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The Art of the Cold-Call Email

What to write when you need help from a stranger.

Dear x,

I love what you're working on and would love to meet for coffee and pick your brain and get your advice.

Let me know when you can meet!



Many of us have been in this position of sending/receiving a cold email and asking for advice, right? While building my new business THINX, I found that I have to constantly ask people I don’t know for advice/help etc.

As you may well have discovered, the above email never works! The annoying "can I pick your brain" or "please give me your advice" without any context is generally always met with a big fat groan. I have to remind myself of this too sometimes!

Here are the steps to take to send an appropriate cold "picking your brain" email to get the desired response you’re looking for:

1. Do your research

Look up the person you are trying to meet. Find out as much as you can about them before you send them anything. With Google at your fingertips, there is no excuse not to do your homework first. 

2. Lead with a connecting fact

Now that you know something about them, start the email with something complimentary about a recent, relevant article you read about this person or start with an issue that you know this person cares about. Put one or a max of two sentences together telling them why you admire them.

3. Offer something in return

The most important next thing to say is to find a way to make it mutually beneficial. How do you make it mutually beneficial? By offering them something first! You have to always pretend like the person receiving the email will be asking himself/herself, "What’s in it for me?"

If you'e young or don't have a lot of clout, you probably still have a lot of Facebook friends and some kind of social media presence. Offer to share the thing they care about with your friends/followers on social media. Try and find something, anything you can do to support/help them.

Once you develop a rapport with them and showed that you are value-add for them, THEN you can go in with your ask! Don’t go in with your ask in the first email. This is very important. Go in with your ask after you have shown value.

This is a longer route but you will find your chances of getting a response exponentially higher. People are naturally built to help once they have been helped.

Please try this and let me know if it worked!

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Mar 28, 2014

MIKI AGRAWAL | Columnist | serial entrepreneur

Miki Agrawal is a serial social entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and television personality. She founded the farm-to-table alternative pizza concept called Wild in New York City and partnered with CEO Tony Hsieh to open the concept in Las Vegas. She was a recipient of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival's Disruptive Innovation Award. Agrawal is also a partner in Super Sprowtz, a children's media company. Her book, Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After, came out in August 2013.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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