Tag: networking etiquette


How to Write Networking Emails That Will Get Responses

I recently had a client who said she wasn’t getting the response to her networking emails she’d hoped for.

She asked me if there was anything she could do to increase her response rate.

I went back and looked at some of the previous emails she’d sent me to see if I noticed any patterns possibly interfering with her networking efforts. In doing so, it was immediately clear how she could improve her response rate.

If you’re also not having as much success in getting responses to your own networking emails as you’d like, check out these tips I shared with her, plus some bonus tips!

Tips to Increase Responses to Your Networking Emails

Always include an appropriate subject line.

Emails without an appropriate subject line are often viewed as suspicious.

But sometimes it’s hard to know what the subject line should say to get the recipient to open the message.

One subject line that tends to work well is one including a mutual contact’s name. If someone referred you to the person you’re emailing, include a subject line like, “Referral from [mutual contact’s name].” The reader will immediately know the message isn’t spam or junk mail.

Avoid any spelling errors in the subject line. Misspellings often send the signal the message could be spam or phishing.

Copy your mutual contact.

If you’re emailing someone you’ve been referred to by another contact, copy your mutual contact on your initial message. This adds validity to the relationship and your claim of the referral.

Better yet, ask the person referring you to do an introduction email with all of you copied on it. Or ask them to send their friend an email giving them a heads-up that you’ll soon be reaching out.

Your potential contact is more likely to open an email from their friend they already know than from someone they’ve never heard of.

Keep it cheerful, yet professional.

Avoid writing networking emails when you’re in a bad mood. Sometimes it can come across in your wording, and the tone may be easily misconstrued. It could also make you sound or seem entitled. You definitely won’t get a response then.

And while you always want to be concise, you can also come across as abrupt if you don’t include a friendly greeting or any context as to why you’re emailing the contact.

Frame your message with a friendly opening and closing, but be professional! This means not using any emoticons or exclamation points. In fact, an email with too many exclamation points will usually end up in the recipient’s spam folder.

Be clear but concise.

Make your reason for emailing clear from the start.

If you need to give an explanation for your request, do so as concisely as possible. Avoid anything too lengthy, including background info the reader doesn’t need to know just yet. Save this for when you set up a meeting to connect in person.

People are busy, so make your message easy for them to read quickly. They’ll appreciate you being mindful of their time.

Do NOT use the phrase, “Can I Pick Your Brain?”

Don’t. Ever. Say. This.

Just don’t!

Not ever.

I previously wrote an entire blog post explaining why you should never use the phrase “Can I pick your brain?” If you’re wondering why, stop reading this post right now and go read “Why ‘Can I Pick Your Brain?’ Is the Wrong Approach“!

If it is information you’re wanting from your networking contact, find a better way to phrase your request than, “Can I pick your brain?”

Say thanks, but don’t be too presumptuous.

In your closing, thank the recipient in advance for their time and consideration.

I’ve read studies that claim email response rates increase if you include the simple phrase, “Thanks in advance.” I’ve personally found this to be true on most occasions.

However, you don’t want to sound presumptuous. So to counter-balance this phrase, indicate you’re willingness to follow the recipient’s lead on the next steps.

For instance, you might say, “I’m happy to meet at a mutually convenient time,” or “I can meet you at a location that works best for you.”

You must be flexible since you’re asking for someone’s time.

Give your recipient an out.

I once had someone I’d never met email me wanting to get together for lunch so he could ask me some questions. He said, “Let me know what time next week works best for you.” (He also asked, “Can I pick your brain?”)

I wanted to respond with, “Well, if next week is my only option, the answer is ‘no’.”

Why did he assume I was even able to meet the following week? I immediately felt like he was trying to control the situation for his preference and convenience. Had he just left out the words “next week” (and “Can I pick your brain?”), he would have left a better impression on me.

If you’re asking someone for their time to help you out, don’t be picky with time or location. And don’t try to put constraints on them or try to force them into a “yes” they may not be able to give. Craft your message so it gives the recipient some options, including the option to say “no” if they need to.

Follow up.

It’s okay to follow up with someone if you don’t get a response the first time. Sometimes your message gets lost in their inbox or they forget to respond.

I’ve had situations where I followed up with someone after a few weeks and they actually thanked me for doing so! They simply forgot and were glad I spared them from the embarrassment of never having responded.

The appropriate amount of time to wait before you follow up is one to two weeks. If it happens to be more urgent (which it most likely isn’t), at least give people 24-48 hours to respond.

