When You Need Someone’s Attention, Skip the First Email and Just Follow Up

When emailing, most people write a letter and follow up with a second one if the recipient doesn’t respond. When you need to reach someone important and busy, you might what to skip that first email altogether. Here’s why.

The first email contains your request and that has a few negative side effects. First, it tells the recipient what you want. Second, it probably requires that they do work for someone they don’t know while you may have next to nothing to offer in return. Finally, the recipient can quickly look up that email if they forgot who you are. You can avoid all of that by reversing the order and sending the follow up first.

When you write an initial request you want it to make the recipient curious, and by sending a follow up email before the request they will definitely be curious.  (I know this sounds crazy, so bear with me.) Your recipient will wonder what the followup is for, who you are, and where the hell the initial email went in the first place. Because things end up in spam boxes and end up getting deleted routinely, the first thing on most people’s mind when they can’t find an email isn’t that you’re messing with them but that technology failed you both.  Even if they’re suspicious and say as much, you can apologize and tell them something must have gone wrong on your end. Either way, the curiosity and brevity of a followup email is so short that you’ll at least start a thread. If you have a thread established, you’ve won half the battle already.

This little trick won’t guarantee you’ll get what you want and it falls into the “sort of evil” category, but it doesn’t harm anyone and gives you a better chance of getting a response. I do it when I really need a response, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

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