You've got the contact information of the decision maker you're trying to reach. Outstanding! Now, it's time to approach them in an artful way that won't sink your big business development dreams. Here are some strategies to nail the approach and land the meeting that will (hopefully) change your business's fortunes forever.

Sending a Cold E-mail

If you're contacting someone cold, it's almost always best to send an e-mail first. If you call, you might be interrupting them in a busy period, or you just might annoy them; by e-mailing them, you leave the power in their hands to respond or ignore you, which will avoid burning bridges.

When you send a cold e-mail, here is a list of the things you should definitely do:

  • 1Keep it short and sweet. It's ideal to write no more than three sentences (but don't get all Virginia Woolf and start using semicolons just to cram as much into three sentences as you can.) The time for storytelling and your perfectly crafted pitch is at the meeting, not during a cold e-mail.
  • 2Be authentic and conversational. If you want to get your e-mail ditched in a hurry, write them an e-mail that sounds like stilted, boring, office-speak or worse – overly excited junior marketing copy. It's a lot better to come off like a pretty cool guy or gal who has a good offer – so when you're crafting those three sentences, be authentic and be conversational.
  • 3Show people you're not spamming them. Hey, you can't send out 1,000 e-mails without copy-and-paste. But you can't build meaningful relationships that way, either. Make sure at least one of the sentences in your cold e-mail references something unique to their business or mentions some recent news that's relevant to them, so they know they're not just "name #471" on your marketing list.

Following Up On an Unanswered E-mail

IJust because you cold e-mailed them doesn't mean you shouldn't follow up. Here are three tips for crafting an awesome follow-up e-mail that will get results:

  • 1K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Make sure the follow-up is short, point out that they haven't responded to you, and always reply to the first e-mail you sent, so that there's an RE: in the subject line. The easier it is for the decision maker to e-mail you back, the more likely they are to actually do it.
  • 2Be Time Specific About Scheduling. Don't ask if you can "meet some time." Ask if you can meet Monday the 19th. Ask if you can meet this Friday for lunch. People are more likely to respond to a specific scheduling request.
  • 3Follow up between four and seven days later. Too early, and you look pushy. Too late, and they've forgotten about you and moved on to other things. You've got to hit the sweet spot when following up to maximize your results..

Making a Cold Call

If you can't get someone's e-mail address and you're dead set on cold calling them, you'd better know the ins and outs, or you're likely to get hung up on.

Think about the last time a telemarketer called you – they probably mangled your name (even if it's easy to pronounce) and started reading off a script. Do you even care what they're selling? As soon as you hear them start going, you shut your brain down – and so will these decision makers.

But if you're assertively developing your business, you're going to have to do a lot of cold calling, so you have to make sure you don't sound like a robot. Here are three principles of cold calling you can use to maximize your success (and perceived humanity.)

  • 1Keep it short and sweet. Notice a pattern here? It's a sign of respect for the decision maker's time not to take too much of it. Engage them and get a response within the first thirty seconds, or they'll probably hang up on you.
  • 2Be authentic and conversational. Whoa – the first two tips of cold calling are the same as the first two tips of cold e-mailing? It's almost like we're dealing with…human beings, here! People like to have conversations – they don't like to sit there and get prattled at (unless they're watching a TED talk.) If you're using a script, you're prattling. If you're rushing through your words, you're prattling. If they feel like they're being pitched, not like someone is having a conversation with them, you're prattling. And they honestly don't have time for it. Respect their time.
  • 3Show people you're not spamming them. This is incredible. Three for three! All joking aside, it's really important to let decision makers know that they're not just a number on the list. You have to be personal and relevant and demonstrate that you went the extra mile to learn a thing or two about them or their company. Research a specific problem the company is having that your solution can fix, and you'll find the response you get is much better every time.