9 Tips for Emailing Important People

Jul 1 2011 by James Clear | 28 Comments

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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About the Author

James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda, a site about earning more money, more time, and more freedom. Join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter on Earning More to receive the 7-part Freelancing 101 Course and proven tips for earning more. Connect with Passive Panda on Facebook.

28 Comments

David Ball

July 1st, 2011

Also check your spelling, I almost signed off once with “kind retards”!

kamal

July 2nd, 2011

excellent post ,amazing stuff thanks

Ayman

July 3rd, 2011

Thanks alot James, that was really helpful :)

Oh, @David Ball, you just made me laugh this morning :)

Joann Snell

July 3rd, 2011

Thanks for sharing the great tips for sending email.

Gbenga Mogaji

July 3rd, 2011

Thanks for sharing this. Short emails will probably get a quicker answer. Also remeber to include the attachment before typing the message. It won’t say well of you if you make reference to an attachment in the email and forgot to actually attach the document.

Trempel

July 3rd, 2011

Good stuff. Just what I needed for my team.

Ejaz Siddiqui

July 4th, 2011

Excellent post James, web designer/developer should also have a command over email etiquette, this would greatly help them to be a successful person.

Will

July 4th, 2011

Good advice, well put.

zoftpc

July 4th, 2011

mm… i must try this good tips, thanks

Don Parnall

July 4th, 2011

Very Interesting, I had noticed a new trend in Emails using text only and being sparring with the info, seemed to make sense to me.

Margaret V

July 4th, 2011

You practiced what you preach. Very worthwhile.

Craig McPheat

July 5th, 2011

Don’t forget the attachment!

Sarfraz

July 6th, 2011

Great tips..

Ginva

July 6th, 2011

Good tips, thanks for sharing :)

├ůsa Haapasaari

July 6th, 2011

Interesting read! I think the subject row of the e-mail is also important, aim at making it short but descriptive.

Pete Austin

July 11th, 2011

If the purpose of your email is to make the important person look like an idiot, because you know they can’t respond positively to your carefully-crafted and obviously correct suggestion, do not CC everyone else involved. It will only annoy your target and they will probably slap you down without addressing the issue. BCC the others instead.

Vivek Doegar

July 12th, 2011

Thanks for the small smart tips James

Goulven

July 12th, 2011

Excellent ideas.

I’d just add one important tip: “Make the subject reflect what you’re saying”. It’s terribly irritating having to open an email just to know if it can wait or not.

Okyere Adu-Gyamfi

July 12th, 2011

Great post! an additional tip: always word your email subject so that the client always wants to know more…

E.g:
Follow up Our last talk on your Website;
as compared to:
Your Website, discussion feedback.

Nikhil Malhotra

July 12th, 2011

A very useful article.Learned a couple of important points here.Thanks for sharing.

Robin Jennings

July 15th, 2011

Great article. I find writing the initial email to someone you barely know rather challenging. I often write way too much- i’m learning though.

Now i write everything i want to say, then just before sending, cut out 3/4 and then send it. I save the text i cut and if i get a favourable response i’m 3/4 of the way to sending the next email without any additional work.

Dreamteam

July 15th, 2011

To one person only. That’s the key to personify & activate call-back!

David

July 16th, 2011

Good tips, taking this one to work!

Joel Bouckaert

July 17th, 2011

Great post, James. I especially enjoyed Point 3, given that it takes into account that certain psychology works with some, but not with others. The rest of the post seems to be common courtesy and encouragement to be a bit more ‘straight to the point.’ This, in turn, will improve not only the relationships with those that you are communicating with, but also your position’s, and company’s, efficiency.

Camberly

July 19th, 2011

Great advice, thank you! Yes, I’ve found the higher up a person is in title, the fewer words they read in e-mail. Short and sweet is definitely most effective – stay direct and to the point.

Filoxenia

July 20th, 2011

Great advice, I strongly believe that the manner you talk/write to a professional partner is quite important.

Aamir

July 31st, 2011

a short message is always better bacuse most of the time its boring to read long msgs/emails

Aengus

August 1st, 2011

I agree with the spelling one. I once said ‘Chairs MAte’ instead of cheers mate. He was confused.

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