Would you email Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or Marissa Mayer? If the answer is no — and you have something to say — maybe it’s time to ask yourself why.
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“CEOs are thirsty for insight from the front lines,” writes Peter Sims at HBR Blog Network. “And yet those of us on those front lines – whether we are customers or employees – are often hesitant to reach out to senior leaders who are only an email away.”
Why? Because we’re trained to think that what we have to say isn’t valuable. In fact, Sims says, many CEOs complain that their jobs are isolating, which separates them from the very information they need to be better at their jobs.
Of course, before you start cold-emailing famous people or even the head of your own company, you need to make sure you’re going about it the right way. A few things to keep in mind:
1. Don’t pester.
Sims advises emailing three or four times, with a space of two days in between, and then giving up if you don’t hear anything. Up to 90 percent of the time, you probably won’t get a response — but that’s OK. You’re trying to communicate with a busy person, so a non-response isn’t necessarily a rejection.
2. Don’t assume someone is too important to talk to you.
Jeff Bezos has been known to follow up on customer complaints at Amazon. (Albeit in slightly terrifying internal emails.) Sims has had heard back from top executives at GE, and colleagues of his have had similar luck with Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz. Bottom line, you’ll miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
3. Be polite.
Keep your email short and sweet, and approach in the spirit of offering something, rather than taking. You’re more likely to forge a connection if you don’t waste anyone’s time and don’t ask for favors.
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