Getting Your Emails Delivered (almost) Every Time

You can spend all the time in the world building the perfect list or creating a solid outreach campaign, but if your emails don’t get delivered you’re dead in the water.  Even worse, sometimes you don’t even know that your emails aren’t getting to the inbox.  In this post, you’ll learn how to identify, fix, and prevent any issues with getting your emails delivered every time.

First Line of Defense Against Spam

  1. Go to MX Toolbox to check if you are on any blacklists
  2. GlockApps Spam Test to run your subject lines and email’s content through the app to ensure your emails get to the inbox of your subscribers.
  3. Get your Sender Score at Return Path.  A low score will hurt your deliverability

SPF DKIM BLackList Check

Content filters inspect text, domains, links, and images in your email to determine if your message should be sent through.  They also check the history of your domain as a sender including complaints, blacklists, email engagement.  If you have any black marks against you, and aren’t sending more than 50,000 emails a week, the best way to get back to good is to follow the Do’s and Don’ts laid out below.

Secondary Email Screening

If managing the reputation of your IP Address isn’t enough, Domains and URLs have their own reputations.  A domain blacklist (DBL), also called Uniform Resource Identier (URI) blacklist, looks at the each domain within the email and provides the recipient with an extra layer of protection.

Internet Service Providers (ISP) try to determine your identity and the legitimacy of your email.  At the very least, set up DKIM and SPF so the ISP can cross reference your information and feel more confident about letting your message through.

If you don’t have DKIM or SPF, set them up now!

  • DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM)
    • DKIM associates a domain name to an email message to create a digital signature.
  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
    • Easy as adding a snippet of text in the DNS.  Ask your developer, it’s a 5 minute project.


Do This Now!

  • Be consistent! Send emails on a regular schedule, but don’t bombard the recipient.
  • Double Opt-Ins = sending a confirmation email to the new subscriber asking them to confirm their email.
  • Include a specific Call To Action (CTA).
  • Honor your unsubscribes.
  • Send re-engagement emails every 6 months (at least) and ask for feedback.
  • Ask your subscribers to white list you by adding your email to their address book.  In gmail, a ‘reply’ automatically adds you to their address book.  Alternatively, ask them to reply to you to get bonus content, like an ebook.
  • Create a subdomain and use it only for email activity.  The subdomain will allow for domain-specific monitoring of your IP reputation which can help you get around domain-based certification filters and avoid harming the deliverability of your tranactional emails.  Alternatively, use an alternate email domain like a .co or .net to separate marketing from sales emails.
  • Filter your email list by the origin of the email address.  Contests or promotions can spike your acquisition rates, but these folks could be just out to get something free, and are the least likely to engage with your over the long term.
  • Include branding in your ‘Name’ to add familiarity to the recipient when they see your message.  (Ryan from SellHack).
  • Follow the CAN–SPAM Act guidelines.
  • Check your grammar and spelling.  This is a components of your spam filter score.
  • Use the recipients first name.  It signals to the spam filter that you actually know the person.
  • If you are sending from an app that sends from your Gmail, be aware of sending restrictions and limits.  (you can tell a 3rd party is sending from Gmail when you see “sent on behalf of” or “sent via” in the email headers).
  • Use “plain text” but if you have to use HTML, make sure it looks and feels like your website.
  • Monitor bounces and have a process from removing them from future campaigns.
  • For new signups, send a welcome message and set expectations for what you will be sending and how often they should expect to hear from you.  Trade an early unsubscribe for a Spam Report in the future.

Don’t Do This

  • Don’t use spam trigger words in the subject or body.  These words are easily flagged by filters routing your message to the Spam folder.
  • Don’t send emails with a high image to text ration.  Even better, don’t include any images if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t use URL Shorteners.  If you want to track your links, hyperlink text and include custom UTM Parameters so you can track in analytics.
  • Don’t try to hid your unsubscribe links.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS in your email or subject line.  Avoid overusing of weird characters.  Jury is out on emojis/glyphs but lots of folks doing it.
  • Don’t include attachments.  Rather, link to landing pages.
  • Don’t freak out over soft bounces.  Typically this is due to a technical issue you can’t control at the receiving mail server.
  • Don’t use the word ‘Dear’ or a generic salutation.
  • Hard Bounces are most often related to sending to email addresses that aren’t valid.  According to Oracle, “high hard bounce (invalid) rates are the fastest way to trigger filtering and blocking on your new IP.”

