How do you write an email a busy, successful person will actually want to answer? We’ve got five tips, plus an actual example.

If the Internet were a real place, most emails would be the equivalent of that shady guy trying to sell you items from his kiosk at the mall. He’s annoying. He doesn’t give a crap about you. He wastes your time. And that foreign lotion bottle he extends to your terrified nostrils doesn’t smell good.

He’s trying (and failing) to connect with you. Don’t laugh! You write emails to successful people the same way. These five tips will help you help you write emails that generate responses and build relationships:

1. Be brief

You’re busy. You work hard, you create side projects, you hustle for new connections and you cram room in for a social life. (Damn, take a break!)

Successful people live even busier lives. A long email is like the stranger who reveals their life story five minutes after you shake their hand. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Short messages decrease the chance your contact drags your email into their trash folder.

2. Keep it genuine

“Hello friend. I have a special secret that has saved me $10 million…”

Next! Automatic delete.

It’s an extreme but too common real-life example. Stop writing emails that reek of dishonesty. Don’t underestimate how deeply people crave authentic connections. Successful people develop a B.S. detector after constantly having others compete for their time and attention. When you hide your true intentions, beep, beep, beep!—their B.S detector explodes.

If you want something, make it clear. If you have a great idea, share it. Most importantly, be upfront about why you are sending the email and why your message is great for the person receiving it. This will establish trust, which is the foundation for all positive relationships.

3. Be likeable

Ever stare at a date across the dinner table while they talk only about their life? It’s unattractive and rude. In the same vein, center your emails around the contact instead of yourself. Primarily, focus your message on their background, their needs and how your email impacts them.

The second part of being likeable is making your request for information, meetings or feedback easy for people to say yes to. “Do you have 10 minutes to chat?” is easier for someone to agree to than “Can I talk with you for an hour?”

Give people outs when you make requests on their time. Applying too much pressure on them increases the chance they’ll decline your attempts to connect. Phrases like “I know you’re busy,” “at a time convenient for you” or “let’s discuss this further when you’re back in town” demonstrate that you’re conscientious about their time constraints.

You always become more likable when you relieve the burden on others.

4. Provide value

Your iPhone rings. It’s the friend who only calls when they want something. Ignore! Ten minutes later, though, you answer your phone for a different friend.

Why did you accept one call and not the other? Because one friend shares cool news and invites you to interesting events, while another friend only takes.

Similarly, being a giver invites people to your cause. In your emails to successful people, share an interesting link or new information within their niche. Your email isn’t just about receiving; it’s about establishing a relationship. And good relationships are built upon helping people with shared interests and aspirations.

5. Show you’re already winning

You want to contact successful people because you know they get important things done. You gain instant credibility by showing them you’re already winning.

Did you just complete a cool project? Create something unique? Briefly tell your contact. The message conveyed is that you don’t mooch, and that establishing a professional relationship with you won’t be a waste of their time and effort.

Here’s what it looks like put together. This email was sent to New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau, resulting in an interview and new relationship:

The first line establishes a common link. Line two shows genuine flattery. Lines three and four give a clear intent of the project, which makes it easier to say yes.

The fifth line shows why Chris fits for the email’s content. Line six is about being likeable and gives Chris an “out.” The second-to-last line reads “at a convenient day and time for you.” This goes back to taking away the burden for Chris.

The final, “P.S.” line briefly shows how I’m already winning without bragging.

Note: Notice the title of Chris’ book is spelled incorrectly. (It’s “world,” not “word.”) This mistake proves you don’t have to write a perfect email to have successful people respond positively to you! (Although you should always proofread.)

Influential people want to help you reach your goals! Your next connection is one strong email away.

Your turn: What’s your secret (or biggest hurdle) for writing a great email to successful people?

Reggie Hall Jr. keeps Gen Y inspired and one step ahead at FreshWisdom by sharing interviews and advice from thriving Millennials as well as older generations to help you get what you want. Say hi on Twitter @FreshWisdomLive or on Facebook.


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  2. Katie

    Reggie, great article! For me, I think that being genuine is the most important part of success but you are right, it takes a little bit of each point to create a message that gets heard! I think that your points are also what it takes to create a successful relationship with anyone regardless of whether it is via email or in person. Looking forward to seeing more of your work! Cheers!

    • Reggie

      Hey Katie! Great thoughts you share. I agree, that these points also work well in person too. I view building strong, authentic relationships almost as a philosophy or way of looking at the people around instead of something rigid. Thanks for the kind words about the work too! 🙂

  3. mbp817

    When reaching out to a new connection, I always mention what i’m looking for and our mutual contact in the subject line. Example: “Community Manager opening via Alyssa Smith”

    • Reggie

      Nice! Subject lines are important (and overlooked). Short and VERY clear is usually best. Thanks for sharing your success tip!

  4. Damian

    Reggie, thanks for such a perfect article on email networking. I have found that if you are reaching out in a first interaction email, it is better to be specific and force the email to take less than 30 seconds to read.. with the followup request for a phone or face to face conversation. Don’t bleed on the email with all of the how’s and why’s of how you got to your decision to reach out.. just get to the point.. and save the rest for the followup.

    • Reggie

      Hey you’re welcome Damian – glad it was helpful for you. What you said makes sense it’s a fine balance between sharing just enough information without being TOO brief. *Sometimes* the why can be important because the first thing that comes to mind from someone reading an email from an unknown is two questions: Who is this person and how does this impact me.

      If you can answer the latter question briefly, like you said, then the email makes more sense to your email recipient.

      Thanks for dropping a comment. 🙂

      • Damian

        Reggie.. I agree, I should have been more clear.. In my experience, I have tended to take to much time explaining *how* I got to the why.. instead of just getting to the point. Thanks for helping me clarify. Damian

  5. professional web design

    Amazing post. Try to be as friendly and charming as you can be in an Email! Especially when it comes to people you don’t know very well, they are much more likely to write back if they like you and take an interest in you.

  6. vahid

    they are much more likely to write back if they like you and take an interest in you.thanks for such a perfect article on email networking.

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  8. nancy

    This was a great article, and your example shows us exactly how it’s done. Thanks for sharing a real-world example.

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  11. Rakesh

    they are much more likely to write back if they like you and take an
    interest in you.thanks for such a perfect article on email networking.

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