5 Tips For Emailing Busy People

Since the success of The 4-Hour Workweek, I’ve been able to see some of the worst e-mail pitches out there.

Here is an example of how to do it properly, with 5 tips and good template phrases bolded:

Hi Tim,
I hope all is well (and I gather from your celebrity that it is — I can’t seem to go a week without seeing your book or name somewhere).
I know you place tremendous value on your time so I’ll be brief. The website I launched last fall has evolved into a much more far-reaching venture: a software company that provides fundraising optimization and online advocacy solutions for nonprofits. I’m raising $500–750k for the business, called Donor Loyalty Corp, and have a meaningful percentage of that already committed from various Angel investors.
Naturally, I’m courting a number of prospective Angels from my personal network to hopefully fill out the rest of the round. However, I was curious if your experience has taught you any lessons about identifying seed-stage investors and, more specifically, if you’ve come to know any Princeton Alums or other individuals who have an appetite for deals like these. I’ve attached my fundraising deck for some context.
I understand if you’re too busy to answer in depth or would prefer not to discuss the topic given our limited interactions in the past. However, if the professor in you has any pearls of wisdom or specific thoughts, they would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance and I hope we can connect.
Best,
Robert J. Moore ‘06

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Here are a few notes on this e-mail and what makes it more likely to get a response:

1. It’s short and what he’s requesting is clear. No “let’s jump on the phone for 10 minutes; it’ll be worth your time.”

2. He made an impression in our initial meeting, and he hasn’t irritated me with zero-content “keeping in touch” e-mails. He hasn’t worn out his inbox welcome.

3. He makes it clear that he’s doing his part and has explored other avenues before asking for my help. It’s amazing how many would-be mentees or beneficiaries ask busier people for answers Google could provide in 20 seconds. That puts you on the banned list. Explicitly state what you’ve done to get answers or help yourself.

4. He used the executive recruiter referral trick. Seldom will a headhunter call a gainfully employed CXO-level executive and ask them to take another position. They’ll instead ask the exec if they know anyone who might be interested in position X. The intention is clear (might you consider this job over your current employer?), but it gives the executive a comfortable decline option.

5. He makes it clear that it’s OK if I can’t help or if I’m too committed elsewhere. This — paradoxically — makes it much more likely he’ll get a response, which he did.

The above 5 tenets should be considered for any e-mail to someone who probably deletes more e-mail in a day than you read in a week. If they appear in media regularly, assume that you are competing against at least 100 similar requests.

E-mail is like food. Good recipes produce good results, but you need to follow the proper steps.

BONUS: Want to Win Every Day?

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