So, how do I avoid hard bounces?

Most experienced marketers know how important it is to sanitize their email lists.  People change jobs every few years and if you have been in business for a while chances are a lot of your subscribers are going to be lost.

Don’t let a large campaign with a high bounce rate affect your company’s email deliverability.  Sanitizing your lists is inexpensive and quick relative to the cost of impeded delivery or the time it will take to build up your sender score.

How to Sanitize Your Lists:

Whether you are an existing SellHack client or just finding us for the first time, cleaning your email list is easy.

  1. Export your list to a .CSVEmail Validation Results
  2. Make sure the column with email addresses is labeled Email
  3. Upload this file here and add your credit card
  4. Depending on the file size, you can expect to pay anywhere from $.02-$.01 per email validation
  5. You’ll receive and email from us with a link to download the original file appended with one of the following responses

This domain appears to be an accept-all domain – An Accept -All (catch-all) domain is configured by the receiving mail server to disallow SMTP email verification.  Therefore, we are unsure if the email is valid or invalid.  This response will be the same regardless which email validation service you use to sanitize your list.  Your call…DELETE or KEEP 50/50

Domain appears to be accept-all; verified pattern match – This domain is an Accept-All, but SellHack goes further than any other validator to provide a response ‘pattern match’ where we have a statistically relevant number of VERIFIED emails at this domain which all follow the same pattern.  A valid email, send away.

Domain does not accept emails – These are typically associated with Temporary/Disposable email addresses or someone who didn’t want to be added to your list and entered a bogus email to get access to your content that was gated with an email address.  DELETE this email from your database.

Email address is role based – Someone signed up with an email alias like support@, sales@, info@ etc.  Your call…DELETE or KEEP

Provided email format is invalid – Most likely your email capture form was not configured correctly and allowed the subscriber to enter incorrect/partial information often forgetting the ‘@’ or ‘.com’.  DELETE this email from your database.

This email address is invalid (hard bounce) – This email address is not valid and will bounce if you send to it.  DELETE this email from your database, and use SellHack to go find where the person is working now.

This email address is valid – Yay!  A valid email, send away.

Validity of this email could not be determined – We could not verify the email address and this is often attributed to a ‘soft bounce’ or a technical timeout with the receiving mail server.  Your call…DELETE or KEEP

Have anything to add?  Drop us a note to


How To Write Cold Emails That Get Responses

You have 2.7 Seconds to get to the F#cking Point with your emails.

There’s not much that can be accomplished in under three seconds. A spoken sentence, a sneeze, maybe even reaching in your back pocket to grab your phone.

Yet according to email provider ExactTarget, people only take 2.7 seconds to decide if they will read, forward or delete a message. It’s a product of both efficiency and short attention span. In fact, by now you’ve probably already decided whether this blog post is worth your time.

From your standpoint, 2.7 seconds has two implications:

  1. Your prospect’s time, like life itself, is short. Skip the BS and get right to the point with your email.
  2. A hasty decision plays right into your selling wheelhouse.

2.7 seconds to decide if your email gets deleted.

If you’re like most people, chances are you start each morning by sifting through emails on your phone (possibly with coffee in hand), getting caught up on what you missed overnight. 2.7 seconds multiplied by the number of unread emails gives you that first hit of dopamine in the morning and a sense of accomplishment before you’ve even stepped foot in the office.

Creating your sales playbook (or just stealing ours – this is link to ebook) starts with recognizing cold emailing as your ally. Cold emails let you reach anyone, are easy to set up and cost you almost no time or money. They become even easier over time with templates and automation. When done correctly, this method identifies people who are truly interested in your value proposition.

Within 2.7 seconds, your email reader’s mind is likely made up. You’ll learn in short order whether you have a legitimate prospect or whether you should move on to the next opportunity. No maybes or beating around the bush. Now that’s time well spent.

