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A cold outreach strategy that works (patrickrivera.co)
271 points by jger15 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 124 comments

> But in sales and recruiting, “no” doesn’t always mean “no”.

Where I should start?

I dived too deep into dating - partly because I was in the process of writing "Dating for Nerds", and partly because my ex-girlfriend was a sexologist/sociologist (who at that time was writing her master's thesis "Market Metaphors in Dating").

There are many sales metaphors for dating, especially in PUA lingo (including all about the target, pitch, funnel, and close). What I've found even more interesting is that there are many parallels between the ethics of both. While for doing things against someone's will it is obviously wrong (and a crime), there is a dark-gray zone of things that are not a crime, but still - are rarely done in good faith, and can hurt the other person. If something is a gray zone in one, very often the other tells if it is OK-ish to a--holish.

And 'no' in business is the same. Yes, people can change mind. Yes, 'no' sometimes means "maybe... but if I said that, you would have assumed 'yes' and put me in a really uncomfortable situation". There are pushy salespeople that after "no" they act as if they heard yes. This strategy may work, especially on people who are less assertive, less confident, etc. But it is a dick move, so don't. A lot of classic PAU is based on these pushy tactics. They even call when the next day a girl regrets they have had sex "buyer's remorse".

Yes, some people would react differently if they've heard more, or maybe need time to consider things, or would benefit from some encouragement. I am so grateful to all salespeople, and recruiters, who after hearing "no" respected that work. And treated me like a person, not a ripe bag of gold.

Pre-dotcom bust there was this lady from The Daily Deal. She harassed the shit out of us with her perkiness. No way we would spend IBM's money on a new website. But she was a no means yes woman. I asked her for $50,000 of free inventory to test if it was as good as she said it was. Free is always best and it kicked ass. Then she gave birth to twins and named them Joe, my boss, and my name. That was a bridge too far. Daily Deal became a favorite of IBM's and they ended up investing millions in it for B2B marketing. Sometimes stalking works. But I don't recommend it.

She named her kids after you?

Sorry, just seeing this now. She really did. But she was super Irish Catholic and I think she wanted the names Joe and Mike anyway. Also she was an early Bloomberg employee and had crazy stories about him.

That's gotta be the highlight for any family meetups

"I named you Joe to score a deal!"

I'm seeing some negative comments that focus on the article specifics. So I thought I'd say well done Patrick for reaching your goal using creativity and the right kind of persistence. Thank you for showing the actual steps you took and sharing your thought process.

I've been in software almost 20 years and due to some incredibly poor timing am in need of finding my own door of opportunity, so I found your post inspirational. Thank you.

thanks, Pedro! yep. you can adapt the idea of research, add value, and handle objections into whatever permutation works best for your situation. that's the strategy part. best of luck, you can do it :)

Great advice if you absolutely want that ONE job at this ONE company. If you are in that boat then it's probably worth it to spend ~10 hours creating something valuable to offer.

Most people generally have a set of companies that are ideal for them in a tier'ed manner. In that case, more efficient way would be to choose ~5 companies, do a lot of homework about their business & write to key people at these places telling in ONE paragraph what you can do for their business. If it fails, choose next ~5 and so on.

It falls somewhere in-between spending 10 hours of effort on 1 application & mass applying to 50 companies without any effort whatsoever. This is also how effective sales teams work.

You get part of those 10 hours "for free" just from the basic due diligence that you should apply to determine if you want to work for the company/department/team in the first place.

I'm the person who gets these sorts of emails at my company, and just a few words in one of his emails really caught my attention!

"Would love to work on this mission with you and the team" .. yeah, yeah, generic blah, everyone says that.

"and I won't take it for granted." Ok, wow, I rarely have people make promises like that. It sounds genuine and even if it's not, it's a point I can pull someone up on later on if they're screwing around.

Sending off some generic corporate speech will rarely work with me, but if someone acts a little more personably and shows they have some sort of emotional skin in the game, I'm all ears.

> if someone acts a little more personably and shows they have some sort of emotional skin in the game, I'm all ears.

Which why generic corporate speech is just an arms race of faking that you have emotional skin in the game. Saying you'd "love to work on this mission with you and the team" was once enough. Now, you also have to say that you "won't take it for granted" to catch your attention. I wonder what the next step will be.

> I wonder what the next step will be.

https://youtu.be/JWdZEumNRmI ?

I guess. But if someone comes up with something new, that shows they recognize the banality of the corporate speech and came up with something new. Almost no-one actually bothers to do this (judging from years of banal, generic bizdev type emails I've received).

This is a great point and also very applicable to sales generally. There's definitely a continuum between "hyper target / completely customized" and "spray and pray" and each person/company needs to find the right point on that continuum for themselves.

My company actually just put out a blog post last week on this showing how to quickly create customized emails while still leveraging templates [0].

[0] https://blaze.today/blog/best_sales_cold_email_templates_and...

Spam like this earns an immediate "remove all email addresses from your lists @ourdomain.com and let me know that you are suppressing them from your future mailings", ccing your mail provider's abuse address. The second mail gets your domain blocked and I tell your provider they're on notice.

Some of us still take spam seriously.

I recognize we start from different places on this, but unrequested email does not necessarily equal SPAM. We had a guy a few months ago who threatened all kinds of litigation and reporting etc. when we reached out cold. At the same time, one of his colleagues responded with interest and just before Christmas their company signed a 5-figure annual deal with our client to provide an endpoint security solution they needed for their managed services practice.

