On a regular basis, I receive emails from people I don’t know (yet) who reach out to set up a meeting or a call. In the email, the sender states no specific reason for me to meet with them other than to “connect,” “compare notes,” or “get your advice.”

There is nothing wrong with reaching out. Quite the contrary: It’s awesome to receive inquiries.

I can guarantee that your cold call response rates will shoot up once you do these three simple things. Tweet This Quote

But asking someone you don’t know to take time out of her day to meet for no other reason than a vague “connect/get some advice” is simply not helpful (especially not when you can safely assume that the recipient of your outreach is a busy person).

What’s more vexing is that often, when I take the meeting or call, the person who asked for the meeting truly had no other agenda than to make benign small talk. So, my advice for those who wish to connect from cold calls or emails is this:

  1. Figure out what you want from someone before reaching out (and be specific!).
  2. State your points clearly in your email.
  3. Be sure to answer the equally important question: What’s in it for the recipient of your message?

I can guarantee you that your response rates will shoot up once you do these three simple things.

Happy connecting!


This post originally appeared on Medium.

About the author

Pascal Finette

Pascal Finette

Pascal is the Managing Director of Singularity University's Startup Lab. He is also an entrepreneur, coach, and speaker who has worked in Internet powerhouses, such as eBay, Mozilla, and Google, and Venture Capital—starting both a VC firm and accelerator program.

  • Michael Cramer

    Thanks Pascal! I appreciated your brief write-up about cold-calls because in my life I find that there are many scenarios when I wish to reach out to other business people and to network, but I don’t always know how to break the ice. I think being direct is always critically important in any business interactions because miscommunication can be a huge hindrance to business relationships. I don’t like to waste my time, and if someone is indirect in telling me that they would like to talk to me about something, then I often won’t entertain that person’s request for connection. I already have a lot of business parters and am not necessarily in the market to bring new people on my team, but I also always keep my eyes peeled for people that might be assets to my team and to my organization. It is important that someone catches my attention when trying to reach out to me to build a connection, and a generic email simply asking to meet up or to connect just won’t cut it. When making a cold call, I think it might also be helpful to make some effort to relate to the person that you’re reaching out to by finding something out about them. Such an effort shows that you spent the time to learn about that person, and I think the cold call will be received more positively if it’s obvious that the person reaching out spent the time to research the other individual. I appreciate your post, and I like that it was short, but direct and straight-to-the-point– just like a cold call should be!

  • Julia Severson

    I was excited to read this article because recently, I’ve been inquiring about internships and trying to make more connections. I find it pretty difficult to stand out in an email and unfortunately I don’t really think that the contents of this article would help. These tips are great, however I find them to be the standard expectations in a cold call. The title of this article suggests that there’s an uncommon secret that will help create a “meaningful” impression. I know that with every cold call I’ve ever written, I always let them know specifically what I’m looking for, stating it clearly, and trying to benefit the recipient. If I were to add to this article, I would include the tip of finding a common ground, see how you relate to them. Did you go to the same undergrad? Have family in their hometown? Have mutual friends? I feel that relating yourself will be one way to easily stand out. I also would suggest offering multiple options of assistance. Instead of simply offering a meet up for coffee, suggest that even an interview via email or phone would also be a huge help. Putting the other person in the position of power makes them much more likely to help you. Overall, great concept for an article, but I would add ways to make a cold call truly meaningful.

  • Melissa Grover

    Thank you for this article, Pascal! I am most definitely guilty of making benign small talk during cold calls, and it is something that I really need to work on. During my recent internship at a medical device company, I had multiple one-on-one meetings with executives of the company, but had no idea what my meetings were supposed to be focusing on. I was very embarrassed when some of my meetings only lasted around ten minutes out of the thirty minute time slot; being unprepared gives a poor impression and I can only be grateful that they cut me some slack due to being an intern. From my experience, I learned to not be afraid to ask questions and to be very direct in meetings. Business professionals are busy people and they don’t have time to waste, so when you’re given the opportunity to speak with them, take full advantage of the time you have and come prepared. I appreciate the fact that you listed steps for connecting through cold calls and emails, as it can prove to be a difficult task for individuals learning how to reach out to professionals. In your opinion, is there anything else in particular that would make someone stand out as a strong individual during a cold call?