent yourself. Also, you had that AWESOME tip about speaking, where you take a mid-talk break and tell them 5 books to write down, and everyone wakes up. People love that.) [Personalize it. I personalized every email I sent and got a tremendous response rate of over 90%. Use my motto -- "Don't make the busy person do your work for you" -- and suggest ideas to them. There's more to this principle that I outline in my ebook on writing winning emails (see below).]
We’ll include ~300-word case study about a successful test you’ve run. Here’s a previous ebook we did with examples from people like BJ Fogg, Mark Sisson, and Josh Kaufman: [Include a finished result, if possible. This also shows him big names I worked with in the past, so he can see this will be a gathering of renowned contributors]
LINK TO FINISHED RESULT
Our deadline is Wednesday, September 18th. What do you think?
P.S. If you’re interested but not sure what you’d contribute, let me know and I can give you a quick call to share some ideas. [VIPs get swamped with emails. Sometimes, I prefer to hop on a 5-minute call while I'm in between errands. So I offer that option here.]
What are the takeaways?
- Be brief. VIPs are busy and do not want to read your tortured expository essay on your life history, food allergies, and the mole on your back
- Focus on what’s in it for THEM. Benefit-driven, focused on benefit to THEM (“putting the full IWT muscle behind it”)
- Offer a clear CTA (call to action). You wouldn’t believe how many people end their emails to me with “Yeah, so…wow, I wrote more than I thought” DELETE
- Anticipate every objection and counter it before they can consciously voice it. Who’s going to be in this? Oh, here are past people I worked with. I don’t have any ideas. Oh, let’s get on a call and I’ll help you come up with some. Etc.
- Break the rules. I routinely break every rule in this list (but that depends on the recipient and the message). I talk more about this below.
What else can you spot from the email that I did?
If you’re curious about learning exactly how I send emails that get a 90%+ response rate — and how to get access to VIPs who want to help you — sign up below for an inside peek:
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