Put another way, if I honest to God had a gold bar with your name on it and contacted you by email to say "when can we meet up so I can give you this gold bar" and you replied and we met up and I gave you your gold bar, you wouldn't view my message as SPAM at all because now you have a gold bar that is worth a bunch of money. Hey, free gold bar!@ But when it comes to cold outreach many people defer to "I didn't ask for this email....SPAM SPAM SPAM!" Sometimes what's being offered isn't a good fit, doesn't provide ROI, etc. But sometimes it turns out to be a gold bar.

I don't think that a business reaching out and saying "You guys provide X, we have a solution that does Y and has helped other companies that provide X in a meaningful way" is remotely the same as a Nigerian Prince selling Viagra.

wpietri 3 months ago [flagged]

They are not the same, but if they're sent in bulk, they are both spam.

The essence of spam is using automation to use the same amount of your time to waste more of other people's time. Door-to-door sales is awful, but at the very least the waste of time is symmetrical. Computers, though, let spammers waste ever more of their targets' time on their quest to get rich.

Having talked to many spammers on the phone back in the day, excuses like yours are common. "I'm an exception! What I'm doing is special and valuable!" Sure, bud. We're all special snowflakes. But you don't really believe it's all that valuable, or you'd trust that people with a need would seek you out. Your actual goal is to manipulate people such that money goes into your pocket instead of somebody else's. Which I get, in that there are plenty of other people doing the same thing. It's an arms race, and not playing guarantees you don't win. But let's not pretend that your spam is somehow not spam.

I would never ever in a million years trust that people with a need would seek me out. Most people are lazy and they don't pay my bills.

Not sure I agree/understand the idea that cold outreach is manipulation.

wpietri 3 months ago [flagged]

Sure. I believe you don't understand. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." If it made sense to you, you'd be doing something else.

Your patronization and condescension are not lost on me. Without knowing anything about me, my work, and my company aside from what I've shared you've taken the time to behave like an utter jackass because you dont happen to like what you think I do for a living.

Know this: I love my job and the company I've built. My employees love working here and the problems we solve. The clients love the service we provide and their customers love that we helped them connect.


If there are a majority of my target niche companies that literally don't know my type of software exists, and it could help them, but having physical door to door salespeople would make the software more expensive than they'd be able to pay, what approach do you recommend?

For you? I'd say do whatever you think best. It's an imperfect world we're all trying to survive in. I mean, as ominvores, we only survive through the destruction of other life, which is kinda horrific. But it's not like there are great alternative choices. Meat is murder, but I'm still having ribs for dinner.

As I said, I don't think door-to-door sales is good either; it's just that the time cost is symmetric, so it's less abuseable. But it's still bothering people to get paid.

In a better world, people would find out what they need to know without manipulation. And that better world is partly here. If I know I need to buy a thing, I'll look at things like Wirecutter and Consumer Reports to get unbiased evaluations of things. If I know I have a problem but don't know a solution, I'll search, I'll read up, I'll consult forums like this one. And of course I read broadly so I can become aware of problems I don't realize I have yet.

But it's only partly here. So if that's not enough for you, well, do what you have to. My issue here isn't with people doing what it takes to get by. It's with people insisting we all pretend that there are no moral compromises involved.

It's spam. Using templates to automate mass sending of cold (read: unsolicited) emails is the definition of spam. Not all unsolicited emails are spam, like in the original article, but the article in that comment is demonstrating how to blast spam.

I've previously been in the position of having to review all spam (and other unwanted or suspicious emails) reported by employees at a large company. Every day. I've seen thousands of different spam messages that are essentially indistinguishable from this.

It's all the same. It's all spam. People don't like your spam. Most of them report it, and then people like me have to look at it every day, and nearly all of the rest of them delete it. Some tiny, tiny percentage will reply, but that's exactly how the viagra spammers work, too. They need to send massive volumes because the percentage that click or reply is so miniscule, and then the percentage of those who make a purchase are also miniscule.

I recommend finding something different to do with your career or life if your career or life is just spamming as many people as possible to try to convince them to do something they don't want to do. At the end of the day, is this truly what you want your infinitesimally small fraction of existence to be composed of?

What if every email is sent by hand and carefully crafted? What if there is no automation? Does that remove it as SPAM in your designation?

Totally depends. A particularly industrious person could essentially be a human spam bot / template permuter.

It's too open to say definitively. How many people are contacted, how were they identified, how much unique effort went into each email, what is the actual content of the email, what are your intentions, what is your offering, what do you say you want from them, what do you actually want from them, etc.

If it's sent to 1 person, like in this article, it might be completely fine. But in general, I don't think there's any way to answer that without thoroughly looking at each case.

I agree. Early on we had clients who said "we have a list of 1,000 prospects we want to reach out to. How quickly can that be done?" My answer was usually "about a month, maybe longer." We like to research the prospect and their company, find a reason the offering might actually be useful, craft a message connecting those dots, then send an email or two and add in some phone calls.

We lost business that way, "Just send the template I give you..." THat's not a business I'm going to be in.