Did you know cold emails can even trump warm referrals? Check out SellHack’s eBook to learn why cold emailing is the key to increasing your sales pipeline. Believe me, we’ll get right to the f#cking point.

Write Emails Than Don’t Suck

You were taught many valuable lessons in school. But the ability to craft incredibly effective emails wasn’t one of them. Some of the best cold emailers I know learned their craft out of necessity. You can’t always buy your way out of a problem, especially when it comes to growing your business. Whether it’s you vs. an incumbent or you vs. other sales reps in your company, know one thing…become an effective emailer and your odds of success will go up.

Since the art of cold emailing isn’t a course offered by any formal schools (at least that I know of) we’re forced to master this ever-important skill while on the job through trial-and-error. Yet, many sales emails prove to be too long and off point, leaving prospects to assume that’s what the salesperson-customer relationship will be like if they decide to engage in a follow-up or actually doing business with you.

Thankfully, SellHack is here to help. The following fundamentals of a sales email are battle-tested and ready to be put to use for contacting your prospects:

Good Cold Email Example


5 Tips You Can Implement Today To Increase Response Rate

  • Make your email less than 90 words: Don’t forget the 2.7-second rule — the length of time it takes for a recipient to decide the fate of an email. Brevity rules the day with sales emails. Address the prospect’s pain points, explain your value proposition and press send.
  • Use two-sentence paragraphs so your email can be scanned: While lengthy paragraphs are appropriate for some types of writing, keep email paragraphs concise. This helps ensure the content will actually be consumed rather than glossed over.
  • Never include more than one link or attachment: While a hyperlink and supporting attachment can serve a purpose, moderation is key. Don’t let your email’s content appear cluttered and distracting.
  • Write like you talk – skip the sales jargon: A conversational tone will put your recipient at ease. Don’t use jargon that could intimidate or confuse, and don’t talk down to your email audience.
  • Proofread before you send: Double check all prospect names and company names. This will save you from embarrassment and prevent you from emailing in vain.

Looking for more advice for improving your email writing skills? You’ve come to the right place.The remainder of SellHack’s cold email essential tips are available here in our eBook.

5 Tips You Can Implement Today To Increase Response Rate. Click To Tweet

Create a Pitch Worth Giving

A literal elevator pitch is crowded, uncomfortable and cluttered with noise…usually it’s you rambling about how great you are. In other words, it’s the polar opposite of your effective email pitch.  Don’t be that person. Get out of the elevator pith mentality.

You’ve committed to growing your business through email. So what happens next?

Admit it: We’ve all shot down numerous pitches in our day, pressing the delete button without hesitation. You’ve likely said “no” to someone personally within the last day or week. Just yesterday, I hit delete on what could possibly be one of the worst emails I ever received. I recovered it from my spam folder and redacted the sender’s information.

Deleted Email Example

Sending emails like this demonstrates three things to the reader:

1) You haven’t taken the time to learn how to write effective email copy.

2) You’re probably a spammer because the sheer volume of emails you have to send to get a response signals you’ve done no research or personalization.

3) Since the email lacks obvious attention to detail, how could I ever trust you or pay you to be responsible for a component of my business?

In order to succeed with your pitch — email or otherwise — you need a unique selling proposition that positions your company’s offering and benefits in a concise, understandable way.

It’s brainstorming time. Write down the No. 1 way you help customers, what problem you solve for them and what outcome you can help them achieve. Hone your valuation proposition such that it’s more specific to a particular prospect.

A spot-on pitch will evoke a perception of value from your email recipient, thereby eliciting a response and the start of what you hope is a productive sales process. It will address your prospect’s pain point while offering a call to action designed to kill the pain.

cold email funnel

The perfect pitch will leave your prospect thinking, “This might be the person who can help me with my problem. I should find out more.”

If your emails are written in a way that can elicit this single thought in your prospect’s mind, you’re on the right path…a digital route that steers clear of claustrophobic elevators.


Ask Yourself: “Would I Reply To This Cold Email?”

When I sit down to write a cold email campaign, I like to write emails that I would respond to. A key component to convey if you want to get me to reply is that ‘there’s no better time than right now.’ Maybe prices are going up significantly or the opportunity cost of my non-action is costing me more money than what I’d be paying for a product or service you offer.

