Here it is. The moment you’ve been waiting for. Asking the person you are networking with for what you want. There are six keys to follow for this email to maximize your chances of success.
Key #1: Size Matters
The second someone opens an email they immediately scan it and are assessing if this is something they want to deal with. The longer it is with lengthy paragraphs, the higher chance of them hitting the delete button without ever getting past the first sentence. Remember, this isn’t a follow up where you’re providing more context, it’s simply the first ask to put the relationship into motion.
Keep the email as short as possible. If it must be longer, don’t use paragraphs. Break it into bullet points instead to make the email more digestible. Be brutal about revising the email and cutting out anything that is unnecessary.
Key #2: One Email, One Outcome
Keep the email incredibly focused. If you ask for multiple things, you’ll get nothing. Ask for one thing, and you and are much more likely to get what you want. One email, one outcome.
Key #3: Get Specific
Get as specific as you can with your ask. Asking for something super generic or broad creates work for them. I'm Sidekick’s VP of Growth, and I often gets asked for marketing advice from entrepreneurs. Compare these two questions:
“My startup is a SaaS product for marketers. What should my marketing strategy be?"
“My startup is a SaaS product for marketers of SMB’s to help them capture more leads. It costs $100/month to start. I’m trying to decide between content marketing and paid acquisition as a channel. What do you think the pros/cons of those two channels would be in my case?”
Question one requires me to do a bunch of work. I needs to check out what the company does more specifically, look at their pricing, think about their target market, and then think about an entire marketing strategy!
The second question is much more specific and something I can respond to almost immediately. With a small tweak, the recipient is more likely to get a response and a more insightful and targeted answer.
This also applies when asking for time. If you are asking for a meeting or a call, specify the time - especially if the time commitment is small. Just don’t over promise (i.e. “I only need 5 seconds of your time.”) because it is blatantly not true and starts to feel manipulative.
Key #4: Small Asks, Then Big Asks
Think hard and long about what you are asking for and the amount of effort required by the other person. The smaller the ask, the more likely you are to get a response.
There is a reason that despite receiving thousands of email pitches a year from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists fund almost zero of those companies. Asking for hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars in an email when they’ve never heard of you is too big of an ask.
As your relationship develops, the more you can ask for comfortably. Here are nine ways we can strengthen our relationships.
Key #5: Do The Work For Them
Last but not least, do as much work as you possibly can to make it easy for them to give you what you are asking for. The classic example is if you are asking to meet in person. Compare the two examples below:
“When and where could you meet for a half hour?”
“How is next Tue/Wed/Thur at 4pm at your office, or the Starbucks down the block from you?”
In example one, the recipient has to go to their calendar, come up with a few times to suggest, think about place to meet, and then send that back to you.
In example two, the recipient looks at his calendar and can reply yes to one of those times, and the location is chosen and convenient for them. You’ve done the work for them. Here’s another example of doing the work for a connection when asking for an introduction.
Key #6: Get The Timing Right
You’ve done all the work above. The last thing you want to keep you from making your connection is timing. People are much more likely to be in their email and responding at certain times of the day.
Use something like the Send Later feature in Sidekick to schedule the emails to be sent at specific times to optimize your chances.
Data shows that sending in the evenings will optimize your chances of receiving a reply. Two reasons for this:
1. If your email is among a bunch that need responses, your chances of getting a response is less likely. What is the first thing you see when you open your inbox in the morning? A bunch of unread emails that need responses.
2. Most emails get read within a hour of being sent. So try to send when you think the person will be sitting in their inbox. Lunch time, commute home, dinner time are all bad times.
Pro Tip: If you meet with the person, fish for personal tidbits. Are they going on vacation? Do they have a big launch coming up? Do they have a family? What are their interests (sports, activities, etc) What challenges are they facing? This info will become extremely useful later on in the Follow Up stage.