But I continue to disagree with the notion that cold outreach is SPAM, I'm amused that someone would tell me to do something else with my life, and I'm surprised that so many people are close-minded to how powerful and effective email-first cold outreach can be. We help businesses grow. We help our clients deliver value and service to other people, which in turn helps those other people's businesses grow. I'm sorry if any message I ever write ends up in your inbox and you think it's SPAM. But I assure you that a lot of thought was put into why you were contacted and the words chosen to try to get your attention.

What you're doing is certainly less spammy if it's actually hand-tailored to each recipient and their particular domain or requirements, and not based on a template.

Maybe I'm missing your or your clients' perspectives, but you you have to understand the perspectives of the recipients, too, and of people like me who see the aggregate of what they receive. Depending on someone's role, someone may receive emails of that nature from 5 - 20 or more companies every week. (Often involving more than 5 - 20 emails, since many are follow-ups.) Multiply 5 - 20 a week over years, and you might develop a certain attitude. And then when I have to look at tens of thousands of them per year (over 100,000 in total if you include any kind of reported email), over several years, I'm definitely going to develop a certain impression.

Depending on the company and product, an offering could apply very generally. For example, employees at our company would receive tons of cloud- and security-themed cold emails, and these would be addressed to anyone with any technology-related position. Pretty much every medium or large company is using the cloud in some way and cares about information security, so is the "correct" thing to do to blast the cold emails to the hundreds of thousands/millions of people who work in a technology role at any company above a certain size? How do you know where it ends?

I'll say it's better than constantly calling people's phones, at least, and if the follow-ups aren't that aggressive or frequent then it's just a minor nuisance, but mass marketing and advertising in general often just rub me the wrong way.

I agree that there is a difference between sales spam and scam spam.

This is why we provide the former with a warning before being blocked, while the latter gets no such courtesy. (We don't engage in legal threats over it, that's pointless and stupid.)

Honest question b/c I'm curious: does this mean that as a policy you won't engage with cold outreach regardless of what is being offered? And if so, do you ever consider that such a policy may indeed hinder your business?

A non-zero portion of unsolicited sales-based emails DO include something of meaningful value.

A non-zero portion of just about anything includes something of meaningful value to someone. This does not mean that sifting through it will yield value considering opportunity cost.

Given the volume of spam I get from would-be vendors, there probably has been something I could have used somewhere in there. Similarly, I've probably walked past storm drains with valuables in them. I don't dig in there either.

If some tool or service really is great, relevant and not something we already do/have, we won't have to read spam to find out about it.

I agree to a large degree, your analogy about storm drains is spot on. As a person that does cold outreach sales spam bothers me too because it makes the job harder for people that are doing valuable research and targeting their prospects with greater purpose.

I do, however, disagree that great or relevant service will present itself without a proactive salesperson.

Huh, why do you bother with replying at all? Wouldn't silent ban be quicker and therefore cheaper for you?

Ignoring spam does not make it go away.

It kind of does: you don't want it to arrive in your inbox. It is implementation detail how you arrive at that effect. Personally I find adding a silent filter to be superior option in most aspects: it is quicker and foolproof. Surely it won't "educate" the sender, but TBH I don't think your current method is doing so anyway.

I'm not connected to anyone else commenting here, just chiming in with another data point for you.

does this mean that as a policy you won't engage with cold outreach regardless of what is being offered?

How will we know what is being offered if we don't read the message or accept the call? Unless we've had prior contact with someone or they make contact through a trusted third party, we normally won't, we'll just block and move on.

And if so, do you ever consider that such a policy may indeed hinder your business?

No, not at all. We're quite happy doing our thing, and when we identify something that seems like we could do it better, we're quite happy going out and actively looking for ways we could improve it. If someone wants our business, by far the best way to win it is simply to have a good, no-nonsense website so we can find them if we're looking.

Fair points all. But what if you dont know what you are looking for? What if you dont know that the way you are doing things now can be done significantly faster, better, or with less cost?

I used to work for a large managed WordPress provider in their early days. The vast majority of people we talked to said "I had no idea this was available. For $x dollars you are saving me Y hours of time each month, Y hours that I'm doing work that I absolutely hate and probably am not good at."

But what if you dont know what you are looking for? What if you dont know that the way you are doing things now can be done significantly faster, better, or with less cost?

That's a possibility that we accept, but the simple truth is that we're OK with it. We keep an eye on our industry and we have a decent professional network. We think the odds of something that really could revolutionize our business going unnoticed for long are slim.

This philosophy isn't just about emails or calls. We're similarly allergic to other time-wasters, such as websites full of vacuous waffle and nothing but "call us" for pricing. If we're actively looking for something but a potential supplier doesn't have easy ways to contact them and transparent terms and pricing, most of the time we're just going to move on without giving them a second thought.

Again, we accept that we might miss out on a genuinely valuable opportunity, but we're OK with not finding that one if it means we also don't get tied up in spammy enterprise sales engines for the rest. I operate mostly in the world of SMEs, where time is precious and the business's finances often have a direct effect on its people. If someone wants our business and has a useful product or service, the best thing they can do is be findable when we look for something like that and then be easy to work with.

A non-zero number of alternative methods don't have to involve spam, which does nothing for us than show us you are not to be taken seriously.

If not email, then what kinds of alternative methods do you find acceptable/permissible for someone to connect with you in an effort to introduce you to a new product or service?

Not the GP but a couple examples:

An informative blog post which solves or helps with a problem I am experience, and plugs your service at the end.

A more direct approach of an offer of something of value in exchange for my time (e.g. pay $$ to beta test this for a week).