And when they do, make sure you show the same courtesy by responding within 24 hours to all networking emails.

If after following up you still don’t get a response, move on.

Should You Skip Networking Emails and Just Call?

You always have the option to call instead of sending an email. Keep in mind, however email is less intrusive on people’s workday. It allows people to respond at a time most convenient for them.

If your mutual contact tells you the new contact prefers phone calls, by all means call instead of emailing.

I don’t recommend texting since that’s more personal than professional.

When receiving a response, always return messages with the same method they used in reaching out to you.

Remember to always be courteous and professional in all your networking efforts. Using career etiquette will go a long way!

Related Posts:

networking emails

Why You Need to Stop Overthinking Networking

Networking is necessary not just for a successful job search, but also for a successful career as a whole.

In fact it’s so important you should spend 80% of your job search networking and only 20% applying to online job postings.

This is because 80% of the working population found their current job through networking. Therefore it makes sense to spend the same amount of time on the most effective job search method there is.

But unfortunately, most people have it backwards and only spend 20% (if that) of their job search networking.

Based on the suggestion above, you may need to re-adjust how you currently invest your time in your job search.

But, this doesn’t mean you should overthink your networking efforts.

Stop Overthinking Networking

When I’m coaching my clients on various aspects of the job search, I’ll often get questions about how to write something on a resume or how to respond to a specific job interview question. When I answer those questions, the client usually doesn’t have to ask the same question again.

But when it comes to the topic of networking, I’ll get a question from a client on how to find contacts or how to reach out to them. When I answer those questions, the same client will often ask the same question again, sometimes in a different way.

When this happens, I can tell they’re way overthinking things. They’re doing so either because they think it should be more complicated than it actually is, or they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. Sometimes it’s both. Usually it’s the latter.

One of the most common examples of “overthinking it” is the question, “What if I reach out to that person and I don’t hear back from them?”

You know what? You may not hear back from them. Is this a reflection on you as a person? NO! It’s more of a reflection on the contact. That is assuming nothing simple happened like your voicemail getting accidentally deleted or your email ending up in their spam folder.

And you may not hear back from them now, but perhaps later.

I remember emailing someone and not hearing back from him until THREE YEARS LATER! When he finally did reply, my original message was included in his reply. I looked back at my first message and saw a few things things I would’ve done differently in my approach.

But he was kind and said he always held on to emails like mine in case he was ever looking to hire someone with my skills. And so he did hire me to work with one of his clients. It turned out his timing was better than my timing.

So you may not hear back when you’d like, or you may not hear back at all.

But there’s one thing I can guarantee. You’ll never hear back from the person you don’t reach out to.

Are you really okay with wondering “What if?” the rest of your career?

Are you okay with missing out on a potentially great contact just because of fear of no response?

Because remember, no response doesn’t always equal rejection. It could just mean bad timing. Which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to follow up one or two times again. (Follow-up is another area I see clients overthinking.)

Instead Be Strategic (and Reasonable)!

When I say “Stop overthinking networking,” understand I’m not giving you license to not be strategic in your networking.

It’s important to know your reason for networking, who it makes the most sense to reach out to, how to explain to them why you’re reaching out to them, and how you can be an asset to them as well.

Therefore, you must also be reasonable.

Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t expect someone to offer you a job right off the bat. You need to take the time to build and nurture the relationship first before you can expect any immediate tangible results.

Occasionally you might see some immediate results, but usually it takes persistence and consistency. This is why you need to spend 80% of your job search networking. It takes time!

Also, be reasonable in your requests. Don’t expect someone to drop everything to connect with you or to spend all their time talking with you. Don’t expect them to cater to your needs when you’re the one asking for their help or expertise.

Instead, do everything you can to make networking and connecting with you as easy and pleasurable as possible. This may mean driving out of your way to their offices for an informational interview instead of meeting at a location more convenient to you. It may mean getting up extra early to meet with them at 6:30 in the morning before their busy schedule begins.

Networking Resources

I could write a book about networking and the ins and outs of networking etiquette (and someday soon I might!). I’ve already written several other posts about networking, including the best way to write an elevator pitch (yet another thing people overthink!).

But what I want to emphasize in this post is to stop overthinking networking by not letting fear take over. Don’t let fear, whether it’s fear of rejection or fear of failure, get in the way of making a meaningful connection that can have a long-term positive impact on your career.

Always be fearless, reasonable, and respectful.

For more posts and resources on the topic of networking, check out the following:

stop overthinking networking

Why “Can I Pick Your Brain?” Is the Wrong Approach

I was sitting at my desk in my office when the email showed up in my inbox. It was another request for an informational interview. (If you don’t know what an informational interview is, Google it.)

