You know those days where you hear about inspirational people that you would love to learn from? Every day is one of those days for me.
However, these people don’t usually end up on my doorstep – and my beautiful mother will be the first to attest that I’m very impatient. I’ve definitely tried some unconventional methods in order to grab people’s attention in business, which has probably made me seem a little crazy.
But the technique I use isn’t unconventional at all. Instead, I turn to what I call my “bread and butta” method: cold calling (read: cold e-mailing). Here’s how.
1. Be unique – even a little crazy. In late December of 2011, while browsing the Internet, I came across an article about a random reporter who obtained the e-mail address of a famous billionaire by conducting a simple Google search. He sent him an e-mail and was astonished to receive a reply within 15 minutes. Shorty after reading that article, I thought to myself, “Why not?”
Within the next 10 minutes, I wrote an e-mail to the same billionaire explaining who I was, what I do, and my goals for my company. I also let him know that I admired his tough journey to success and stardom. To my surprise, within 30 minutes of sending that e-mail, I too received a reply. I had low expectations, so you can imagine the cheesy smile I had on my face. This is what I put in the subject of the email to grab his attention:
“Insert cliché attention grabbing subject here: HEY (NAME), LOVE THE (COMPANY)! THIS IS A LONG SUBJECT FOR AN EMAIL HUH? HOPEFULLY IT STANDS OUT!”
I immediately hit “send” after I wrote that subject line, because I didn’t want to sit there and talk myself out of it. I am sure this billionaire receives hundreds of e-mails per hour, so mine had to stand out somehow.
Bold or crazy, whatever you want to call it, it’s one of the main reasons I got his attention. And before I knew it, we had over 90 informative e-mail exchanges about my company. He offered me some great advice on how get to the next level. If our paths ever cross in the future, I’ll be sure to reference this bizarre subject line so he’ll instantly remember who I am. It’ll make for a great ice-breaker!
2. Be informed, but be yourself. I keep some important things in mind whenever I approach individuals with that first cold call or cold email, namely:
- Be sincere. If you’re trying to get monetary gain out of the individual, good luck; they’re usually good at sniffing out leeches. Look to learn from their knowledge and experience. That’s more valuable than gold, Goldmember.
- Do your due diligence. Make it clear that you did your research about them beforehand. Examine their LinkedIn profile and learn about their accomplishments and goals before you contact them.
- Be you. Do not exaggerate or bend the truth. Authenticity is the best approach, especially if they do decide to follow up with you.
Nihal Mehta, CEO of LocalResponse, has been on my “to meet” list for quite a while. However, before I cold called him, I read up on all his accomplishments, watched his YouTube interviews and looked into what he’s currently doing as extensively as I could. I was very clear about why I wanted to connect with him in that very first e-mail. I was, and still am, genuinely amazed by the number of accomplishments he has under his belt, and I wanted to learn from him.
Nihal warmly welcomed my e-mail, and a few weeks later, we met up for coffee and connected instantly. We talked about his past and what he went through to get to where he is today, as well as what I’m currently going through to reach the same position – personally and professionally.
Since then, he has very graciously given me great advice, and even asked me what he could do to help me succeed. I was floored by his generosity; not many people ask you how they can help you succeed in today’s world. But they might if you know how to ask.
3. Follow up and stay interested. You wouldn’t work your butt off to land that supermodel’s number and not shoot her a text or ring her a few days later, right? Treat that entrepreneur the same way: follow up and stay interested. Follow them on Twitter. Stay up to date on what they’re working on and how their company is progressing. And keep them in the loop, too.
I personally make sure to e-mail my billionaire “friend” every 2-3 months to keep him updated on my progress. It’s a toss-up if I get a response from him or not, but when I do, it reaffirms that he’s still interested in hearing from me. If I don’t get a response, I still continue to e-mail him unless he specifically asks me to stop. (In which case, stop!)
In my updates, I usually let my contacts know how my company is progressing, what I’m learning along the way, and ask for some advice when needed. In return, I make sure they know that I’m always happy to help out – whether through my business or by doing something random, like moving furniture.
I definitely keep in touch with Nihal Mehta regularly as well; he recently told me that “[he] never rejects a free coffee.” Well, guess what? I’m more than happy being Nihal’s personal Starbucks if that results in 15 minutes of his time. If you want to get ahead in your career – and learn from the greats – I suggest you do the same.
Shahzil (Shaz) Amin is the founder and CEO of Blue Track Media, an online advertising company that focuses on customer acquisition through incentive promotions. His first company was formed right out of high school and his latest one, Plugged Inc., focuses on selling and manufacturing headphones. He’s always looking to meet new people and loves to learn from their experiences. His hobbies include playing sports, eating wings, and laughing.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and e-mail lessons.