In general, the more the method of getting my attention requires a non-fakeable demonstration of value, the more likely I am to pay attention to it and the less likely it is to bother me.

I actually thought long ago of a platform that gave vendors a place to pay people to demo software. Like "$10 gift card for 15 minutes of your time." Problem is that most companies strictly prohibit their workers receiving outside compensation. Many companies would gladly pay prospects to engage.

In the case of a larger business, the content-marketing approach (or really any other approach that generates warm leads for your sales team) is probably a better way to approach things. I know that my company uses something on the order of 20 SAAS products, all of which we found by looking for a solution to a specific problem we were facing and either running across the product directly, across a post by that company explaining how to solve the problem and plugging their product for similar problems, or getting a recommendation by an internal dev who had used the product before or a third party that did not stand to significantly gain by us using that product. That last channel is actually the largest, but not really actionable for you as a sales person.

Do you know or have you ever in your professional career worked for a company that employed salespeople? Do you understand that they mostly do cold outreach to generate revenue? If all the salespeople were to disappear overnight from that present or past employer, what would happen to company revenue and how many people would lose their jobs?

> have you ever in your professional career worked for a company that employed salespeople?


> Do you understand that they mostly do cold outreach to generate revenue?

No, they do not.

> If all the salespeople were to disappear overnight, what would happen to company revenue and how many people would lose their jobs?

The point you're illustrating is that in a world where some companies have sales people, all companies need to have sales people (although not for cold outreach). In the same way as "well some people have guns so I need to have a gun too" isn't a good argument against gun control, you are not making a good argument for cold outreach / salespeople.

How do they generate business then, if not cold outreach? I don't mean it as a gotcha, I'm genuinely curious. I suppose you could say inbound leads, but I don't really believe that's a significant % of revenue, and anyways HN seems to hate marketing.

The gun analogy doesn't really work man, having salespeople isn't really predicated on what other companies are doing or not doing

> How do they generate business then, if not cold outreach?

There are tons of ways to get warm interest, whether that's permission to email, a conversation with a salesperson, or a request for more info. Some obvious examples are content marketing (with a way to provide your email for a mailing list and/or account), trial downloads, product tours/webinar registrations, trade show booths, and user group sponsorships.

Literally any interaction except emailing a complete stranger can, and often does, lead to someone giving a salesperson or a company permission to contact them.

(Related: Needing to guess who needs a product, email them out of the blue, and be wrong 50-99% of the time, is often a sign that the company is failing at marketing. Generating warm leads is not hard.)

With the exception of trade shows, I call that 'marketing' though, that's an entirely different department. Everything else you've mentioned does not fall into the sales/BD category. Which is fine, I know some companies do not have or need a sales staff at all- I'm just commenting on the ones that do. If they have sales or business development in their job titles, they are probably reaching out to strangers a decent amount.

You don't really need outbound sales folks for B2C, but 95%+ of the time you do for B2B/enterprise

> I call that 'marketing' though

That's fair, but marketing's main job is to find prospective customers. In a successful organization, marketing and sales scale roughly in lockstep, so marketing is generating enough warm leads for sales.

One can debate how warm/qualified they need to be - and sales and marketing teams do - but the answer isn't "They've expressed no interest at all and might not have ever heard of us."

Your comment applies to cold emails to strangers, too: that's marketing, not sales. It's ineffective, often expensive marketing because it's performed by people with the wrong skill set and goals. Generalizing, a company doing that has over-invested in sales and under-invested in marketing.

Didn't see it as a gotcha! Love the curiosity :)

I can only speak for the businesses I have been involved in (software, product marketing for software, marcomms, real estate), but cold outreach -- if done at all -- would be the longest of long tails: low conversion, increasingly high maintenance (esp. because folks like me send petulant ICO/GDPR subject access requests to clog up organisations sending unsolicited emails).

So speculative cold outreach is crazy inefficient and frankly not on-brand for most companies (yes, eastern European outsource software teams can do it, but e.g. AWS can't).

Most companies look to qualify their leads by having some degree of engagement: whether it's impressions > clicks > landing page. They might do this in addition to cold outreach, but the companies I've worked for (and started) focused on marketing (SEM, TV, print, radio, trade shows, PR, networking events). All of these generate either inbound or permission-based selling: if you're attending a trade show or responding to a TV advert, then you're giving us implicit permission to talk to you.

We are not sending an invasive message into your inbox which is a personal place, whether it's a corporate or personal inbox.

Marketing is effective - especially at the point of intent (e.g. when someone Googles "buying new motorcycle helmet" rather than just "motorcycle helmet") and not dumb/broadcast.

The gun analogy illustrates: if you removed all sales people from all organisations, then nobody would need any salespeople: companies would still have needs for e.g. software and would still find companies through marketing. It wouldn't result in companies losing revenue. OP (not sure if it was you or not) was conflating marketing and sales.

>then you're giving us implicit permission to talk to you

Certainly. Although I'm guessing that at least some of the people on this thread most objecting to cold outreach would still classify something like an email after getting a badge scan at a trade show as spam. You're right that lead acquisition happens in a lot of ways other than the spam I get in my inbox offering to sell me address lists. However, a lot of people still get mad at emails that are the result of casual interactions. Honestly, it's the way the business world works but people are still going to object to it.

