Quick Trick to Increase Cold Email Responses

People you don’t know are always more likely to respond to your emails when you’ve been referred. It signals you’ve been vetted.

cold email

Unfortunately, we don’t always have someone willing to introduce or refer us to the person we’re trying to reach. One way to combat this is by creating a referral. The methodology is pretty simple and can be applied even before you’ve identified the decision maker:

Step 1. Call Above Someone in the Organization

By calling above, I mean call someone who holds a higher, related position within the corporate hierarchy. I.E. If I’m trying to reach the VP of marketing, try calling the Chief Marketing Officer’s office.

When you reach this person, simply ask them who is responsible for the initiative related to your solution.

“Hey Joe CMO,

I was hoping you might be able to help me out here….(wait in order to engender attentiveness)

I’m looking to connect with the person in your department who manages social media marketing. Do you know who that might be?

Mike Mokaymo does? Awesome thanks so much”

In their haste to get off the phone, this person will almost always reveal exactly who you need to talk to.

2. Cold Email the prospect indicating the referral in the subject line

Email Title: Social Media Marketing via Joe CMO

As soon as your prospect sees you were referred by their superior, you become important. The likelihood they respond skyrockets. Put yourself in their shoes…what’s worse than someone potentially wasting 15 minutes of their time? Blowing someone off who their boss wanted them to talk to.

The body of the email could go something like this:

Hi Mike Mokaymo,

Joe CMO directed me to you as the person who handles social media marketing.

Our company X has developed a tool to manage their brands reputation which saves average clients 2 hours every single day. Just ask the guys at W, Y, and Z companies.

When you have a few minutes, would enjoy the opportunity to connect to see if we might be able to get you some of that precious time back : )


Maybe this person is looking for brand management tools. Maybe they’re not. Either way they’re probably going to return my cold email because I’ve indicated that I was directed to them by their boss – which I was (in 6 seconds).

BUT SCOTT. There’s no way I can get the CMO or even a VP on the phone! That’s completely fine. Just ask the secretary. They will definitely know who within the organization you need to speak to. When directed by the Secretary you can just subtly change the language:

Email Title: Social Media Marketing via Joe CMO

Hi Mike Mokaymo,

I was told you were the person to talk to about social media marketing from the office of Joe CMO.

Notice the difference? When referred by an administrative assistant you can still convey importance by stating you’ve been directed to them “from the office of” their superior.

This has been very effective for optimizing cold email responses and is pretty simple to do. Give it a shot.

New to this blog or interested in business development? You can find me on twitter here and read more business development posts here.

How Skillshare Helped Me Finance A Nicer Apartment

I love a lot of things about Skillshare. But today I’d like to highlight what it’s done for my finances and purchasing decisions.

Most people’s income is static with the exception of a year-end bonus. This yearly income determines their monthly budget. I.E. If I made $48,000 I’d have a little over $2500 a month after taxes to spend on rent, groceries, entertainment, bills, etc.

In this situation, purchasing decisions are a zero sum game because our income is capped. If I’m moving and want to spend an extra $200 on rent, that means I’ll have $200 less to spend on entertainment, tank tops, Dos Toros etc. The bottom line is we’re forced to make sacrifices.

What’s amazing about Skillshare is that it has made my income dynamic, alleviating the zero sum perception that once occupied my purchasing decisions.

Let me explain:

I recently moved to an apartment that costs a few hundred dollars more each month. Assuming a fixed income, most young people would have to adjust their lifestyle to afford this upgrade. Not me! I’m just teaching another class every month to supplement the difference. I don’t have to change my lifestyle; I just need to do something I already love doing an additional 2 more hours a month.

You can apply this same type of decision making framework to any purchase. Saving up to go to OktoberFest? Instead of cutting back consumption, increase income-generating output.


What’s incredible about Skillshare is that the additional labor (if you want to call it that) needed to generate significant income really isn’t time-consuming, especially if you’re teaching a class where you’ve already created the assets. Granted you need to teach a class where the demand is high enough that you can sell it out with frequency, but if you can the rewards are tremendous.

