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How to cold email a VIP (and actually get a response)

Have you ever emailed a VIP, only to get no reply? Follow these 3 steps to write a cold email that gets an immediate response from anyone.

Ramit Sethi

How to cold email VIPs and get a response

I used to be terrible at getting busy VIPs to respond to my emails.

Years ago, I kept emailing Seth Godin. I would write this beautiful email — and he would write me back one line.

At the time, I thought that was pretty rude.

Now that I get over 1,000 emails daily, I understand the time demands Seth has. And I’m humbled he even sent me a response.

That’s why I want to share this email I received from a reader. I called him within 60 seconds of reading this:

workforfree

Writing great emails that truly connect with your reader like this one is the difference it takes to get a response.

Today, I’m going to show you three steps you can use to make your email stand out in a busy person’s inbox so you get a reply. These strategies will make unreachable VIPs drop what they’re doing to respond to you.

Step 1: Focus on what’s in it for THEM

The person you’re trying to reach is busier, more important, and more successful than you.

So you need to give them a reason to open your email. You need to make sure your subject line is engaging. Otherwise they’ll hit delete.

Check out my reader’s subject line:

IWT_email-subject

You want to work for me — and do it for free? OK, you have my attention.

He not only complimented me, he shared the results he’s gotten from my advice.

Everyone loves a genuine compliment. It shows that you’re familiar with their work.

So before you even introduce yourself, compliment your VIP and their work.

Tell them how long you’ve been following them, results you’ve gotten from their advice, and/or your favorite bit of information they’ve said or written. This will hook them into reading the rest of your email.

Step 2: Make them care

Sometimes you might be fortunate enough to have a common connection with the VIP. If that’s the case, name drop so they know how you know them.

In most other cases, you need to establish a common ground quickly.

For this email, my reader knew I’m always looking for talented developers. So he told me who he is and why I should care.

IWT_email-p2

You can set yourself apart from 99% of the crowd like this by using the Briefcase Technique.

Now, this requires some homework. You need to know exactly what would benefit your busy VIP. You need to find out the problems they’re having that you can solve.

This means deeply understanding their hopes, fears, and dreams before you pitch them. Go deep and get inside your VIP’s head.

Then you can offer them an enticing menu of potential solutions that outlines exactly how you can eliminate their biggest headaches. Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

For example, say you notice they’re doing more video and you know a way they can improve them to get more subscribers. Tell them. In fact, go ahead and do it for them.

Or if you’re a pro at SEO, identify ways they can improve their website and share that with them.

While my reader didn’t offer me specific solutions, he did tell me the skills he can help me with (“I’m especially good at rapidly prototyping new ideas and projects”).

So if you’re having trouble coming up with specific solutions, show your VIP you can do XYZ thing that’s going to have ABC benefit for them.

Step 3: Make saying “yes” a no-brainer

Last, you must anticipate and erase any objections they may have… before they have the chance to voice them.

My reader put me in an interesting position. He knew I had a few projects I wanted to do but hadn’t made the time for yet.

IWT_email-p3

While you can tell he’s fishing for paid work, he counters by letting me know that he’d “be happy just for the opportunity to network and receive a little advice.”

You must make it a no-brainer for your VIP to say “yes.”

This is where respecting the power dynamic really comes into play.

You reached out to them. You are asking for their time.

This means you should proactively offer to meet them at their location of choice, or give them the option of Skype or a phone call.

Also acknowledge how many emails they get by ending your email with this script:

“I understand you have tremendous demands on your time, and if you don’t have time to respond, no problem. But if you do, even a sentence would mean a lot to me.”

This gives VIPs an easy out if they’re too busy. Counterintuitively, it also boosts your response rate since you’re showing empathy toward their time demands.

If your VIP decides that meeting up or jumping on the phone is best, tell them you will work around their schedule and meet any time. Then help them decide by suggesting specific times.

For example, you might say, “I’m free on Monday and can accommodate your schedule. How does 3PM work? If that doesn’t work, then I’m available Tuesday after 1PM and Wednesday after 11AM.”

I like to give an-all day option and two additional days and times. This if/then structure lessens the amount of back and forth emails, which your VIP will thank you for.

Whatever your offer, give multiple channels for your VIP to contact you.

Some people don’t have the time to hop on the phone. Or maybe they prefer replying by email. Either way, give them immediate access to you.

As a bonus, if you have a website to show samples of your work, include it. That’s additional proof that you’re the person to get these projects done.

Remember, this email from the developer worked so well, I called him within 60 seconds of receiving his message.

Follow these steps, and you can see the same results.

I encourage you to use the Closing the Loop Technique to follow up with your VIP two weeks after you get your response. You can use the following script:

“Hey, you told me ABC. I dug in. I discovered you were right, and so I took your advice and I just wanted to thank you. I’ll keep you updated a couple months from now about how the new XYZ is going.”

Now here’s your challenge:

  1. Brainstorm ONE busy VIP you’d love to contact, then shoot them an email.
  2. In the comments below, share your story and the response you got.

Get Big Wins with word-for-word email scripts you can start using now

When I was starting out, I would have killed for word-for-word email scripts proven to work. Today I want to give you some scripts I’ve developed so you don’t have to struggle like I did.

These scripts have worked for thousands of my students — people like you who know the importance of email and want to get it right. These scripts cover:

  • How to set up an informational interview
  • How to ask for recommendations for people to talk to
  • How to cold email a stranger for advice
  • How to write a pitch for a consulting gig or a job interview
  • How to reach out to others in your company to get to know them

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3 Comments

 
  1. Craig

    Thank you, Ramit for the great article. The VIP that I wanted to reach out to is Joey Baumer, who is a Client Services Team Manager. I had the email drafted, and didn’t send it because I wanted to be receptive of his time.

    Using the guidelines from GrowthLab’s “Build your Brain Trust: Simple email script to get a meeting with anyone” http://growthlab.com/build-your-brain-trust/ and today’s article, I added the extra line: “I understand you have tremendous demands on your time, and if you don’t have time to respond, no problem. But if you do, even a sentence would mean a lot to me. ”

    I sent the email at 12:51pm and got a response from Joey at 1:14pm:

    “Thanks, Craig.

    We appreciate the support!

    As of now, we’re not hiring but I have passed along your information to our recruiting team. We’ll be in touch should anything open up.

    Have a great weekend!

    Cheers,
    Joey”

  2. Shayna

    Brilliant! Another great thing about this e-mail is that it’s concise. It says exactly what it needs to, very specifically, and no more.

    When I get a long, rambling, story-of-my-life e-mail, I delete it after glancing at the first few lines and the sheer SIZE of the message.

    Respecting your VIP’s time includes not asking them to slog through excessive text that is irrelevant to the main purpose of your e-mail.

  3. Vincent

    What you don’t want to do, is become angry at the person for not responding to you. Doing this is childish. No one is going to “give you their time” and you aren’t entitled to it. You must show your worth, as this man did.