>The gun analogy illustrates: if you removed all sales people from all organisations, then nobody would need any salespeople: companies would still have needs for e.g. software and would still find companies through marketing. It wouldn't result in companies losing revenue. OP (not sure if it was you or not) was conflating marketing and sales.

And then some company would figure out that, at least for certain types of products, having someone who directly cultivates a relationship with buyers is a really effective way to increase revenues relative to the competition.

> an email after getting a badge scan as spam

And IMO they are totally right to do so. That behaviour is so ludicrously dumb that I can't believe people do it. Your company is exhibiting in a room full of potential customers. If someone doesn't come and talk to you then you have no right to reach out to them IMO.

> a lot of people still get mad at emails that are the result of casual interactions

Hey, if I gave someone my email address that's fine. I expect them to contact me. If I gave a conference organiser my email address, I do not expect the exhibitors to be able to contact me.

> And then some company would figure out…

For sure. But OP's point seemed to be that money stops being spent in a world without sales people. It's an interesting thought experiment. My hunch is that the same money is spent: sales people are not, in general, getting more spend out of customers overall. Salesman X might get Customer Y to spend more money with _their particular company_, but not money that would not have been deployed in the market anyway.

I'm talking about spam. And I do indeed want spammers to do something else for a living - making spam economically nonviable is the strategic intent of suppressing it.

How do you propose that the salespeople, without whom your employer or employers would go bankrupt, reach out to new prospects? How would that work? Am genuinely curious. By definition it seems to involve cold outreach of some type

I don't manage sales people; telling them how to do their job isn't my job. I can suggest that if the lack of a single communications channel would be crippling for you, you're already in a pretty precarious place and should maybe think about that.

As for what you appear to believe is your gotcha, we don't have sales people, because our business doesn't work that way. I have worked for firms that did, though, and strangely, they somehow managed to do their jobs without spamming.

You seem to define all cold outreach whatsoever as 'spam', so of course you can choose to fit anything into that category. If people contacted you cold via other communications channels, it seems like you would define that as spam as well.

Seeing as you don't manage sales people, I would gently suggest that at your old firms they were reaching out to people, cold, one way or another. That's literally what the job is

In many cases "sales people" (at least outside sales people) are not cold calling. They're getting qualified leads from digital marketing campaigns.

However, your basic point stands. I get that some people don't want cold outreach through any channel, ads, etc. While there may be some companies that can organically grow through maybe a combination of organic search, stories being written about them (at which point someone here will dutifully post a link about submarine PR), word of mouth, etc. I'd respectfully suggest that most companies that try to do so will be out of business in a very short period of time.

Like I said upstream, I am talking about spam. If you want to make shit up and attack that instead, I don't have to be involved, so I'm done with this.

A lot of people may think this blog post is either over complicating stuff or stating the obvious. While slightly true, you'd be surprised at how many people miss the points highlighted by the author. I get so many cold emails that don't hit any of these points and I just end up deleting them immediately.

This blog post over complicates and mythologizes an extremely simple process. That is to not be embarrassed or ashamed to ask people you want something from what you can do to get it.

Additionally, this is survivorship bias. His emails sounded very professionally immature and while this companies leadership may have found it endearing, I could easily see other groups of people finding it off putting.

What this guys effort signaled to me is that he’s probably annoyingly overeager, but willing to basically do whatever I want him to do whenever and however long I want him to do it. In other words he’d be a good lackey.

If you want to shamelessly signal that you’d be a decent lackey for an obscure to medium startup this may be decent advice. And this may not be a bad thing, I know Casey Neistat’s employee Jack Coyne did something similar and it opened up a lot of doors for him.

I think it also depends what you're looking for. If you're applying for one of multiple already-existent temporary positions for inexperienced people enthusiastic about learning on the job, appearing to be desperately keen on working for that company specifically probably gives you the edge over many other candidates that might have slightly more impressive universities on their CV. Some fields like marketing might appreciate creative approaches to hacking their recruitment process too, though they'll be more interested in whether your powerpoints are actually good.

If you're a mid-level software engineer trying to get a well-paid job at a company working on completely different technical problems to your skillset and not actively hiring, it's probably wasted effort.

That's pretty much how I read it as well. Sure, for an internship, lots of enthusiasm probably differentiates you from a form letter and a resume (which, lacking much real experience, doesn't tell you a lot anyway). And, honestly, a followup along the lines of "Thanks. I'm still really interested in your company. Do you have internships or other programs?" would probably have worked at least as well as offering to fetch coffee.

But, as you say, you're probably not going to get an opening created for you unless you have connections and/or a special skillset.

Agree the post over-complicates this.

Also, the message and approach should be very different depending on who you're reaching out to and for what reason (example: getting a job versus getting a client).

Providing value is important, but the goal of the first email is simply to get someone to reply, not overload them with info upfront (like what was suggested as one of the examples, a 13-page PowerPoint deck with data analysis).

I find providing 1-2 specific concrete ideas related to your product, service or ask and tailored for your prospect's business is enough to get an interested reply. Some good templates for this here: https://artofemails.com/new-clients

The way I see it he was just very motivated to get the job / internship. I didn't find his emails "professionally immature" either.

For sure I'd much rather invite / interview him as opposed to one of the 100s who just send their CV via email with not much else.

To clarify "professional immaturity" does not mean personally immature/childish. It means he comes across as extremely green, new to the professional world, etc.