I can go to OktoberFest for 5 days by teaching 4 classes ( < 8 hours!). That’s a Saturday.

Here are some other cool ways people have taken advantage of this dynamic income.

Alex Taub teaches Business Development classes and gives a piece of the additional income to his wife to buy something nice. What a sweetheart!

Derek Flanzraich teaches a class on organic growth and has used the income to help finance some indulgences for his company Greatist. He used the earnings from his last class to buy a laptop stand, keyboard, and mouse for each member of his team.

Steven Yang, a member of the Skillshare team, teaches about how to break into the startup scene and has actually documented all the things he’s bought on a blog call “I Taught I Bought“.

Helping people learn and meeting new people are definitely the best parts about teaching a Skillshare class. But removing the zero sum mindset when purchasing indulgences here and there ain’t so bad either : ) So yeah…if you’re aren’t teaching a class, you should probably get on that.

Some other posts I’ve written on Skillshare in case you’re new to the platform:

Guerilla Tactics: A Skillshare Case Study

Thoughts on the Knowledge Economy

How To Ask Someone For a Coffee Meeting

I encounter a lot of people who want to “get coffee sometime.”

A lot of them are younger people I haven’t met or brief acquaintances looking for advice or help.

If you fall into this category (vs. a friend/colleague), there are effective ways to go about asking for coffee that make people more likely to meet with you as well as elicit a greater sense of respect for their time.

meet for coffee

I’m breaking this down into two parts.

1. How to increase your odds that a busy, cool person will meet with you

2. An effective way to ask for a coffee meeting

Increasing the Odds This Person Will Meet For Coffee

You’ve identified the person you’d like to grab a cup of joe with. Let’s just assume they’re an ass-kicker who’s super busy. Remember “getting coffee” is asking for a chunk of their time which is probably their most precious commodity. Thus, it’s always beneficial to precede this ask by delivering some sort of value to them first.

There is much higher probability that they’ll give you their time if you’ve taken the initiative to lead with value. It becomes an interchange vs. pure take interaction. A few ways to lead with value:

Support Them:

The digital landscape is filled with opportunities to support someone. Do they have a blog? Demonstrate that you read it by consistently providing thoughtful commentary or sharing it. Are they hiring? Share their job postings in a public setting or even introduce people to the company that might be a good fit. Are they speaking at an event? Rally people to go check it out and then let that person know what you learned from them. You don’t have to meet someone in order to do any of these things – and trust me even busy people notice.

Provide Thoughtful Feedback:

Whether we’re talking an author, startup founder, or artist, no professional worth their salt doesn’t appreciate thoughtful, genuine feedback. You should just assume this. Don’t wait for someone to ask for it. Grab the bull by the horns and shoot them a thoughtful feedback email. Don’t know their email? See here.

I’ve had a lot of young bucks approach me seeking advice. When someone provides value before asking for my time, I’m much more likely to make it a priority to get together with them.

These are just a few things you can do to increase your chances that someone will meet for coffee that don’t require connections and a ton of social capital. I’m sure there’s many more.

[ois skin=”Coffee Skin Email Skin”]

2. How to Ask to For a Coffee Meeting

Here’s how I’d ask a business development badass I’d want to meet for coffee. Key elements of this email to keep in mind: context, a specific ask, recognition of their time/gratefulness, limited time commitment, convenience, signaling you’ll provide value. I’ll flesh each one out afterwards.

Hi Joe Awesome,

My name is Scott Britton. I stumbled across your blog three weeks ago and wanted to let you know that I’ve found it to be some of the most compelling content I’ve read recently. Your post on “How to Build Your Network” has literally been a godsend for me. The notion of always providing value and expecting nothing in return that you mentioned has had such a positive effect on how I’ve thought about networking. Thank you so much for helping me grow.

Anyways, I just moved to New York City after graduation last year and have been really trying to build my skills as a business development professional.  Currently I’m focusing on learning more about how to approach retail brands. I know this is something you’ve done at X company for the past year and was wondering if you were up for me treating you to a cup of coffee in exchange for some insight. I know you’re a super busy guy, but I would be very grateful for 20 minutes of your time and am happy to meet you at the most convenient location/time for you.

