How to get a meeting with almost anyone through email
By Mike DelPonte ’05 Theology
Marketing Manager, BranchOut
Yep, I totally get it.
On the one hand, everyone keeps telling you that you need to “network.” On the other hand, networking may feel intimidating to you. Or even kinda sleazy. So if you’re like most college students, you’ve procrastinated. You haven’t set up the informational interviews. You’ve skipped the networking events.
Luckily, I’m here to tell you HOW to network better than 99% of people out there. But first, let me tell you why I’m so passionate about this topic.
When I was at Boston College, I was pretty shy. I definitely didn’t consider myself a networker. Now I’d say that networking is my greatest skill. In fact, it’s the source of almost all of my success.
So how has it paid off?
The relationships I’ve enjoyed building over the last few years got me invited to the White House as one of the nation’s “Next-Gen Leaders.” I’ve been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, CNN, and Inc Magazine. I tripled my income in less than 6 months. Last year I traveled to the Bahamas with a group including Russell Simmons, Richard Branson, and the founders of Zappos, TOMS, and Quicksilver. And just last week I was at billionaire Peter Thiel’s house with Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook and cofounder of Napster. I attribute all of this and so much more to learning how to networking. So yeah, it’s important.
Ok, so here’s the good news. Most people suck at networking. So if you can do the things I recommend below, you’ll dominate.
Here are my Top 5 tips on how to get a meeting with just about anyone through email:
1. Offer value before you ask for anything
This is the golden rule of networking. You should constantly be asking yourself “How can I help this person?”
And don’t discount yourself just because you’re young. You have unique insights, social media skills, connections, and the ability to hustle that most older people do not. Offer what you have based on what people need.
Here’s an example. I frequently get requests to mentor people. I turn down almost all of them. But right now I’m focusing on just one person. Guess who it is? Someone who offered to help me create a website I’ve been meaning to launch for years. He’s adding value to my life. In exchange he gets to attend cool events with me, meet amazing people, and learn through our interactions. Sound good? You can get something similar. Just offer value first!
2. Do your research
There’s nothing worse than someone wasting your time because they haven’t done a simple Google search before reaching out to you or meeting you. (Ok, there are a lot of things that are worse, but you get the point).
You need to take the time to check Google, Twitter, BranchOut, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. so you really understand what the person is all about. Know the basics. Then go one step further and search for details. For example, one of my mentors is someone I connected with because I reached out and mentioned we both play squash. Another is someone I bonded with based on where he goes to church. Do your homework and find a good hook so you stand out from everyone else.
3. Talk like an adult
Please, please, please! do not start your emails with “Dear Mr. ___________.” It makes you sound like a fifth grader. Start with “Hi John” instead because this less formal greeting makes you sound like a peer.
Most college students are WAY too formal. Be conversational. Don’t use “sincerely” when you sign off. Use something like “Best,” or “Hope to talk soon.” They work better.
(Editorial Note: ‘Talking like an adult’ means using correct grammar. Also, notice Mike recommends starting with ‘Hi,’ not something as informal as ‘Hey.’ Keep in mind that if you’re writing a cover letter for an interview and have not previously met the person, it can be safer to stay with ‘Dear Mr/Ms. ______. Your best bet? Do the networking beforehand so that you’re not writing a cover letter to someone you’ve never met.)
4. Keep it short
The fastest way to be ignored is to write a long email. Check out my sample email below. It’s super short. Why? Because we’re all flooded with emails and don’t have time to read essays. I like to receive emails I can skim and still understand. Formatting – like bold fonts and bullet points – is helpful. Don’t use colored or weird fonts. Ariel is a good one. Most importantly, keep it short to show you respect the person’s time.
5. Make it easy
Make it easy for the person you’ve emailed to fulfill your request. If you are trying to set up an informational interview, offer to meet the person at his or her office, at a time that is convenient for them. If you want a phone call, promise to keep it brief. If you want an introduction, offer to draft an email the person can easily forward on.
Everyone is busy. If you make things easy, your success rates will sky rocket.
Ok, so I these are the exact rules I used to get meetings with tons of powerful and busy people after I graduated. You can too. Here’s a sample email that you can modify (see how easy I make it for you!).
Thanks for giving a great talk at BC last night. You recommended reading Never Eat Alone, so I bought it immediately. I can’t wait to read it this weekend.
You also mentioned you have a new product coming out next month. If you need beta testers, I’m happy to get a group of BC students to test it out, complete surveys, and even do video testimonials. Please let me know if that would be helpful.
Also, I see your company is hiring interns. I want to work for you, for FREE, and add more value than any intern in the history of the company!
Do you have 15 minutes next week to meet about this? I can come to your office at a time that fits your schedule. And I promise to be organized to make the best use of your time.
Excited to hear back,
Two final things!!
- You can practice on me if you’d like. Email me at: mike AT sparkseed DOT org
- You can get more tips, insights, and funny links at twitter.com/mikedelponte