I also read the CEO’s first response as, “it looks like you already have a job, but if you’re looking next year, we’d love to have you.” versus the author’s framing of, “No thanks. Try again next year.”

Unless I’m mistaken, the author never indicated that he was looking for a Fall internship until the second email. I doesn’t feel like he was ever actually rejected.

I didn't find his email professionally immature. I think it's an overstatement to somehow infer that these emails signal a lackey.

> somehow infer that these emails signal a lackey.

"Does the team need an office manager, receptionist, coffee runner, etc.?"

> willing to basically do whatever I want him to do whenever and however long I want him to do it. In other words he’d be a good lackey.

This is unnecessarily condescending. When having to choose from a crowded field of seemingly-competent candidates, it's natural to want someone who is passionate and willing to go the extra mile. And as someone who is genuinely passionate to work in a certain industry or to work for a specific company, it is also smart to signal your dedication using tactics like what the author described.

Neither of the above warrants condescending to someone as "being a good lackey"

> Definition: a person who is obsequiously willing to obey or serve another person or group of people.

While it's true that lackey is condescending, it's also accurate. We have euphemized "lackey" with less condescending terms like "gopher" or even phrases like "you'll do what it takes". He clearly signaled in his follow up email that he was willing to do "what it takes" to "get in" with the company: "Does the team need an office manager, receptionist, coffee runner, etc."

His telegraphed servility is exactly in line with the very definition you posted.

Patrick, if you’re reading this, I enjoyed this article. It reminds me that if you spend a little bit more time researching your prospect, you are more likely to get positive results. Another lesson is that it helps to focus on a few prospects you really want to work with, rather than spray and pray. Thank you for sharing.

thanks, Danial! exactly. the strategy isn't the literal tactics I took (e.g., spending ten hours, reaching out to one company, etc.) the strategy is thinking about cold outreach as a sales process and adapting it to your situation.

I think this post tries hard to claim something that wasn't quite the case. The author did not overcome a "no". They "overcame" a "sure, next summer might work". Which, given that they were a student, was really a "sure, whenever you are free might work"; the company assumed that they would be studying during the fall.

So what remains is that in the initial mail, the author presumably failed to mention that they would be free already in the fall. If they had, it looks like the company would have happily interviewed them for their fall internship program.

So my reading is that there really was no "no" at all to overcome, just some unfortunate initial communication. Including the fact that the company created the impression that they "weren't hiring", while in fact they were.

Good negotiating is a fact-finding mission. "No" is data that tells you something. "No, not this thing" is not the same as "Drop dead!"

The email response he got wasn't even as ugly he framed it in this piece. They were clearly interested and telling him when he could potentially connect with them.

Countering that with more information about his side of the equation -- that he was willing to take any role they had and his target date was the fall -- turned up more information and helped them reach agreement.

Generally speaking, it's fine to treat no as specific to X and not interpret it as a blanket rejection. And most CEOs will not be coy about letting you know that their "no" means "Sorry, you are just not a good fit for our company." They usually didn't get to be CEO by being a milquetoast.

That's not really comparable to trying to sort out how aggressively you should pursue some woman that you're probably taller than, stronger than and so forth. These are just not good points of comparison.

I'm annoyed by the "no means maybe" thing. He tries to cover himself by saying that "in dating, no always means no." But I wish he just hadn't gone there.

Too many people are already disrespectful pricks. They don't need any openings to help them justify their lousy behavior.

Anyway, congrats and thanks for the write up. It's good info, even though I think it unnecessarily steps in it on that one detail.


FTA: " Following up is so crucial that enterprise sales teams have software to automate follow ups."

As someone on the receiving end of sales solicitations, a lack of follow-up is the most frustrating thing imaginable, and I don't believe that it is a solved problem right now.

I suspect that some widely used enterprise sales software (maybe Salesforce?) recently developed a bug that messes badly with the follow up process.

I have recently seen many interesting and perfectly targeted outreach messages in my inbox, for products that I am genuinely interested in. So far, so good - something is obviously going right. But then I reply to the message, and instead of the sender following up with me, I start getting multiple copies of the first message delivered from random people at the same company.

Replying to these messages only increases the flood of solicitation messages, until I have to resort to blacklisting the entire company domain. What a waste of my time, and what a lost opportunity for the companies running the flawed software.

A friend works at BeeCastle (https://beecastle.com/) which aims to address this exact niche. Systemic but carefully curated sales approaches.

Free trial available.

I wonder how significant it is in the US, but in France, securing an internship is hardly difficult.

Interns tend to barely get paid (when they do) and a lot of companies have no problem letting them rot for half of the internship duration.

You could probably get an internship almost anywhere if you're willing to do the most annoying crap half of the day, and nothing the rest of the time.

So, I don't know how significant is "I got an internship through this method" to prove that a method is good (but then again, maybe in the US culture it's actually something significant !)

In most industries, internships are just another class differentiator.

Tech is different, in that the best internships actually pay, but in other fields internships are one of the main entrypoints into a field. If you can't afford to live in, e.g., NYC and work for free, that door isn't open.

Internships are very competitive at places like Google. At less prestigious companies, they're less likely to be paid well and are easier to get.

Ok, makes sense then !

In France, when I was a student, it was quite often a matter of "we take 10 interns but have only one full time position afterwards, so good luck to everyone !", so it was staying in the company that proved quite competitive.

At my company , our goal is to hire 50% of our interns to full time work, that is, it is one of the main methods for recruiting entry level employees.