Lastly, I saw your company is hiring inside sales reps and have passed the opportunity along to some friends who I think would be a good fit.

Look forward to hearing from you,


Key elements of this email:

Intro Context

My name is Scott Britton. I stumbled across your blog three weeks ago and wanted to let you know that I’ve found it to be some of the most compelling content I’ve read in a long time.

I just moved to New York City after graduation last year and have been really trying to build my skills as a young business development professional at Y company.

Give the reader context of who you are and how you found them. It’s always beneficial if the context of how you “found” them demonstrates support I.E. reading their blog.

Specific Context Why You’re Reaching Out 

Currently I’m focusing on learning more about how to approach retail brands. I know this is something you’ve done at X company for the past year and was wondering if you were up for me treating you to a cup of coffee in exchange for some insight.

Asking for someone’s time without indicating why doesn’t make anyone want to help you. It makes you come off like a taker.

When you specify why you want to get together someone it does a few things:

  • Provides context on how you can help them. People are more apt to get together when they know they can help.
  • Signals that you’re not out just to take someone’s time.
  • Makes that person feel valuable. No one minds having their ego stroked.
  • Gives them the option to help via phone or email. This can be a happy middle ground that is much better than no response at all.

Recognition That They’re Giving You Their Time

I know you’re a super busy guy, but I would be very grateful

When a busy person receives this kind of email, they probably start thinking about whether they have time for this. That’s what I do. When you signal to them that you acknowledge their time is very limited and valuable, they appreciate it. It indicates that you recognize they’re giving something up and that you’re likely to grateful if they did.

It also puts them at ease if they can’t get together which yields a higher response rate. “This kid gets it. I’ll respond to them and schedule a call.”

Limited Time Commitment

I would be very grateful for 20 minutes

Manage the expectation that you’re not looking for this person to commit 2 hours of their time. Establishing a limited commitment makes people more likely to meet with you. Everyone has 15-20 minutes to give. Use that 20 minutes as a launchpad to sit down with them for an hour at a later date.

Make it Convenient

[I’m] am happy to meet you at the most convenient location/time for you.

Don’t make this person jump through hoops when they’re doing you a favor. Make it as easy as possible. If you signal that you’re willing to work with them, they’re more likely to make time for you.

Signal That You’re Going to Provide Value to Their Life

Lastly, I saw you’re company is hiring inside sales reps and have passed the opportunity along to some friends who I think would be a good fit.

The best way to get someone to make time for you is to demonstrate that you can add value to their life. I always like to close these emails by indicating just that. In this example, taking the initiative to source potential employees to their company demonstrates that I care about their success and that I’m willing to help them.

That’s it. This framework by no stretch guarantees that someone is going to meet you for coffee. It does however give you a chance by signaling all the right things…definitely a big improvement from the vague “let’s get coffee sometime.”

If anyone else has any observations about increasing the odds of getting someone to have coffee meeting with you or specifically how to ask, it’d be great if you could share in the comments.

[ois skin=”Coffee Skin Email Skin”]


Other Good Coffee Meeting Articles:

Want A Coffee? A Brief Guide for Neophytes

Why You Need to Take 50 Coffee Meetings



First-time reader? Get future posts by subscribing via email or following me on Twitter.

*If you’ve pulled the let’s get coffee sometime on me with little to no context, don’t feel bad! I simply thought I’d share what I find to be a more effective practice for everyone involved.

Business Development 101: Silence Can Be Your Friend

In the business development world, the world silence usually has a negative connotation, but when you’re pitching it can be a good thing.

People are naturally uncomfortable with silence during a phone conversation with a new acquaintance. When they encounter it, they don’t know what to do…so they just start talking.

Business Development

Often there are valuable pieces of information that prospects hold close to their chest. An example might be how interested they are in buying your product or service. Just like on a car lot, they might not want to seem too interested to maintain bargaining leverage. Other times there’s questions that are just awkward to ask directly.