But this request was different from all the others. It wasn’t the usual lame offer to treat me to lunch or coffee.

As much as I really want to accommodate each request since I’m such a big believer in informational interviewing, I can’t say yes to every request. I don’t always have the time to take away from my clients to drive out in Nashville traffic for a meeting and drive back.

So what was different about the request that caught my eye?

This person offered to BRING ME my favorite hot beverage. It was evident she wasn’t just thinking about herself and what she wanted. Instead, she was taking my time into consideration (along with my hot beverage preference).

She showed up at my office with a hot green tea. I loved that she actually asked me what I like instead of assuming I’m a coffee drinker, because I’m not.

I also loved that she didn’t ask the question, “Can I pick your brain?” Why? Because when I worked in the music industry I quickly learned anytime someone asked me that question it was code for, “Can I have some free advice?”

“Can I pick your brain?” always puts me on guard.

I went on to have a great meeting with this bright and considerate young woman. A month later I hired her as my assistant.

This exchange occurred several years ago, but I tell this story all the time to my clients so they understand the importance of practicing proper etiquette when asking for an informational interview.

(Want to learn proper networking etiquette? Check out my on-demand program The Secret To Successful Networking: How to Do It Naturally and Effectively.)

A better approach

If you’ve inadvertently made the gaff of asking, “Can I pick your brain?” don’t worry. There are several ways to correct your approach.

And if you’re someone who gets the “Can I pick your brain?” question frequently, there are several ways you can respond appropriately, especially if you have to say, “no.”

It’s all listed below in an article written by Darrah Brustein, author, speaker, and consultant (originally published at www.forbes.com). Darrah was nice enough to allow me to re-publish her article here on the paNASH blog.

It’s a must-read for anyone who’s trying to expand their network (which should be everyone!). Enjoy!

14 Ways To Ask And Respond To The Question: Can I Pick Your Brain?

by Darrah Brustein

I’ll share with you here a number of ways you can respond, some which might even turn into a way to get paid for your knowledge.

These tips also translate if you’re hoping to get advice from someone with more expertise in a particular area.

We all have things to offer that are valuable to others and will help them on their path. Sometimes we charge for those; other times, we don’t. Undoubtedly, sharing knowledge is important.

But we get to choose to whom, what, where, when, and how we offer this advice and counsel.

It feels great to be the one who gives this help. It’s nice to share what we know. It’s even touching to reflect back on the times when we needed help and others offered.

But don’t use that against someone to force them into spending time with you. And don’t let that guilt you into having to say yes to everyone either.

Because we each have a finite amount of time and our own priorities, here are some important things to consider when you want to ask someone for help in this way:

1. Be considerate of someone’s time and intellectual property.

Sometimes that means being willing to offer payment or a value exchange. Would you go into a store, grab some merchandise, and walk out? Hopefully not, because that’s theft. So why do we expect people to offer their intellectual property so easily without expectation of payment or value exchange?

2. Consider the depth of your relationship to the ‘brain.’

It’s most likely that someone with whom you have a real relationship will want to help. But when can you consider a relationship to be established? If you’ve emailed several times or exchanged Facebook messages, does that count? What about when you’ve met once? When do you go from stranger to someone for whom I will make time? There isn’t a clear-cut answer as it’s subjective and personal. However, if you feel it’s a grey area, err on the side of caution, if simply for the sake of being polite. If you don’t have a pre-existing relationship, try to get introduced by a trusted mutual contact. The recipient will be much more likely to carve out time for you because of the carryover of trust they have from the connector.

3. Do your homework.

If it’s not possible to be introduced or to ask someone with whom you have an existing rapport, then it’s imperative that you demonstrate in your first contact that you did your homework. Why should that person take the time to help you if you didn’t take the time to extract as much learning as you can about the subject online beforehand, both in general and specifically from any content they already have shared.

Here’s a quick story of hope to insert at this point: one of my business idols is Julie Aigner-Clark, the creator and founder of Baby Einstein. When I published my book on financial literacy for kids, connecting with Julie to understand her journey in the space was of utmost importance to me. I knew no one in common with her, so I spent hours watching videos, reading interviews, and consuming everything I could learn that was already out on the internet about her. Then I wrote a thoughtful, complimentary and concise email via her contact form. I made it clear that I had done my homework, how much I respected her work, why I was reaching out and what my hopes were for spending some time on a call with her if she’d be open to it.