"if you're willing to do the most annoying crap half of the day, and nothing the rest of the time"

If you're willing to do that, you don't need an internship.

I wonder if the people that are condescending about Patrick's effort have ever done cold outbound prospecting and sold anything in their lives. But who am I to make assumptions...

Patrick, great job for:

1) trying something different and being persistent and polite, but not annoying

2) reaching your objective, and

2) documenting it in a post.

You've got the result on your side, and you found one possible way to get there. Are there others? Sure! Get an intro via a mutual connection, etc. You chose the one that worked for you given your constraints / circumstances.

When I saw your slide, my immediate reaction was "he must have been at Accenture". Looks like the templates haven't changed since I left in 2013 :-)

> I wonder if the people that are condescending about Patrick's effort have ever done cold outbound prospecting and sold anything in their lives. But who am I to make assumptions...

I'm sure cold outbound prospecting is very hard and has a non-zero success rate.

The fact that it might be hard for the person doing it doesn't mean it's not an unwelcome intrusion for the rest of us.

I appreciate that this high touch approach worked for the author, but I think the most important thing to understand about cold outreach is that it simply won't work 99.9% of the time and plan accordingly.

I did cold outreach for a startup I was working on many years ago. I wasn't even selling anything, just trying to do some research. I called and emailed dozens of people. Nobody responded. I then went and showed up in person at a dozen or so offices of people who I wanted to learn more about. The most polite among them told me they were too busy to talk and when I told them I could wait they asked me to leave. The worst slammed doors in my face and swore at me. I tried a number of different sweeteners. I offered our service for free for varying amounts of time. I even offered hundreds of dollars of cash up front just to speak for 30 minutes. On average I could barely finish one sentence of my pitch before people said no.

The world can be a cruel and dangerous place, and people treat strangers accordingly. Even if your product is amazing or you're offering someone a holy grail, their perceived risk of you is almost always too high for them to trust you. To me, this suggests that the pray and spray approach is a better one: if I double my chances of success from .01% to .02% (and these numbers don't feel too far off) by doing 10 hours of investment per customer, then I'm much better off sending thousands of generic emails. I'd say the author's success in cold outreach was more luck than anything he specifically did. Just my 2c.

Most jobs come from referral. Scalable cold outreach strategy is key to getting a job in tech these days.

Does anyone still apply online?

About half the positions I staff are from referrals and half are from randomly submitted online resumes. The quality of team members have ended up being roughly equivalent.

I'm not sure how those two statements go together. Do a lot of people really refer individuals they don't know at all outside of a cold outreach just for a shot at a referral bonus?

All three jobs I've gotten in the last 20 years have come through people I know. (One was a referral; the other two were getting hired by someone I knew.) But these were people I actually did know and had worked with in some manner.

How do you suppose referral works when you don't have any contact with the company you're eyeing? I've applied for every job I've had online, save for the first one. It can be a messy process, but if you bring real value, you get noticed fairly quickly.

Who does one contact at a medium to large size company? Obviously contacting the CEO would not work.

Founders@ might work

Derek Sivers has proposed a similar strategy:


I’d like more help with step one. Just finding the contact information. I’ve tried connecting over linked in and never gotten a response.

There are hundreds of tools available for finding everything from email addresses to phone numbers to physical addresses for work. Apollo.io, Hunter.io, LeadIQ just to get you started. Most have some tier of "free" if you only need a handful of contacts per month.

Please do not phone. Maybe that's not universal, but I basically don't pick up the phone if I don't recognize the caller--or at least think because of area code it may be someone I should answer. With my work number and never check messages case, I don't even have a physical phone attached to my line.

I am a grumpy git, but…

Please also do not email. It feels like every week I'm removing my corporate contact information from some obnoxious website which sells my email address having not obtained my permission to store or process it.

Presumably somewhere, long ago, there was a CEO or founder who responded positively to cold outreach from a Ukrainian outsource dev team or Indian QA company, but I find all cold outreach to be unwelcome. Making it more personal just means I have to type my "politeno" text shortcut instead of "gdprsmash".

People celebrate and mythologise the 0.1% of cold outreach success stories and ignore the fact that 99.9% of it is irritating spam.

Your %'s are off by a startling amount.

I assume you think the utility derived from cold outreach spam is even LOWER than I ballparked? :)

To the contrary, proper cold outreach can result in qualified opportunities for 2-10% of prospects contacted.

Seems a bit like moving the goalposts. I'm saying that in the aggregate, cold outreach is annoying and unsuccessful 99.9% of the time. You're saying that's wrong because proper cold outreach "can" result in qualified opportunities (not even sales!) for 10% of prospects contacted.

In any event, your best case seems to be that 90% of people are at best unmotivated enough to ignore the message, and in all likelihood would rather it hadn't come in the first place.

Who does one contact at random medium size or big sized company?

firstname.lastname@company.com has worked for me in the past. When I was in college I met a CTO at a campus event and emailed him this way, ended up being offered a job.

That's not really a cold outreach though. LinkedIn can be OK if you can send a message of the form "We met at XYZ and talked about ABC..." Though I'll not infrequently miss LinkedIn messages simply because they go into a Gmail tab that I don't make a point of checking--and most of the LinkedIn messages I get are very ignorable.

You can usually find the company email convention, as you say. (That specific example wouldn't work in my case though and, for larger companies, email collisions mean there are a fair number of non-standard addresses.)