You can use the silence disposition to your advantage in these type of scenarios. Purposefully directed silence can prompt prospects to reveal what they’re thinking….

How to Do This

The first order of business is determining which piece of information you’re trying to derive. Their interest in the product? What’s their the budget like? Do they think you sound handsome?

Once you’ve defined this, the tactic is pretty straightforward. Intentionally pick a point in the conversation to make a grand, leading statement directed at that piece of information followed by abrupt silence. You should know exactly when you’re going to do this before the pitch even begins and lead up to it in a logical manner.

This is best demonstrated by example:

What you want to know: Whether your offering is truly in their budget

An example of How to Derive This In Your Phone Pitch: Spend 5 minutes outlining the benefits of the offering and the various features of the product. Then drop a purposeful silence statement:

“Our partners have been so happy with our offering. (Deliberate slight pause) They can’t believe they get X,Y, and Z for ONLY $5000 which is well within their budget.” STOP TALKING HERE

….now you wait until they say something. Even if there is 10 seconds of silence, continue to wait. Eventually the other side will show their cards and you’ll get the answer that you’re looking for either directly or indirectly.

Directly: “Oh well $5,000 isn’t even in our budget”

Indirectly: “Wait just $5,000. That’s great”

This is a much better way to determine how the answer to your question than at the end of the call saying “So what do you think” or “So what’s your budget.”

Coaxing Confirmation

Another benefit the previous technique can inspire is that it can prompt verbal confirmation of a belief you’re advocating for. Say you’re trying to get them to admit your product provides great results. You might say something like this:

Me: “Our product has resulted in 3X the number of user signups since implementation…and we think that is pretty awesome” (Silence)

Them: “Yeah that’s great” or “Wow”

Making them speak positively about your offering can have a powerful effect on their perception. Ideally you’re able get a prospect to reveal what they’re thinking and coax confirmation at the same time.

It takes awhile to get comfortable with the idea of inserting silence into conversations because we’re naturally averse to it. But when you recognize the value when used correctly and then intentionally plan it, the effects can be powerful. Next time you’re pitching give it a try. See if they show their cards.

How to Start Using Twitter and Building Your Presence (Non-Toolish Remix 1.0)

Getting started on twitter can be daunting. What does RT mean? Who do I follow? Is there etiquette on here? Why did @sexylexy46 who follows 45,000 people and is followed by 5 just follow me? I wondered all these things when I started out and did a lot of stupid things in the process of trying to build a digital presence. I have a lot of friends trying to “break in” to the startup scene, so I figured I wrote a post on my learnings to help them avoid some mistakes I made.

How to start using twitter

This is my unofficial guide of how to get started and build a digital presence on twitter – something that’s really useful for people looking to break into the startup scene. I’ll cover some do’s and don’ts that will probably piss a few people off, but hey, this is my blog.

Set the Table

  • Pick a short handle that is easy to remember and descriptive of you. I.E. Last name
  • Fully fill out your profile so people have some context when they visit your profile
  • Start off by following your coworkers and friends

Game Time

If I started on twitter today, I’d approach building an online presence in the following order:

1. Follow industry thought leaders with a heavy concentration in your geographic area.

I’d aim to follow somewhere around 40 thought leaders, in addition to your friends and co-workers. It’s best to model yourself off those who are well respected and have a image to uphold which is why observing these type of people is ideal. I think it’s helpful to focus heavily  people in your area because they’re more likely talk about things that you’re familiar with.  You can find people to follow by

At the onset, find contentment as a fly on the wall. Your goal is to understand how the ecosystem works. Spend a week observing the type of content shared, what a back and forth dialogues look like, how people use hashtags etc. If you encounter some verbiage that seems unique to twitter like RT or DM ask a friend or colleague what that means instead of assuming people suck at spelling.

2. Begin Participating With People You Know (in the offline world)

After spending a week looking at the pool, it’s time to put your foot in the water. Whenever you do something that seems intimidating, it’s always best to begin in situations where the risk is limited. Afraid of cold-calling? Start off by calling someone who’s paid to talk to you instead of trying to get Howard Schultz on the phone. The same goes for interacting twitter.


