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How to get a reply from busy people using cold outreach methods like email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc

Gourav Goyal

Gourav Goyal

Aug 2, 2023

I get many cold emails, Twitter messages, LinkedIn messages, etc., and most of them do a terrible job of receiving a response from me. I don't blame them. When I first started my career as a software engineer, I used to send many cold messages for job vacancies, collaborations, etc. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it would not. I tried different formats (long and short) and always used to wonder which format works the best and why. Now, I'm on the other side where I run businesses and build products, and people reach out to me. Now, I understand the clear picture of a good outreach message.

To get a response from a busy person, you should follow the principal-agent problem, i.e. incentives must be aligned for both parties.

Your message should consist of 2 parts.

  1. What do you want from the other person?
  2. What's in it for the other person?

If it's not clear to me what you want, or the value proposition is not good enough for me, then I would not spend my time and energy in responding back.

Pro tips:

  • Keep the length short because the longer the length, the more time it requires to go through the message. Time is a currency and it is quite valuable for busy people.

  • Use simple words and stay away from business lingo/jargon because:

    1. It uses less brain power for the reader to decipher the meaning.
    2. People most of the time use heavy words (i.e., revolutionary, ground-breaking) to add weight to their idea, and it subtly indicates that their idea might not be that substantial on its own. A good idea doesn't need to be buttered up by complex words.

    Example of bad writing:

    “A disruptive corporate startup operating in the e-commerce realm, specializing in the circular economy, dedicated to curating a cutting-edge online platform facilitating the seamless exchange of pre-loved, premium-quality children's apparel.”

    Underlying idea:

    E-commerce website to buy and sell second-hand clothes for kids.

  • Be precise in what you're offering and what you want:

    Bad outreach example:

    “Hi Gourav, hope you are doing great. I work at Google as a Customer Engineer based in Stockholm. I currently have some idea of creating an extension related to GPT. Let's jump on a call to see if there's a possibility of collaboration.”

    No, I would not jump on a call. Your idea is too vague. Please be more specific so that I can see if it's worth my time to connect on a call.

  • It’s okay to follow-up 1-2 times if you didn’t get a response. Determination shows that you’re serious about it. It’s common for busy people to miss messages and it’s not rude if you follow-up in a polite manner.


    Hey Gourav, just wanted to follow-up on my last email in case it might have slipped your attention…

That's all, folks!

Gourav Goyal

Gourav Goyal