When you prepare to craft your first-point-of-contact email to a prospect. Instill a sense of urgency.

It’s no secret that urgency makes people act. So what is it about the offering you’re going to make to your prospect that will make them act? It might be a temporary pricing discount, it might be the ability to work with you now will put them ahead of their competition, it might be the ability to get exclusivity with you. Whatever your offering is, figure out why your prospect can’t afford to buy it six months from now instead of now.

Your urgency should be matched by your persistence. How often do you intend to email or otherwise reach out to an unresponsive prospect before giving up? Most email marketers wave the white flag too soon, as research indicates many people don’t respond until the sixth time they’re contacted.

Even if your individual email response rate suffers due to persistent efforts, it’s worth it to ensure an eventual close. Response rates for each email in a campaign is a vanity metric. It may help you gauge whether the A/B variant is better, or if the email should be moved up or back in your campaign, but for the most part it means nothing.   Look at your response rate in aggregate. Meaning, evaluate the number of responses you received over the lifetime of the campaign compared to the number of prospects you contacted.   Most of us give up to early, expecting a prospect to reply after the first attempt. But, as more and more professionals adopt a cold emailing strategy, the bar is going to get raised if you want to be effective.


drip cadence email


If you made it this far, we have a special offer for you.  Get more traits of an effective sales pitch, as well as analysis of the various audiences you may encounter for pitching, read on within SellHack’s eBook.

sales prospecting ebook linkedin leads

7 Ways to Stay CAN-SPAM Compliant

For those of us who send unsolicited emails and wonder or have been accused of sending SPAM, here’s 7 ways to ensure your are NOT sending spam.

There are more details in a post I did on LinkedIn here:

tl;dr below

  1. Don’t use false or misleading contact info
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  3. If your email is an ad, then label it as such
  4. Tell the recipient your address
  5. Give recipients a way to opt out
  6. Honor opt outs
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf

For more info, check out this PDF from the FTC.  Now, go find some emails and try this out!

– Ryan O’Donnell

8 Ways to Hack With SellHack

1. Hack Your Industry Conference

Ever go to a conference where they give you a list of attendees but no contact info? Or worse yet, did they give you a list of companies and people’s titles from the companies then try to sell you the contact info for more than you spent on the conference in the first place? If you have a list of attendees, you can upload the list here to automatically find all the valid email addresses.

2. Mine Twitter for Leads

Most people stick to LinkedIn for prospect list building, but our most creative customers are starting to use Twitter as a place to find fresh leads. You can search twitter and build a list of prospects by going here . Pro Tip: Have a conference or event coming up that you may or may not attend? You can search the #hashtag, build a list of people who are using the #hashtag and email them without ever having to set up a booth or scan badges.

3. Clean Up Your CRM

Ever caught yourself saying something like: “the data in our CRM is old”, “this phone number doesn’t work” “the company got acquired” or “I just called someone who’s been retired for a year.” CRM contact data decays somewhere in the vicinity of 2.8% to 5.5% per month. You can upload your CRM contact data to SellHack. We’ll automatically 1) find email addresses if they are missing for a contact and 2) verify all existing email addresses you have on file. 

4. Test a New Market

Have a hunch about a new market segment that would be perfect to sell in to but you don’t know where to get started? Go build a new prospect list in List Builder then write an email with a simple/low-commitment Call To Action while we automatically find all the email addresses. Then send individual emails or use a marketing automation tool like If you don’t hear back after your first email, keep following up with the prospect every few days.

5. (re)Segment Your Prospect List

Do all of your prospecting emails have the same value proposition or Call To Action? Think about the company where you work for a minute. Does the CEO have the same concerns or motivations as an Account Executive or even a VP of Marketing? Probably not. So why are you emailing the same thing to all of these people. Re-segment your prospect lists to get really granular on the target company and job title profile you are targeting. Figure out what scares each prospect group, create custom emails for each, and watch your response rate increase.

6. Automate Your Email Verification

If your business is expanding and it’s time to step increase the number of prospects or leads you produce on a weekly basis, it’s time to look at List Builder or our Batch Upload. Need more help? Send us a note if you want to learn more about our custom list building service. ps – we even help some clients write, send, optimize and track their emails.

