Getting Your Foot In The Door: The Art Of The Unsolicited Email

by Dave Greenfeld

Plenty of people assume that unsolicited emails are a pointless waste of time and that no one reads them. These individuals have yet to learn that it is indeed an art form capable of opening networking doors, which may help careers and broaden entrepreneurial opportunities.

Throughout the past few years, I’ve sent cold emails that brought about meetings with incredibly successful entrepreneurs, authors, serial investors, consultants, marketers and even a few celebrities. Use the tips below to increase your response rate and spark meaningful relationships with people you admire.

Establish Trust.

One of the strongest ways to establish trust with a complete stranger is to find a point of commonality. Whether this is a mutual friend, an alma mater, a book, a businesses venture or anything you admire about a person, it is critical that you begin your email with praise and some element of recognition. It will stroke the reader’s ego and allow him or her to understand that he or she has truly affected you.

Moreover, by demonstrating a relationship or passion you share, you increase the probability that there will be a response. If you fail to capture this person's attention within the first few seconds of opening a message, expect to go straight to spam.

Briefly Tell Your Story.

Just as founders should be able to describe their businesses in a sentence or less, you should be able to make your case concisely. Be sure to include relevant details that chronicle your career trajectory that are appealing to the party you are trying to reach. In doing so, you strategically illustrate your motives, interests and long-term goals while impressing an image of yourself in the mind of the reader. Also remember that mentioning any past internship or job will build your credibility and potentially deem you to be a worthy connection.

Quality is Crucial.

With these emails, quality is key; the reason so many cold emails are ignored is that they tend not to be engaging, authentic or personable. They often appear to be selfish, dry and, quite honestly, desperate. Take the time to really think and reflect about what you’re seeking. A job prospect, seed capital, an interview, a phone call or even a cup of coffee must all resonate with the tone of the email. Also, take the time to edit your email; spell check and a quick read through will ensure that you don't appear grammatically inept and intellectually comparable to a middle school chump.


While this may not be possible in all situations, think about how you can make a meeting mutually beneficial. What can you offer this individual? Maybe it would be beneficial to the person to access your college social network, feedback from your demographic, an innovative startup idea or even just offer to purchase lunch. By reciprocating and providing value, you are no longer a few pieces of text in a word box — you are meaningful, and potentially useful.

End With Gratitude.

Be sure to close your message by thanking the reader for his or her time. The fact that this person allocated any time to your inquiry deserves the utmost gratitude, especially considering the fact that you are a complete stranger. Hopefully you struck a chord and a relationship will materialize.

What If I Don't Have Their Email?

Make use of the BCC field in your email. The blind copy is a wonderful tool that is rarely used to its full potential. Guess the person's most likely email address and as many variants of the address as you can. The unsuccessful attempts will return with failure notifications, but the correct email will deliver as planned.

Photo credit: Shutterstock