How to Cold Email Important People (And Get Responses!)

We live in an era where you can email almost anyone on earth yet 99.9% of people do not actively send cold emails.

Here’s how to join the 0.1% of people that are aggressively expanding their networks and using cold emails to find mentors, get advice, find co-founders, find investors, build business relationships, and so much more.

I’ve used the power of cold emailing to meet billionaires and other incredibly successful and powerful people.

This advice applies to anyone but if you’re a college student or young professional, successful people are especially likely to want to help you, so take advantage of this opportunity!

Step 1: Find People To Meet

If you already know who you want to meet then don’t worry about this step. If you are looking for people to meet then this will be very helpful. When I was in San Francisco in 2013 for my True Ventures internship I was looking to meet successful people involved in startups or technology.

Having a deeply shared passion or experience in common with someone makes it exponentially more likely that they’ll respond to your cold outreach. So I focused specifically on finding USC graduates (since I was a USC student at the time).

You can find people to meet anywhere but LinkedIn is the best source.

1. Go to LinkedIn and search what you’re looking for (in my case that was “USC Entrepreneur”)

2. Filter the location by wherever you’re looking to meet that person (for me it was San Francisco Bay Area)

3. And then browse through profiles until you find someone that you’re interested in meeting

Here’s a video breakdown of me going through this process:

And here are some other searching tips from LinkedIn’s blog!

Step 2: Do Your Homework

Before cold emailing someone, it’s important to read as much about them, their background and their current company as possible. Time is the most important resource to important people so make sure you write a well-thought-out email.

When I cold email someone I usually spend at least 45-60 minutes reading blog posts they’ve written, browsing their Twitter, and watching any interviews that they have done.

By the time I email them, I already know exactly what I want to learn from them and what I will ask them about.

Step 3: Figure Out Their Email Address

1. Start by searching with an email finder such as Email Hunter or AnymailFinder.

2. If that doesn’t work, use this comprehensive guide to find their email address.

Step 4: Determine Your Objective

I’m going to break this into two broad buckets:

1. Ask them a question via email

2. Ask them to meet with you or hop on a call

For obvious reasons, asking for a short email response is going to result in a much higher likelihood that they respond. But meeting with someone is going to result in a deeper connection.

This is purely a judgment call on your end. The less famous the person is, the more likely they are to get on a call with you (because someone who gets 10-50+ meeting requests per month is more likely to say no than someone who gets 1-10 requests per year).

If you’re a college student who’s emailing a graduate from your school, the likelihood that the person will say yes to a meeting is very high! So definitely ask.

Step 5: Craft The Email

Without a good subject your email will not get opened. If the person went to your college then definitely include that. I try to write something to compel them to open the email like “Big Fan Of Yours – Would Love to Buy You Coffee” or “Ambitious USC Student Who Would Like To Meet You.”

The first and most important thing when writing the actual email is to KEEP IT SHORT! Whoever you are emailing is likely very busy and has much more important things to do than read a long-winded email from you. Respect their time and send them a very short, direct email. Long emails don’t generate responses; your email should be two or sometimes three sentences.

In your two (or three) sentences, explain what you like about them, who you are, and why you want to meet them (or what question you have for them).

If you can convey all of this in two sentences and you sound relatively interesting then your chances of meeting this person are high.

For the purposes of this post I’m going to use Tim Sae Koo, the CEO of Tint, as my example because I effectively cold emailed him last summer. Quick plug: Tim is awesome and TintUp is killing it (and hiring)!

Below is the actual email that I wrote to Tim. My email signature is a little painful and crowded (I’ve gotten better since I wrote this and prime example of how the email doesn’t have to be perfect!).

But as you can see, I have a strong subject line and a simple ask. Tim responded an hour and a half later and we met at his office that week. It’s that easy.

My last piece of advice is to be persistent and don’t be afraid to follow up. There are certain people who I had to email four or five times before getting a response.

It’s important to tiptoe the line between being persistent and not being overbearing. Important people are busy so it can be hard to cut through the clutter.

For other tips on cold emailing, check out this awesome short guide or this great short guide!

Step 6: Have a Great Meeting

The first time you do this it might feel a bit awkward but over time it becomes easier and easier. After the meeting make sure to follow up with an email and then if you two got along be sure to keep in touch.

If the meeting was setup to receive advice, then anything that you can offer the person your meeting anything is a major bonus. Examples include introductions or sharing relevant news articles. The person likely isn’t expecting anything from you so don’t worry about this too much but adding value to someone else will cause them to value you more.

Final Thoughts & Additional Resources

Hopefully, this is helpful and if you have any questions about this feel free to shoot me an email – you just have to figure it out first. 🙂

If you’re looking for more info, here are two great resources to go deeper on emailing important people:

How I Write Cold Emails to Billionaires That Get Replies

How To Find A Mentor With Cold Emails

Cam Woodsum
I've been building digital businesses, wandering the world, and writing about optimizing life for freedom since early 2017. My mission is to lower the barrier for people who want to live with more freedom: whether that be as an entrepreneur, a digital nomad, an early retiree, or just as someone who wants to live a happiness-driven life.