7. Look For a New Job

Earlier in my career, my job search process looked like this. 1) Find a job posting that looked promising. 2) Search for the Executive or Manager in the group you’d be reporting in to. 3) Research the company, position, and come up with a creative solution to present. 4) Find the execs contact info, tease them into a meeting where you can present the work you’ve done and like a rockstar for taking the initiative. Don’t do what everyone else is doing unless you like being average.  So, if you are bored in your current job, you can use SellHack to find the email addresses for hiring managers.  Happy Hacking!

8. Never Pay For SellHack Again

There are SellHackers out there who pay us $0 a month and have over 500 free emails a month. Want more emails for free? Refer your colleagues today! 

Great Email For Pruning Your List

We all want to have healthy and robust subscriber lists for newsletters or other content nurturing programs. For some, sending an email blast can be like going to the ATM especially when there is an offer to buy something enclosed. For others, email can be a form of passive lead nurturing on the path to moving the recipient one step closer to engagement or conversion.

As a student and practicer of online marketing, I’m always on the lookout for new resources. In fact, I sign up for so many newsletters that I have a hard time keeping track of them. (ps – if you have a solution for this, please let me know!)

The number of subscribers you have is a vanity metric. The response or engagement rate your subscribers have per communication attempt is a much more telling metric. The numbers vary by industry but a 20% open rate and 3% click rate is a good benchmark.

An email from Social Fresh caught my attention last week and I wanted to share if here. These guys share content and provide insights on leveraging social media to improve your business. I’ve been a ‘long time listener’ without being a ‘first time caller.’ Here’s the email:

So, now what
Why I opened this email:
1) It was in my primary inbox, not promotions or social.
2) The subject line was ‘real quick…’ It’s a subject line I use and allowed me to quickly apply my FARD filter. (forward, archive, reply, delete…more on this later).
3) The reply address was the CEO/sender’s email not ‘’ (I hate that)

Why I forwarded the email from my catch-all email address to my primary inbox?
1) I’m an email geek!
2) This is the first time I’ve been asked to unsubscribe from a list. Most of us are too nervous about upsetting a subscriber and losing more folks than gaining for every email sent. You are probably thinking: ‘who cares, they may convert at some point in the future, why ask them to leave now?’ There are a few psychological tactics in use here including reverse psychology.
3) Curiosity – why would a company want to ask customers or prospective customers to remove themselves? My mind started racing. Maybe they are segmenting their subscribers and want to know which segment is most engaged with the content so they know what topics could yield the highest engagement rates. (say what?) Maybe they want to drop into a cheaper tier for their eMail provider. Maybe they wanted to see if a big ask would impact open and click rates. We’ll save the analysis paralysis for another post, but suffice to say one, some, all or other factors could be at play.

This tees up a question I often ask of folks who hire us to consult: ‘if you owned an auto-repair company, would you rather have 100 leads who owned cars or 10 leads who are stranded on the side of the road?’

Ok. Enough speculating on my part. I sent an email to their CEO Jason Keath asking for him to comment. Here’s what we got:

“Once a year we clean up our email list for several reasons. It gives us a chance to reengage some of our audience that may have forgotten about our emails or have our newsletter going into a folder they do not check anymore. Also, if someone is just no longer interested in our emails, it is better than we remove them for our list. It means we won’t annoy them moving forward AND we prevent a possible spam complaint. It is better to be proactive and constantly cut your list down to who is truly listening and engaging with your content.

This most recent series of emails was sent to everyone on our list who has not opened an email or clicked on an email in the last 120 days. About 30% of our list fell into that category. Of those that manually chose to opt-in or opt-out, 40% stayed on the list and 60% chose to leave. Those that do not select either option will be automatically opted out.”

I love Jason’s rationale for why a startup would ever want to prune their list. Whether or not you agree with this approach, I’d love your feedback. quick question – are you sending enough emails to your prospects?

Growth Dude at SellHack

Want to Email Like a Boss? (spoiler alert) use Yesware!

