‘Dear Who?’ – Tips for cold-mailing the powerfully busy


Cold-emailing can be quite nerve-wracking. It’s tedious enough to send formal mails to the people we do know and especially the ones we work for. So imagine the pressure of reaching out to someone you have never met, or worse, someone who’s probably been mentioned on Forbes and Time Magazine more than once in their lifetime.

That’s right, I speak of cold-emailing intimidatingly powerful people from whom you may never get a reply. However, sometimes, if you play your cards right, you’ll catch their attention just the way you want to, and before you know it, you’ll have established effective communication with them.

Like everything else in life, cold-emailing needs detailed strategy to guarantee a response, and here’s where we try to help, offering some tried and tested tips on how to go about the same.

Cut to the chase

You aren’t emailing a random Joe checking his mail during his lunch-break. You’re trying to reach out to individuals who have probably hired help to manage their inboxes, considering the sheer amount of mails floating through every day. So, you need to grab their attention at the first instance. Let them know what you want just from reading the first few lines instead of beating around the bush and hoping they have the time and patience to figure it out.

Keep it short and simple

Again, these are people who have a limited amount of free time in their hands. A long, dwindling email which only states your objective in the fifth paragraph isn’t going to get you a response. You need to keep your mail short and simple and relay your motive in those few lines so that they can glance through it quickly and get back to you that much faster.

Don’t always expect a response

As Harvard Business Review rightly puts it, there is always a 50-90 per cent chance of not hearing back from the concerned person the first few times that you e-mail them. This is mostly the case with founders and CEOs of big companies, who receive a whirlpool of emails every day, and more often than not, miss the majority of them.

Persistence is key

But only in marginal amounts. Emailing once every two or three days works out quite balanced. But if you haven’t heard back after four to five attempts, then chances are you probably won’t hear back at all, so stop wasting your time.


Knowing when to reach out to these people, who most likely have their entire year’s itinerary fixed, is tricky. More often than not, sending across a mail on a weekend morning may be more fruitful as you can assume that they have reasonably more breathing space to check their inboxes on those mornings. Cold-mailing after 3pm doesn’t make too much sense as people have plans catching up with their families and friends to make up for a week’s worth of lost time.

How to get in touch

Usually, it isn’t too hard to guess the email ID of one of the higher-ups of a company. It is usually along the lines of ‘firstname.lastname@companyname.com’ or if it’s a startup, then it’s probably ‘firstname@companyname.com’. If these don’t work either, then you can call up the main helpline number listed on the company website and ask the receptionist for the concerned person’s email ID, stating that it is required for business purposes. More often than not, they will be happy to give it to you.

Make it confident and personal

The mistake most people make while cold-mailing is sending across a largely generic mail. These usually start with ‘Dear Sir/Ma’am’ or ‘To whomsoever it may concern’, leading the person to believe that he or she is one on the list of the sender’s group-mail, which will instantly make them back-track and not give it a second glance. To this end, it is advisable to put in the person’s name and sound confident in whatever you are proposing to them right away, even putting in a line on something they have recently done to show them that you have been tracking their professional activities. In most cases, this will guarantee a definitive response.

So if you’ve not received a reply from an important person, try these tips and let us know how it goes.


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