9 Tips for Emailing Important People

Editor’s note: This is an exclusive excerpt from the course, How To Email Important People.

As web professionals, we spend a significant amount of time communicating through email. In many cases, getting a fast response to our emails can mean the difference between enjoying our job and stressing about deadlines.

Here are 9 top-notch tips for writing emails that make it as easy as possible for the recipient to send you a response.

1. Write Shorter Emails

Shorter emails increase your response rate for one reason: it is easy to write a short reply to a short email.

While many people you email want to send a short answer, they often feel that a quick, one sentence response will come across as terse and unfriendly. The result is that they simply put the email off until they have more time to write a longer response — which is usually never.

Short emails remove this fear because it is appropriate to reply immediately with a brief response.

2. Reduce the Opportunity for Procrastination

When long or unclear emails enter someone’s inbox they get placed in the to-do pile because they take time to figure out and respond to. Sadly, the to-do pile usually ends up being the never-do pile.

However, when a short, one question email comes in, it gets a response much faster.

Make it hard for the reader to procrastinate sending you a reply.

3. Promotion vs. Prevention

In her book Succeed, Heidi Grant Halvorson discusses how some people respond to promotion (touting the benefits of taking a certain action) while others respond to prevention (highlighting what there is to lose from not taking a certain action).

If you aren’t getting a response, then you may find success from reversing the way you phrase your request.

For example, let’s say your job is to find new businesses that can partner with your company. You might not get a response if your boss is the type of person that responds to prevention statements, but you send an email saying, "This is a great opportunity. I think we should partner with company X because of A, B, and C."

However, you might find immediate success if you flip the statement towards a prevention tone such as, "This is a great opportunity. We have a lot to lose here if we don’t move quickly. Company X’s new product line offers a growth opportunity that we don’t want to miss out on."

Determine whether the person you’re emailing wants to prevent downfalls or discover new opportunities, and then adjust your message accordingly.

4. Always Have a Purpose

If you want a response, then your email should have a clear purpose. This applies in all situations, but it’s especially helpful when reaching out to someone for the first time.

For example, if you send an email asking to meet an author for networking or just to chat, you will have much less success than if you asked something specific such as talking about Chapter 7 of your book at lunch.

Important people are busy and they value their time, so you should always have a clear purpose for the meeting. Not only does having an event or goal help drive the conversation, it also makes the meeting feel more productive. Both parties feel a small sense of accomplishment for completing the task that was laid out at the beginning.

5. Do the Work for Them

When you send an unclear email, you’re essentially saying to the recipient, "It’s not important enough for me to figure out what the main idea of this email is, so I’m going to make you do it for me."

The main question or offer should be stated clearly and early within your email. If it’s not within the first few sentences, then start over.

6. Don’t Take "No" Personally

Everyone is busy. For most people, it’s simply a matter of timing. If you catch them on a good day, then they will happily respond to you.

If they’re swamped, however, then a simple "No" might be all that you get.

Don’t take it to heart. In most cases, it’s not a reflection of what you said.

7. Make It a Point to Follow Up

What if they don’t respond to your email? Wait a few days and then follow up. You don’t want to pester anyone, but if you give them some time and don’t get a response, then there is nothing wrong with being persistent.

I usually wait anywhere from 3 days to a week before reaching out again. (The more busy the person is, the longer I wait.)

8. Send Your Message to One Person Only

Are too many people receiving your emails? When multiple people receive the same message, the diffusion of responsibility phenomenon begins to set in. Everyone knows what needs to be done and they all assume that someone else will do it.

If you value a response to your emails, then send them to individuals instead of groups.

9. Don’t Hide Behind Email

Pressing Send isn’t the same as doing your job. The ability to collaborate and interact through the Web doesn’t remove your responsibilities in the real world.

Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and get an immediate answer. Sometimes you need to meet face-to-face instead of sending an email and claiming that you "did your part."

If you’re interested in more email strategies that can help you generate more business, build better relationships, and communicate more effectively, then check out How To Email Important People.

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