The thought of having to write cold emails can put a freeze on just about anyone's aspirations. But if you're trying to pitch a new product, generate leads for your business or get noticed by a potential client, cold emailing can be a low-entry approach to opening doors. And while there are apps that streamline the process, cold emailing is more about form than finesse -- and developing good form can be the difference between opportunity and rejection.

The good news is that you can turn cold emails into hot leads by sticking to four simple rules.

I've used these four techniques to land a a TEDx talk, appear on popular podcasts, generate paid speaking opportunities, and get influencers to write endorsements for my book. (The column you're reading? The four in action.)

Before you send another cold email that goes nowhere, take time to reconsider your approach and whether it incorporates a sensible and strategic approach.

Rule No. 1: Go In Hot

Make no mistake: To succeed at cold emailing, you must go in hot, not cold. Before making any attempt at outreach, your email needs to reflect the following: 

  • Research: Before you attempt contact, do your homework. Why is the prospective client or opportunity on the other end a good fit? Why is it worthy of your outreach? If the connection is weak, so are your chances for success. 
  • Relevance: Even if you can identify an end target, you still need to define why you are the one who can hit their mark. What about your background, expertise and experience makes you a compelling choice for this client or opportunity? 
  • Relatability: In a crowded field, you have to stand out. But that doesn't necessarily mean being different than your competition. Identifying unusual points of connection can be just as compelling.  To land a keynote for a global financial services company, I let the event planner know we attended the same small college. It worked. 

Rule No. 2: Make It About Them

Anyone who receives a cold email immediately wants to know: Why me? It's critical that you address that question explicitly before you make an ask. What about this person or opportunity has drawn your interest in the first place? Make that clear from the very start, or you'll be quickly dismissed. It's also a good idea to be succinct. Don't repel your recipient with long-winded emails. Say it short and simple.  

Rule No. 3: Make It Easy To Say Yes

Sometimes, we become our biggest competition. If you want to create opportunities with cold email, you need to make it easy for the recipient to say "yes." To stay out of your own way, be sure your email:

  • Makes a specific request:  Is it clear what you're looking for the other person to do next? Did you state that message up front, or is it buried in the body of your message?
  • Defines a time horizon: Did you give the recipient a clear sense of when and how your request can be fulfilled? Remember, you're hitting above your weight class and the people you're reaching out to are busy and inclined to say no. Your job is to convert their hesitation to support by making the ask as defined as possible. Specify the dates, times, and duration for your request and be certain that it can be fulfilled under those conditions.
  • Demonstrates empathy and good taste: As a useful exercise, trade places with the recipient and ask yourself: "If I were the one getting this email, what would it take to keep my interest?" You wouldn't appreciate aggressive language or urgent deadlines, would you? Neither do they. 

Rule No. 4: Show Gratitude

The first three rules can help you warm up to a cold connection. But even if you successfully win them over, you should already be thinking about ways to nurture that relationship for future opportunities. And there's no better way to do that than with a genuine expression of gratitude

If something good comes from your original request, let the recipient know. I still drop a note of appreciation every few months to the real estate executive who gave me my first paid speaking gig. It's an opportunity for me to thank him for taking a chance on me and to let him know the good that continues to come from it. People will be more inclined to help you if they sense that their contribution made a difference -- not just in your life, but in the lives of others, too. 

When you take a sensible and strategic approach to cold emailing, you just might discover that opportunity knocks. If you give others what they need, you can usually get what you want. And when seeking opportunity, always remember: Expect nothing, appreciate everything. 

Published on: Feb 8, 2019