LinkedIn is too easy. It is not the place for cold outreaches, unless it is one small part of a recruiter's outreach strategy.

With enough dedication you should be able to find some contact details.

It's a non scalable outreach tactic. It's not a strategy.

Yes it has a good chance to work, if you are willing to spend hours researching your target, hours producing free content for that target, and insisting until the target gives up and give you what you want.

Why does everything have to "scale?" It's an SV-bubble cliché that's really getting tired.

>Yes it has a good chance to work

So, in other words, it is a good strategy if you genuinely are very interested in working for that particular company. Sure, sending out hundreds of form emails is a different strategy. But I'm not sure it's a better one.

Mind you, I'm not necessarily advocating, say, doing an unpaid internship in general--though that may be the price of admission in some industries. i.e. Spending multiple months for a shot at a position. But spending a day researching and preparing for an outreach to a company you think you'd really like to work for doesn't strike me as excessive.

It doesn't have to be scalable when it only has to work once.

> In dating, "no" always means "no". But in sales and recruiting, “no” doesn’t always mean “no”.

What does say "no" in sales and recruiting ?

> The price of the car is $2000, are you interested?

> No

> The price of the car is $500, are you interested now?

> Yes

I looked at a used car at a new car dealer a year or two ago, and when I didn't follow up, they didn't just call me back, but they started calling two, three times a day, practically every day. They literally wouldn't give up until I answered the phone, even though I didn't want to talk to them because I was freaked out at how much they were calling. They didn't however, offer to sell it for $500. And I'm never, ever, buying a car from that dealer. In 50 years I will remember that, even if there was one bad apple salesman or one stupid boss who forced him to do it.

So I think it's too glib to say dating and sales are different. Ghosting and people who won't take no for an answer are upsetting things that happen in both settings. People do both because they perceive it's in their interests.

> The price of the car is $2000, are you interested?

> No

> The price of the car is $500, are you interested now?

> No

> When will you be interested by a new car ?

> Never

> Can I call you back in 3 month ?

> No

* 3 month later *

> The price of the car is $2000, are you interested?

> No


If I told you I had an outreach strategy with a perfect record that could be made available to you, is that something you might be interested in?

^ old sales guy. "no" means "know".

They need to know more about the FABs (feature advantage benefit) you are offering to solve their problem.

The article provides good value. But it would be better if the guy (Patrick) also included the script he used to reach out.

1. Research is important - no doubt about it. Without knowing your prospects, you can't do anything to persuade them.

2. Offer value - is also true.

3. Overcome obstacles - also true!

But I'll add one more - baby steps.

Baby steps means that you shouldn't ask to hire you in your first cold email. It feels like a lot of work to do and CEOs typically don't have the time.

Instead propose them a time when you can chat more about it so the CEO can see if you are a good fit, etc.

Patrick here. Agreed. In the initial outreach I gave some context and asked to meet for coffee. Here it is:

"Hi Adam,

My name is Patrick Rivera and we have not met, but since hearing about MissionU on the Rich Roll podcast I've been thinking about how MissionU has the opportunity to improve the future of education.

I've spent the last two years trying to get an internship in management consulting but was repeatedly told I didn't have a chance because I don't go to a target school. Although I eventually succeeded, I realized there are millions of people today that don't have pedigree, but do have potential. I think MissionU would be a grreat fit for me because I'm interested in empowering these people to develop skills needed to maximize their potential

Additionally, I heard you say on Lewis Howes' podcast that one of MissionU's challenges is identifying cities to expand into. I've attached some recommendations based on my research.

Would love to connect over coffee to discuss what you're working on at MissionU and see if there's any way I can help as I'll be in SF until Thanksgiving.

Thanks in advance for your time!"

"For example, with MissionU, I used the research phase to understand what the CEO needed and then created a 13-page PowerPoint deck with data analysis and recommendations on what they should do."

Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. I would not do this. In fact, if I were asked to do this, I would agree an ask 20k Okay for it?

When I was a fresh PhD, some companies managed to extract an insane amount of free work from me.

This fell flat for me. "Researching needs" started out talking about understanding the need of your audience, which is correct... but then devolved into google-stalking them to learn their hobbies. And the rest of the piece sounded like Sales 101, not a new approach. Which also means that those of us who are bombarded by cold contacts from sales guys pretty much see all these actions for what they are - sales pitches. That doesn't mean we won't listen if you show us a product that solves a problem... but it does mean that "follow up after a few days" when we don't respond is not going to increase our desire to engage with you. Your fellow sales folk may commend you for being "scrappy" and persisting to close a deal, but those of us who you are trying to actually sell to are just as likely to mentally blacklist you as annoying.

Stuff like this article isn't meant to be guaranteed success, just more successful than if not. For example if you don't do outreach you have no chance. So this improvement in success rates is worthwhile.

My company does cold outreach for tech businesses and well over 80% of the affirmative responses we get come after the initial touchpoint and we have "followed up after a few days."

How many cold outreaches never respond? That is the real question - not how many deals can you close from the people who respond, but how much more could you close if you had an approach with a 90%+ response rate?

He is talking about how to get a job - not sell you something.

That does explain some of it... but was completely unclear because he literally said at the top, in bold, "it's a strategy with fundamental principles for any cold outreach."

Isn't getting a job at least in part about selling yourself?

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