Being able to quickly get in front of the right people is an important skill. Seeking introductions has evolved to be leaner, but people’s attention is ever more scarce.
Gone are the days of lengthy emails, as Twitter has forced us to fit most of our thoughts into 140 characters. Here are six tips for how you might go about getting in front of the right people.
1. Find the right people.
First, you need to figure out who are you selling to. Start by segmenting your market and really spending time to do it right. Doing this step wrong will lead to a lot of time wasted.
Within the target companies, understand who are the right groups and people. For example, if you are selling recruiting or learning software, the right people would be in human resources. Whatever it is you are selling, determining the right companies and people to approach is key.
2. Search LinkedIn for contacts.
My favorite method is to enter any organization at the vice president or senior director level, unless you know the CEO. The reason is that they are often the decision-makers, and will route you properly through the corporate pipes. The second thing is they will remember you, and will feel like they brought you in if your product or service is purchased.
Say I am looking to sell a social media tool to HBO. I’ll search specifically for vp social media (not vp of social media). I’ll select currently holding this position (past matches are never useful for me). If there was no match for VP, try searching for vice president. If you have no idea who could be responsible for what you are selling, you can search for all VPs in the company and try to figure out the best match.
Sometimes, you have to go outside of LinkedIn to find the right contact.
For example, if I search for VP or vice president of HR at Facebook, I get no matches. I keep tinkering with that search but nothing happens. I then search Google like this: “VP HR Facebook” and I get a link to this Crunchbase profile for Lori Goler. I then search for Lori Goler on LinkedIn, and I see that her title is actually head of HR at Facebook. That checks out and she is the contact I am looking for.
3. Leverage your network.
It is better to get an introduction vs. reaching out cold. Business development is a collaborative sport, and the best players don’t play alone. When you are introduced by someone your chances of getting attention are usually higher.
LinkedIn provides a great way to get introduced via your network. If you remember one thing from this post, remember this: Always connect on LinkedIn with relevant people. Always build your network, and make sure it is up to date and relevant.
4. Request an introduction.
Keep in mind every time you ask someone for an intro you need to think about the state of your relationship with them. Specifically, think about how well do you know them, when was the last time you talked and when was the last time they did an intro for you.
Things to pay attention when it comes to intro emails:
- It needs to be short.
- The subject line will vary depending on your relationship.
- A/B test subject lines heavily.
- Be warm and friendly, but compact.
- Be super deliberate with spacing.
- Always ask to be connected to specific person.
- State the ask and reason for the ask.
Another thing to keep in mind when connecting people is double opt-in. Just because you asked for an intro, it does not mean that the person you are trying to reach is open to it. Fred Wilson wrote a helpful blog post about this.
5. Reach out directly.
If you don’t have any contacts to make an intro, you can reach out directly. I’ve done it countless times and it works if you keep it simple and genuine. It also gets easier over time as you accumulate points in the world – if your LinkedIn InMail score is good, you have lots of Twitter followers and people heard your name somewhere before.
First thing you can try is LinkedIn InMail. It costs money and you have a limited number of these credits with your membership. However, if the person does not respond within seven days, you get the credit back and can use it again.
It works because it is simple and because I have credibility. If you are starting out, you might not have the latter, but if you stick with simplicity and directness you would more likely to get a yes. The one absolute key thing is make it light – ask for feedback.
In addition to reaching out to people via LinkedIn InMail, I’ve been also doing cold emails and more recently tweets. Cold emails work much like LinkedIn InMail, except you need to figure out the person’s email. The format of the email is the same as the LinkedIn InMail. In my experience direct emails tend to get a slightly higher response rate.
A key thing is to signal that you get they are busy. Say "I appreciate your time" instead of “I know you are busy.” This shows that you acknowledge that you get that their time is valuable. To show you get it, don’t ask for a meeting that is longer than 30 minutes.
A/B test your subject lines as they are way more important than the inside of the message. As long as you keep the body short and legible it will be fine, but the wrong subject line might get you an instant delete. Like everything else, this takes practice and polish.
Twitter has been an interesting and very successful experiment for me. I’ve been reaching out to people like this:
This has worked for me 90 percent of the time. Why? Again, because it is short and simple. Because my profile says who I am, she knows it’s not spam.
The worst days to send intros are Monday and Friday – people are slammed with work or are ready for the weekend. Tuesday through Thursday are fine. I would recommend sending intros between 2 and 4 p.m. to avoid being part of the morning email rush.
6. Be a meeting nerd.
You’ve heard all the obvious tips about meetings – be on time, keep them short, be polite, pay attention, be specific, ask for the next steps. Here is something that is so basic, yet people consistently fail to do: Spend three minutes learning about the other person’s background. Use the very LinkedIn profile you’ve been staring at to get insights, to create touch points, to show you care.
And don’t sell, listen. Engage the person you are meeting with and really understand what problems they are trying to solve. Involve them in thinking through what solution should be. If what you are selling is it, things will be a lot easier. Selling hard does not work.
This article was written by a member of the AlleyNYC contributor network. AlleyNYC is one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, helping foster the growth of startups in its flagship location in New York City. Entrepreneur Media is a partner and investor in AlleyNYC. If you would like to learn more about AlleyNYC and how to apply for membership visit here.