Whether asking for a testimonial from an industry A-lister, making an introduction to a potential client, or probing the mind of someone you admire, we've all cold-emailed people we didn't know to ask for something.

These people are incredibly busy, and sometimes seem out of reach and entirely untouchable. And, unless you write your email properly, they'll continue to be those three things.

Here are five ways to ensure that your email breaks the ice:

1. Brevity

You don't need to write a novel or your life story as an introductory email. Keep it short and to the point. If you receive a reply, then you can get into more detail.

2. Genuine and specific flattery

You don't need to brown-nose, but make sure those you write to know that you've appreciate their specific work.

3. A clear purpose

If you want a response, make sure you ask for something specific. Don't use open-ended questions or pussyfoot around because you're too scared to ask something. Never ask for anything that you could find in a minute on Google or your recipient's website.

4. Easy yes

Make it easy for your recipients to say yes. Don't ask for something massive right out of the gate. Be considerate of their time and of the fact that you don't have any rapport with them yet. Show them why they should help you. If responding doesn't benefit them, make sure it's at least easy for them to respond.

5. Read it out loud

Seriously, before you hit send, read your email to yourself out loud. This will force you to proofread it slowly and make sure there aren't any typos. If it takes longer than a minute to read out loud, cut it down.

Don't take it personally if you don't hear back from someone. For every person who doesn't respond, you can probably find three more people with similar skills or reputation to reach out to.

But before you send another email, make sure the way you're writing them isn't the reason people aren't responding. (In other words, circle back to the five points above.)

Published on: Nov 25, 2014