We’ve been working on SellHack for a few months now. Ever since getting picked up by in the tech blogosphere here and here, our inboxes were flooded with emails from supporters and a few detractors. We soon discovered that the subject matter for the inbound emails fell into one of three categories: 1) ‘this is awesome, keep up the good work!’ 2) ‘how do I get an account?’ 3) ‘please delete my information’.

We committed to responding to each and every email within 24 hours, which proved to be more overwhelming than we ever expected. My total email word count that dat was ~40,000 and I type ~50 words per minute. Using back of the envelope math, these replies would have taken 13 hours of nonstop typing and that’s not including the time it would have taken to read the email.

Fortunately, we had Yesware in our toolkit.  For those not familiar with the company, Yesware is an email productivity platform that helps salespeople work more effectively, right from their inbox.  The product is intuitive and there were 4 specific features that rock!

  1. Templates
  2. Reporting & Real Time Notifications
  3. Send Later
  4. Reminders

1) Templates rock because they save you time.

Leveraging Yesware templates saved us a ton of time in conveying the core messages with a couple of keystrokes by crafting templates for each topic. Yesware templates, built for speed and flexibility, enabled us to start with an email foundation that could be customized as needed effectively cutting the reply time by 80%.


2) Reporting & Real Time Notifications rock because you’ve never had this degree of transparency.

Once that fateful day in late March passed, we were able to log into Yesware reporting to understand which categories the emails fell into. 35% of the emails were in support of the product we were building, 60% were inquiries on how to get an account and the remaining 5% were folks spooked by the coverage and asking for their accounts to be deleted. We made sure to set tracking on each email we sent back to this remaining 5% and when we received confirmation that they opened the message, we immediately followed up with a phone call. (pro tip: with Yesware, you can see what device a person opens the message on. If it’s a phone and they are reading your email…CALL THEM NOW!) The 5% of folks who wanted their account cancelled or info removed were so surprised that we took the time to reply directly and call them that we were able to save most of them from canceling.


3) ‘Send Later’ rocks because you’ll never forget to send a follow-up email again.

Business has been steadily growing for us and we’ve had a chance to meet lots of interesting folks. Timing is not always right for companies or people that we speak with, and just today I was asked to follow up with a prospect in mid-August. With Yesware, it’s easy to manage follow-ups without ever leaving gmail. Before Yesware, I would create a new calendar event on the given day and time to follow-up. This was messy and often created calendar conflicts with setting meetings and the events were easily overlooked. Now, as soon as a customer or prospect asks me to follow-up within a certain time frame, I compose the follow-up email and schedule to send on the right day and right time in the future leveraging the ‘Send Later’ option.


4) Reminders rock because without them, you are not as organized as you could be.

Reminders are another really useful feature. We’re a startup without the luxury of a back office, and customers have all sorts of special needs including custom invoices, reports or account tracking. Our business is SaaS and each customer has their own rolling monthly usage cycle, so due dates for some of these special asks can vary. Reminders is a bulletproof was to keep on top of this.


Even if you don’t have a traffic surge from trending on ProductHunt or getting mentioned on TechCrunch, Yesware’s templates, insights, reminders and ‘Send Later’ can be home brewed into a really effective business automation engine for any growing company. and insights are a great tool for managing day to day tasks. Whether it’s an automatic follow-up email to biz dev prospects, customer service inquiries and even a reply occasional person probing how our algorithm works, we have a template for that.

Note: If you are interested in trying out the product, Yesware is pleased to offer a special trial of their product, available exclusively through this post.

2 Free Months of Yesware Enterprise ($150 Value)


*Available for new users/teams only 

Keep an eye out for more blog posts about hacking the sales process. We’ll be highlighting the best of the best tips, tricks, apps, services, people and more. If you don’t have SellHack installed to find hidden emails, download the free extension here.

Cheers, Ryan O’Donnell

Growth Dude at SellHack

Asking For an Email Introduction


I get asked by lots of folks to make intros to others in my network.  With more connections to nurture than physically possible, I actually enjoy making intros.  Why?

