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Adam Grant
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Can cold emails work? Absolutely, but not if you make any of these common mistakes.

Can cold emails work? Absolutely. Here’s the story of a guy who ended up founding a business with Mark Cuban on the basis of a shot-in-the-dark email.

And here’s a VC who swears he got answers to cold emails sent to both Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer and insists it’s possible to reach the biggest names in business with a well-crafted cold message. 

But just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean it’s at all easy. More bigwigs than you might think actually look at unsolicited emails, but their inboxes are also insanely crowded. The question is, how can you make sure your message stands out without the kind of bragging and gimmicks that are likely to create a terrible first impression

This is a question Adam Grant presumably knows quite a lot about. As the author of several best-selling books, the star Wharton professor clearly has a way with words. As a high-profile thought leader, he’s also almost certainly on the receiving end of an absolute avalanche of introductions, asks, and unexpected pitches. 

In a recent edition of his newsletter Granted, Grant shares the mistakes people commonly make when introducing themselves over email.


Some are obvious – don’t be a stalker who writes every day or even every week – but others are subtler missteps even thoughtful emailers might make in ignorance.

1. Asking for feedback 

Asking for feedback shows humility, eagerness to improve and, as an added bonus, strokes the ego of a person whom you presumably admire. Why isn’t that a winning move? 


“It’s an awful lot to ask a stranger to engage with your work and comment on it,” writes Grant. “Whereas feedback requires real effort, advice can be much less time-consuming. Try asking for guidance on a specific question or dilemma that you’re facing, and you’ll be more likely to get a response.” (Others have used this technique with good results.)  

2. Naming times for a meeting 

You might think you’re just streamlining the coordination process by suggesting times you might continue your conversation, but Grant warns offering specific times right out of the gate – or worse, suggesting “jumping on the phone today or tomorrow” – tends to come across as entitled. 


“It’s a red flag when people feel entitled to a conversation. A friendlier option is to ask strangers if they’re willing to meet or if there’s a more convenient way for them to communicate with you,” says Grant. If they express an interest in meeting, let them name some times. They’re doing you a favor, after all. 

3. Asking for an introduction to someone specific 

They don’t know you. Of course they’re not going to risk their relationships vouching for you.

“Instead, ask if they know anyone who might be a good source of insight on a particular topic,” Grant suggests. This way, your correspondent can make a connection if it truly seems like a good fit to them – and you aren’t putting them in an awkward position. 

4. Introducing them to someone else 

The same way asking for a specific introduction comes off as too strong, so does immediately introducing them to someone in your own network.


Your aim may just be to be helpful – and show off your connections – but “this can come across as using your newfound access to gain status or influence with the third party,” warns Grant.

“The safe bet here is to simply ask for permission first: ‘I thought you two might enjoy a chat about. Are you interested in connecting?'”


5. Inviting them to collaborate 

Grant likens this move to proposing marriage on the second date and cautions it comes across as exactly that smooth. “Try having a dialogue first and explore whether working together might prove mutually beneficial,” he advises. 

Want to hear about more cold email mistakes you might be inadvertently making? Check out the latest edition of Grant’s consistently interesting newsletter.

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Source: Inc.Africa


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