Getting your foot in the door: A How-To-Guide

This blog post contains a host of information about how to contact people you don’t know, and how to manage all the interactions your startup has made. This is incredibly important for establishing key conversations to develop your customer (a.k.a. making something people actually want).

This post is split into 4 sections -

  • How to find warm contacts and cold contacts.
  • How to get their email addresses and other contact info.
  • How to write the killer email that will get you in the door.
  • A full list summary of all of the resources mentioned

Contacting people you don’t know can be intimidating and feel completely fruitless, but unfortunately for many start-up companies it is simply unavoidable. All is not lost though: there are people who have been through the same process and they can offer the best tips about how to manage the sales pipeline. We’ve put together a handy how to guide!!!

General advice is to not use wall mounted phones from the 1960's
  1. Warm Contacts and your network

Before you even start searching for phone numbers it’s worth seeing if there’s anyone that you already know that you’d like to talk to. Linkedin is the obvious first port of call to find people in your field that you might already know or that you can get an introduction too. If you’re new to Linkedin then have a look at this guide for more information on finding contacts. By utilising these warms contacts you are already cutting through the noise of other cold callers and jumping a decent way down the funnel. Datahug (a sort of passive collective address book) or Conspire are also useful tools for reaching out to people in your institution that you may not have been aware of but that could potentially be very useful to you.


2. Cold contacts: Finding Contact Information

  • Do not send emails to info@blah.com email addresses (except as a last resort)
  • Do not waste time phoning receptionists (unless you’ve got a super slick script)

Once you’ve exhausted your warm contacts it’s time to reach out into the unknown. Emails and calls are both useful here, but before sending the same email to everyone it is useful to try and find those crucial contacts. Frustratingly this is a numbers game, especially with emails — they are easy to ignore and for every hundred emails you send you may only get a few replies. Don’t give up though, those few replies are worth all the work!

Once you know who you want to contact, there are tools to speed up the process of getting emails and information together so you can target the right people. Emailhunter can cut through websites and gather emails, reducing the time spent searching for emails for the key figures.

3. Is it Legitimate

People leave their jobs and switch emails regularly. Once you’ve built your list of people to contact make sure that they’re actual email addresses. verify-email is an incredibly useful tool to check you’re actually talking to who you thought you were. You’ve got a limit per hour, but just have a look on Google for alternatives.

4. Social Media

Sometimes the best way to contact people isn’t through email but through social media instead. If you can find the right people then you can usually find all their linked accounts — discover.ly is a particularly useful tool for figuring out contact information for accounts that are of interest.

It’s probably wise to avoid handwritten mail, but mostly because of the risk to personal health

5. First Contact

Once you’ve found all the contact information that you wanted it’s finally time to get emailing and calling. Emailing is inherently difficult and it’s very easy to make mistakes without even realising it. People love startups and they love to help people: if you lead with your impassioned dream, they’re unlikely to crush you with honest, objective feedback. You don’t want empty platitudes, you want real information about the problems they’re facing, about their likelihood to actually buy. The Mom Test is a fantastic book that can help you navigate the problems associated with talking to people and getting useful data from them.

Mail merging is a great way to send out a well formatted email to a number of people, but there is a huge benefit in personalising emails to make sure they get the most attention possible (there’s a great blog with more information on how to do that here or you could simply use these templates). The golden rule of these emails is to include the following things:

  • Vision — explain the area around your startup and explain, in one line, your solution.
  • Frame — tell the person why you’re contacting them (i.e. for information).
  • Weakness — highlight where you need help and specify how they can help you.
  • Pedestal — mention how helpful they are going to be and make them feel experienced and good about helping.
  • Ask — for help.

Rob Fitzpatrick takes all the credit for this structure, and the Create Lab team has made this into a mail merge template so you can rapidly get up and running: find all the templates here!

Once you’ve got a template all ready to go, it’s certainly worth considering outsourcing the phone calls themselves. Companies like Yakhub can rapidly find people to make the calls for you without you having to enter a fixed term contract like you would with large telesales companies.

When emailing, cake-based bribery is encouraged

6. Managing Emails

The volumes associated with sending cold emails are pretty crazy and keeping track of who has replied or shown interest is probably one of the most difficult things to do, but tools like quickmail can help you send cold emails and follow up on responses. If people aren’t getting back to you then you might want to consider using Rebump to send them beautiful follow up emails until they finally relent and get back to you.


Understanding this process and keeping track of it is essential if you want to keep growing your business whilst keeping your existing customers sweet. Hopefully with these tools you’ll be able to take the best approach and manage to get in front of some very important people.

Resources:

  1. Cold Contacting + Mail Merge Templates — Tools for cold contacting (Free)
  2. Linkedin — Your connections (Free)
  3. Datahug — Find key connections (Free Trial)
  4. Conspire — Find key connections (Free)
  5. Emailhunter — Find emails from websites (Free)
  6. Verify-Email — Check that emails are legitimate (Free)
  7. discover.ly — Find contacts from social media (Free)
  8. The Mom Test — How to talk to cold contacts (£18)
  9. Yakhub — Outsourced cold calling and link generation
  10. Personalising Emails — How to talk to cold contacts (Free)
  11. quickmail — Send and follow up cold emails (Free Trial then $49/month)
  12. Pipedrive ebook — How to structure a pipeline (Free)
  13. Pipedrive — Structuring pipeline (Free Trial then €12/month)
  14. close.io — Track interactions (Free Trial then $65/month)
  15. Streak — Track interactions (Free)
  16. Trello — Keep track of everything (Free)
  17. Rebump — Follow contacts forever (Free Trial then $50/year)
  18. CharlieApp — Find out info about people before a meeting (Free)
  19. Lead Forensics — ID for anonymous website traffic (Free Trial)
  20. Rapportive — Find out info about google contacts (Free)

Written by Alex Bond

Editorial assistance from Dominic Falcão and Jack Owen

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