By Reggie Hall Jr.
If the Internet were a real place, most emails would be the equivalent of that shady guy trying to sell you items from his kiosk at the mall. He's annoying. He doesn't give a crap about you. He wastes your time. And that foreign lotion bottle he extends to your terrified nostrils doesn't smell good.
He's trying (and failing) to connect with you. Don't laugh! You write emails to successful people the same way. These five tips will help you help you write emails that generate responses and build relationships:
1. Be brief
You're busy. You work hard, you create side projects, you hustle for new connections and you cram room in for a social life. (Damn, take a break!)
Successful people live even busier lives. A long email is like the stranger who reveals their life story five minutes after you shake their hand. Ain't nobody got time for that! Short messages decrease the chance your contact drags your email into their trash folder.
2. Keep it genuine
"Hello friend. I have a special secret that has saved me $10 million..."
Next! Automatic delete.
It's an extreme but too common real-life example. Stop writing emails that reek of dishonesty. Don't underestimate how deeply people crave authentic connections. Successful people develop a B.S. detector after constantly having others compete for their time and attention. When you hide your true intentions, beep, beep, beep! -- their B.S detector explodes.
If you want something, make it clear. If you have a great idea, share it. Most importantly, be upfront about why you are sending the email and why your message is great for the person receiving it. This will establish trust, which is the foundation for all positive relationships.
3. Be likeable
Ever stare at a date across the dinner table while they talk only about their life? It's unattractive and rude. In the same vein, center your emails around the contact instead of yourself. Primarily, focus your message on their background, their needs and how your email impacts them.
The second part of being likeable is making your request for information, meetings or feedback easy for people to say yes to. "Do you have 10 minutes to chat?" is easier for someone to agree to than "Can I talk with you for an hour?"
Give people outs when you make requests on their time. Applying too much pressure on them increases the chance they'll decline your attempts to connect. Phrases like "I know you're busy," "at a time convenient for you" or "let's discuss this further when you're back in town" demonstrate that you're conscientious about their time constraints.
You always become more likable when you relieve the burden on others.
4. Provide value
Your iPhone rings. It's the friend who only calls when they want something. Ignore! Ten minutes later, though, you answer your phone for a different friend.
Why did you accept one call and not the other? Because one friend shares cool news and invites you to interesting events, while another friend only takes.
Similarly, being a giver invites people to your cause. In your emails to successful people, share an interesting link or new information within their niche. Your email isn't just about receiving; it's about establishing a relationship. And good relationships are built upon helping people with shared interests and aspirations.
5. Show you're already winning
You want to contact successful people because you know they get important things done. You gain instant credibility by showing them you're already winning.
Did you just complete a cool project? Create something unique? Briefly tell your contact. The message conveyed is that you don't mooch, and that establishing a professional relationship with you won't be a waste of their time and effort.
Here's what it looks like put together. This email was sent to New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau, resulting in an interview and new relationship:
The first line establishes a common link. Line two shows genuine flattery. Lines three and four give a clear intent of the project, which makes it easier to say yes.
The fifth line shows why Chris fits for the email's content. Line six is about being likeable and gives Chris an "out." The second-to-last line reads "at a convenient day and time for you." This goes back to taking away the burden for Chris.
The final, "P.S." line briefly shows how I'm already winning without bragging.
Note: Notice the title of Chris' book is spelled incorrectly. (It's "world," not "word.") This mistake proves you don't have to write a perfect email to have successful people respond positively to you! (Although you should always proofread.)
Influential people want to help you reach your goals! Your next connection is one strong email away.
Your turn: What's your secret (or biggest hurdle) for writing a great email to successful people?