Much to my surprise, less than 24 hours later, I got an email from her welcoming a conversation. She was flattered by my depth of knowledge about her work, and that ingratiated me to her. Shortly after, we spoke for an hour, then several times after that. And I was careful to ask only questions of her whose answers I could not find online.

4. Don’t be insulting by presuming that coffee or lunch is a good exchange.

I didn’t ask her for time in person, and here’s why. When you add up the amount of time it would take for someone to commute to and from a given location and share their ideas and expertise with you, rarely will they consider your offer to pay for coffee or lunch a reasonable one. It can come off as insulting, and will quickly close a door to that interaction.

5. Intend to pay or offer value in some way.

If you’re not willing to pay for someone’s time, or offer value in some way before you want to take it, consider if there’s another way to obtain the information you’re seeking. If you can’t afford to pay, be upfront about your desire to give before you take, and suggest a way you could be helpful without paying.

6. Beware of sounding presumptuous.

Don’t craft your message as though their saying yes is a foregone conclusion. Saying something like, “When would be a good time for us to connect for coffee?” in your first correspondence is presumptuous and not respectful.

Now that we’re clear on how to ask someone for their time and advice properly, let’s consider how to reply to these types of requests.

7. It’s okay to say no.

Here’s a piece I wrote about saying no. It’s a helpful starting point for any time you want to decline an offer respectfully.

8. Make email templates.

Consider making email templates for these requests, using a tool like MixMax to auto-insert them into your emails. Ignoring them often leaves me feeling guilty, so this is a great way to reply respectfully without taking too much time.

9. Create a buffer and save time with a virtual assistant.

If you need to put a barrier between you and the asker, or if you get too many requests to handle by yourself, get an inexpensive virtual assistant to intercede. It can be a lot easier for this person to say no, to offer a resource you’ve already produced, or to share your consulting rate.

Or, before handing it off, you can reply by introducing the asker to your assistant. He or she can get a specific agenda or purpose out of them and offer 15 minutes to see if they might translate into a client.

10. Offer pro bono work.

You may want to offer some pro bono consulting. If so, determine what your own boundaries are for this.

For whom will you always make time? For whom not? Allow for some flexibility. Sometimes, you’ll surprise yourself with the ones to which you’ll say yes, because the asker was sincere, authentic and demonstrated that she did her homework, respected your time and was clear in her ask.

11. Refer the request to someone or something.

It’s always great to refer the requester to someone else who is a better fit, or to someone else’s relevant content.

Or, if you have content which you’ve already created on the subject, point them there.

If you get a lot of these requests asking the same thing, write a LinkedIn or Medium post to publish the common answer(s) and then direct people to that. It will also help to solidify your thought leadership in that area.

12. Get paid.

You can try to convert the asker into a client by saying, “I’m at capacity right now, so I’m not taking any meetings. As I’m sure you can appreciate, sometimes you have to put your head down and get work done 🙂 If you’re interested in becoming a client, I can send over info on that. If it’s simply a quick question you have, feel free to email it, and I can see about answering it by email.”

Or, “I’m happy to connect, and I charge $X/hour for consulting. Please let me know if you’d like to set up a time to do so.”

Or, “I’m not available for coffee, but you should really consider checking out my _____ (your product or service). I designed it to help people like you in this exact situation!”

You can also create an hourly or flat-rate consulting platform for these requests. Make the dollar amount worth your time, so if someone buys it, you’re happy to do it.

13. Implement office hours.

If it’s best for you, create ‘office hours,’ which is a specific slot of time that you use for these conversations. It will keep you sane, as well as weed out people who aren’t open to work around your schedule when they’re asking to glean from you.

I’ve found that most of these requests disappear when I offer one specific time frame that’s convenient for me, offer to do it for an exchange of payment, or ask for them to be more clear about their question(s) before we hop on a call.

14. Make it personal.

Sometimes someone reaches out it in a manner that is complimentary, but it sounds like a social call, and doesn’t specify that they want to ‘pick your brain’. However, you know that’s what they want. Reply by saying, “I’ve made a personal rule not to take any meetings when I haven’t made time to spend with my best friend recently (and she and I haven’t connected in ages due to my schedule). I so appreciate your kind words, and hope you understand why I need to pass.”

Ultimately, respect your time and put a value on it. Don’t be afraid to ask for payment, to say no, or to respect your own boundaries. And if you’re in the market to ‘pick someone’s brain,’ put yourself in her shoes to position yourself for success.

Thank you again to Darrah for allowing me to re-post this article!

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pick your brain