Participating on twitter is like participating in any conversation: you should strive to participate when you can inject value into a conversation or the ecosystem as a whole. If you were standing in a circle of friends talking about the Yankees game would you tell everyone you just ate a baloney sandwich? Seriously, no one eats baloney.

A Few Ways to add value to people you know:

  • Answer someone’s  question
  • Give someone props on an accomplishment
  • Share thoughtful commentary
  • Provide a relevant or interesting link

Personally, I think spending a few weeks limiting interactions to people you know is a good idea. This stage of the game is about getting comfortable, not twitter world domination.

Things I originally did when I started on twitter that I’m not a huge fan of now:

Retweeting Compliments About Yourself:

When someone compliments you in real life, do you go and tell everyone about it or say thank you? Hmm…why do people behave differently online? Cool people typically don’t need to tell people how cool they are. Doing to get a follower or two looks toolish and is short-sighted.

I think an addendum attached to the complement is a huge improvement.

Thanks Scott RT @Scottbrit Insert compliment here.

However purely retweeting someone complimenting you just doesn’t seem all that becoming to me.

Tweeting About Something You Did With People So They Tweet Back At You:

If I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with someone and feel like telling them, I usually send them a text or email. I don’t really see why this needs to be a public declaration.

“Really enjoyed breakfast with @heyretweetme, @pleasetweetback, @iwantfollowers #anythingforfollowers”

I used to do this so that the people I tweeted at would tweet back at me and I might get more followers. If the reason you’re publicly declaring activities with people is different than that, kudos to you. If I’m honest, it wasn’t always for me. I acknowledge that public compliments can be a very effective tactic for building rapport, but I still think many of these are desperate cries for retweets -> followers.

3. Graduate to Engaging with People You Want to Know

Thoughtfully engaging people online can be a great entree to building a relationship. I’ve had many great relationships start out by the consistent interchange of value on twitter. Eventually these moved to offline relationships which is ideal.

The same principle exists when it comes to engaging people that you haven’t met: look to enter the conversation when you can provide unique value. Review the examples provided above if you want a more concrete explanation of what that looks like.

Note* true value doesn’t mean being a hollow cheerleader. I constantly see people try to cultivate relationships with A Players by just throwing a Great Post! in front of a retweet. You’ll never stand out from the crowd by doing this. If someone really wrote a great post send them a very thoughtful email outlining how it helped you learn and what you plan to do with that knowledge. That stands out.

Closing Thoughts on Building Your Presence

The best way to build a presence is by creating assets that make you an attractive person to know. Build a great company. Produce compelling content. Host an awesome event. Do something that makes you worth following. Sorry folks, no magic bullet here.

Some people get a lot of followers by spending all day tweeting. This is a suboptimal approach. It’s better to spend your time creating something of real value that naturally inspires a following. In fact, I think less of quote on quote rockstar entrepreneurs and thought leaders when they’re tweeting constantly. It signals a lack of focus to me. May seem a bit harsh, but it’s the truth.

Spend time building it and they will come.

I’m Teaching A New Skillshare Class on Business Development

I just posted a new class on Skillshare called Business Development: Going In Cold

About The Class

This class is an entry level Business Development/Sales class focused on how to go about getting meetings with people you don’t know. This class is ideal for entry level BD/Sales people working at startups who will need to maverick their way into getting in the door or anyone interested in this role at a startup.

In this class I’ll teach the basics of:

  • Building A Pipeline
  • How to Identify Decision Makers and Play LinkedIn like a Keyboard
  • How to Find Anyone’s Contact Information
  • How to Write a Cold Emails that Actually Gets Responses
  • How to Ask for Intros Without Being A Toolshed
  • Cold Calling Strategies* – Cold calling will always suck, but this is a methodology that makes it suck less
  • Case Studies of Unconventional Tips and Tricks to Get Your Foot in the Door

If you’re interested in Business Development for startups, I think this is worth a look. I’ll be sharing many of the things I’ve learned from master BD sensei Kenny Herman and my time in the startup scene. Check it out here

Riffing on Uncertainty

Have you ever been scared sh*tless to do something? I bet you that the outcome was uncertain in this situation.

