How To Approach A Business Contact You Don’t Know?


Whether it’s for fundraising, business development or sales activities, being able to contact people you don’t know is a significant factor on your way to success. So here’s a short guide of Do’s and Don’ts.

One big don’t is cold calling people.  Even if you’re lucky enough to be answered, most chances are that the person you’re contacting is in the middle of something else and would get irritated by the interruption.

Sending cold emails is usually not effective as well. This is especially the case when you’re approaching someone very busy. The business contacts you probably need, get more cold emails than anyone could handle.

So what else can you do?

1. Find someone who can make an introduction. The most effective way to approach someone is to find someone else who can make an introduction. Ideally, the person introducing you should be someone you know well. But if you don’t have someone like that, any introduction is usually better than a cold email. When you’re asking for someone to introduce you, make their life easy and send them a few sentences about your company that they can simply forward on (i.e. write it in third person). I’ll try to publish an example I’ve personally used in the near future.

2. Use LinkedIn. Most people still use their email as their main communication channel. This makes their inbox extremely overloaded. However, only few people have an overloaded LinkedIn inbox, which makes it more accessible for you. In addition, when you get a LinkedIn InMail, you can easily see the profile of the person approaching you. This makes the communication somewhat more personal, and thus increases the chances of getting an answer.

3. Network. Networking is about creating connections with people before you need something from them. So if you’re planning a financing round, start hanging out in events that investors attend enough time before you want to use these connections. The same goes for business development. Start attending conferences that are related to your industry and make connections long before you need to start your business development process.

4. Ask for general advice before asking for a specific favour. If you have no other choice but sending a cold email, then first ask to get the person’s general advice. People love offering their opinion and are more responsive when asked for non-specific help. So first create a relationship by asking for general advice. If it’s an investor your approaching, then if you’re project is interesting enough he’ll anyhow ask by himself whether you’re looking for funding.
And whatever method you’re using, keep your message short and to the point!

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