  1. Introductions give me an opportunity to check in with a connection without sending a weak ‘just checking in’ email that wastes everyone’s time.
  2. Introductions give me a chance to position myself to either party as a benefactor.  Unquantified reciprocity is the new quid pro quo.
  3. Introductions are a way to demonstrate my understanding of a potential market/opportunity/problem for the recipient solved by something the requestor is bringing to the table.

On a daily basis, my inboxes fill up, and while I try to get back to every email within 24 hours, there are some that get parked for later.  Introductions can sometimes fall into this category especially when (respectfully):

  1. We haven’t talked in a while (or ever) and I can’t remember what it is you actually do.
  2. You don’t have any social capital built up with me and I don’t want to risk a losing social capital with the person you are requesting an intro to.
  3. I’m busy and don’t want to stop what I am doing to research you, your company, or try to remember how we actually met and what I thought of you or your company.
  4. Timing isn’t right.  For example: if you want an intro to an investor and I’m raising money from them, your ‘new and great’ opportunity could get in the way of mine.  Same is true for a biz dev deal where a partnering company only has bandwidth to engage with one or two new projects/startups in the next 3-6 months.
  5. This is the most selfish reason and one I wouldn’t suggest, but it can happen.  Did you ever ignore or refuse an introduction that I asked for?  Maybe I’ll use this as an opportunity to see if there is anyone you are connected with that I could benefit from meeting.  

Depending on how well I know the person you are trying to meet, I may ask for permission to make the intro before actually making it.  Save me a step, when you ask for the intro, make it forwardable.

So, how do you actually compose the best forwardable email intro?  I’ve broken down the optimal structure (from my experience).

Subject Line: Intro Request: Jeff Lebowski

Intro or Introduction doesn’t really matter here, but I take into consideration the character length limitations for a mobile email client and usually go with Intro.  

First Line of Email:  Hi Ryan, I can’t believe it’s been two years since we sat across from each other at WeWork.  I hope you, Corrie and Jack are enjoying your new home in Cleveland.

Whether I want to admit it or not, the face that you remembered personal details about my family indicates that you a) know me well b) are thorough and detail oriented and/or c) interested enough in the intro to track down the information you think may sway my judgement or time to respond.  You can sweeten this intro with something like, “I have Cavs season tickets and I’d love for you to be my guest at the home opener.”

Next Line: MyCompanyName ( works with widget makers like Widget Express and Widget Emporium to automatically scan for defects.  We just did something great and our new product (http://linktonewproduct) is driving some tangible metric that will agitate or excite the intro recipient.

Play to the intro recipient’s interests or motivational points:

  • We work with Competitor A, Competitor B, & Competitor C.
  • We’ve helped a company in this space increase some metric by x% or better yet x dollars.
  • Some other tangible or vanity metric that is going to make your prospect look like a rock star for ‘discovering’ you or at least like a super connected and relevant person for someone to have brought him/her your introduction request.

I see on LinkedIn that you are connected to Jeff Lebowski, VP Operations at WidgetsRUs (http://linktosocialprofile).  Would you please connect us via email?

I like asking for an email intro because, in my experience, automated intros via other ‘social networks’ tend to get lost in the shuffle, ignored, or responded to much later than email.  When I get asked for intros, often they are to people I don’t know incredibly well or haven’t worked with in a while, and I may need to do a quick refresher on how I know that person. I like to include the link to the person’s network profile, so, if the person is like me and wants to do quick research, they have a link at their fingertips.


 Ryan O’Donnell                                                                

Growth at                                                                        

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I prefer not using ‘Thanks in Advance’ as it’s an assumptive close and runs the risk of being negatively perceived.  Your personality can really be summed up in the words you choose in the sign off.  I don’t read a ton into it but some folks do.

Ultimately, know who you are reaching out to for an intro and who the end recipient is.  You are a person, not a robot.  People buy from and invest capital in people they know like and trust (capital comes in many forms – time, money, attention).  

The last intro I requested was blocked when the recipient declined an intro.  It happens and I have thick skin.  I also hack SellHack to get his email address, so there will be a politely persistent follow-up a few weeks from now to the gentlemen with a better approach and value proposition.  

*This post has no scientific basis other than my own personal experience.  Please share your tips, tricks, advice and hacks in the comments.


Ryan (& the SellHack Team)