Have you ever done that thing that scared you sh*tless and in one form or another succeeded?

You stood up to the bully on the playground and he backed down.
You got the girl at the bar that everyone was afraid to talk to.
You left the job everyone hated to go build an amazing company.

You conquered fear to achieve success. Fear that was grounded in uncertainty. There is no better feeling.

Uncertainty is a funny beast in my life. I’m addicted to it, yet I simultaneously try to combat it whenever I can.

I love going out in New York. Not because I’m particularly excited about dropping $$ at a bar or restaurant, but because of the prospect of the unknown. I could meet someone awesome. I could see a friend do something I never thought I’d see. I could slap hands with P Diddy. I just don’t know.

It’s the same reason I’ve grown to love entrepreneurship. I could go work at a big, comfortable company with a rigid hierarchy. But knowing what the next 5 years of my life look like doesn’t sound all that exciting to me.

I originally thought the reason I love uncertainty is because I equivocate it to upside. And the perception of upside is the foundation of excitement. It’s the greatest source of energy in my life.

The interesting thing is that I’ve spent a lifetime trying to increase the odds of success in situations where I perceive uncertain outcomes:

  • I went a good school to increase the odds of obtaining the career opportunities I wanted to.
  • I write out the script for a cold call or voicemail I’m going to leave so that I can convey my message exactly how I’d like to.
  • I go to the gym is to increase the odds of being attractive to the opposite sex when I accidentally drop a pass right in front of the group of cute girls on the beach.

*I do/did these things for other reasons too

I’m constantly trying to put myself in pole position when I line up against uncertainty.

It’s an interesting dynamic. Do I love uncertainty because of the potential for upside? Or do I love it because it provides an arena for me to test my mettle in the wild? A way to measure myself.

I think it’s the latter for me. A lifetime polishing your armor is worthless if you never enter a battle…and victories are far sweeter when we perceive the stakes are higher and the challenges more difficult.

I’d probably hate uncertainty if I didn’t perceive it as a force that could be reckoned with.

I hail from a different school. With enough diligence in any scenario, we can master fear and technique to achieve success. Nothing is impossible. When you possess this belief, uncertainty inspires competitive flames. Achieving success in it’s midst becomes a surmountable challenge. This makes it fun.

My best friend who visited last weekend is an officer in the Military. He leads a unit of Army Rangers. He’s spent the last 2 years of his life preparing to lead his men in Afghanistan. During his tenure, the leadership of our government has decided it’s in the country’s best interest to decrease the amount of resources we put into the Afghanistan effort. As a result, there’s a chance that he might never be deployed during his military career.

If he gets deployed, he enters a scenario with the most uncertain outcome(s) and highest stakes. Conversely, if he doesn’t get deployed, the remainder of his military career is pretty low-risk and predictable, discounting an alien apocalypse. He’ll spend the next few years safe on American soil.

Presented with the contrasting scenarios, my friend hungers to be deployed. It’s not that he’s incredibly eager to risk his life or see the awful things war can bring. It’s that he wants to put the sword he’s been sharpening for the past two years to use. He wants to test his skills in the wild to see how he measures up – even in the face of looming uncertainty and a meek potential for upside.

Is there a correlation between love for uncertainty and competitiveness? I don’t think so. I know many people that hate uncertainty who are extremely  competitive lovers of self-improvement. I think that love for uncertainty is correlated with the perception that it’s a state that can be tamed. Uncertainty affords an arena that many avoid, but where some choose to play so that they can measure themselves.

I love thinking about these things because I arrive at a greater understanding of myself. Why do I do think and act the way I do? When we understand this, we’re better able to diagnose and fix the behaviors we want to change. We’re able to get closer to our best selves; an outcome that hopefully yields benefits to the world around us.

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
Dalai Lama XIV