Q&A Forum: How Do You Get People To Respond To Your Emails & Outreach?

We’ve all been there- THE EMAIL BLACK HOLE (dun dun dun!).

Sometimes you cold email someone and don’t hear back. That isn’t that weird. But what really gets your goat is when you’ve had a conversation with someone (however brief) and they know who you are!

So, how do you get your emails noticed and get a response to what you’re proposing/asking for/offering?

  1. Get off email (a novel idea)! If you’ve followed up and/or asked if they’ve been receiving your emails (the junk folder IS vicious and voracious!) and still nada, give them a quick call or send them a Facebook message or text. Change up the medium. Phone is best because then they’ll get you an answer right then and there if they pick up. And wouldn’t you rather hear ‘no, I’m not interested’ than play this long-winded game of wondering?
  2. Connect with them from the top: If you met someone in person who you want to connect with afterward, send them an email when you said you would. But also, when you’re with them, schedule some time in your calendars right then and there to follow up and actually send them a meeting invite with the dialing instructions. When I’m talking to prospective clients for my own biz and we determine there is a fit and interest on their end, we pick a time together to follow up via phone. I then add that 10-15 minute appointment to their calendar with dialing instructions- ie “I’ll call you at X number!” I make sure I have their buy in and that they’re actually interested in what I’m proposing. With relation to the job hunt, the same thing applies. You’re looking for a coffee or phone chat or an informational interview and then same thing applies. And if they avoid doing that, then maybe it’s a sign they’re not interested. People are generally very skittish at saying ‘no’ in the moment to someone, so this can also help you pick up on non-verbal cues. (That doesn’t mean ‘don’t try’ if you pick up a non-verbal cue that they’re not interested, but it more means maybe the voracious follow up isn’t needed)
  3. Revisit your initial email crafting. Take a look at how you’re approaching the initial outreach and see if there’s anything to change up there. I’m attaching a screenshot of a networking email I’ve used myself and with clients. This one talks about relocating to a new city (which can be removed).  Keep in mind that that first sentence is highly adaptable – just make it something personal/connecty.  A colleague of mine was talking yesterday about the weird disconnect between hyper-connectivity and actual communication and getting actual responses to people (the former is high and the latter is low), and I have thought about this lots when it comes to outreach- for me and my biz and for my clients’ job search and networking strategies. Take a gander and see what else you could try. This approach is by no means a fool proof one because- well, we’re human, but see what might work for you!

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You CAN mail a pumpkin- Leadership Lessons from Top Women in Advertising-

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt


And so started a transformational evening last week at The WSDM™, the well-being salon for women I’ve been hanging out at this year. The idea is that it provides a place for people to tell their stories in the hopes of inspiring other women. The result is that there are powerful takeaways, amazing perspective and no “business-y jargon” and platitudes that often happen at your typical industry conference.

So, I’m including 3 of my favorite stories from the event here in the hopes that it will inspire YOU with something you’re currently working through. (By the way, it was so hard to pick just  three- all of the women on the panel were incredible.)

1. The Pumpkin Story: Allison Arden, the VP and Publisher of Advertising Age, informed me that you really can mail almost anything through the USPS. She heard you could mail fruit, for example. Just slap a stamp and address on an orange and it would arrive at your desired destination. So she mailed herself an orange, and a day later she received it. The point of this, really, was to get her to challenge what was really actually possible. In actually undertaking that seemingly small challenge, she opened herself up to what else was possible. So the next day, she was waiting for a client in a lobby of a hotel, and because she was early, she used the time to write on paper an outline for a book she’d had a vague idea about in her head. Then the next day, on a train somewhere, she opened up her laptop and wrote half the book. You see where this is going. A bunch of these steps (and yours could be smaller!) eventually turned into a book deal.

Lesson: Powerful leaders challenge what is possible- not just at work or with the team, but within their own lives.

2. The Bippity Boppity Boo Guy Story: Jennifer Zimmerman, Global Chief Strategy Officer of McGarryBowen, had a presentation coming up with a guy, dubbed Bippity Boppity Boo in her story, who was new-ish to the group. During the run through, he was sweating, stumbling, stuttering– you know, just plain nervous (we’ve all been there!). The head of the group told Jennifer that she was going to have to do the big presentation because no freaking way was that going to fly with BBB. Jennifer, without skipping a beat said, “It’s either both of us, or it’s neither of us- your choice. He’s going to be great, but if you still have reservations, you have the choice for neither of us to be there.” The head of the group backed down and BBB was stellar. It for sure took cajones, and in getting over that cojones threshold, she was able to instill confidence in BBB and he rose to the occasion. And now they’re life long colleague besties who have worked together for years. The end.

Lesson: Letting go of the need to react/swoop in/fix it and instead instilling confidence and allow what happens to happen is a huge mind shift, but when you’re able to be selfless in that way, you’re building life long partnerships and instilling your team with confidence in you and themselves.

3. “We are all humans having a work experience.” Kim Bates, the founder of the WSDM, taught me this. Well, I was already on board and knew it, but she made it real and tangible and a ‘thing’ for me. Kim told a story about her mentor who always wanted to measure things and make things quantifiable and understand the level to which employees were engaged.  And throughout the years, in various matters, Kim would always tell him that we are all humans having a work experience. So when they were trying to figure out how to name a new IT security product so it would appeal to IT guys and gals, they decided to call it something with “Secure” in the name. Why? Because IT people’s biggest fear is a security breach that could cost them their job, which would then impact their ability to take care of their family. The product was a success. See? We’re all humans having a work experience.

Lesson: Being empathetic, while wonderful in its own right, doesn’t only have touchy feely benefits. In this case, it launched a product to success – because the ad agency understood the customer’s inner motivations. 

I could seriously go on and on about the stories and lessons I learned and re-learned last night, but I did want to share three of my top three for any of ya’ll out there grappling with leadership issues. As a former leader in a successful organization, I was reminded of times when I rose to the occasion like these women did and do each and every day, and times when I did not. It’s inspiring to know good leadership, whether in an official job title capacity or just in life, is within all of our collective reach.

4 Critical Ways to Prepare for a Tough Conversation

We’ve all had them- those tough conversations with a co-worker about a delayed project, a performance issue or any number of things that we’d just rather not talk about.

Alternately, maybe it’s a disagreement with a client, and they hung up on you or vice versa. Even worse, right?!

Well, kind of. It may seem like all the blood is rushing to your head and your heart is beating faster either in anticipation of the conversation, during the conversation or directly after. And while that may be biologically true sometimes, it doesn’t actually need to be that way.

Some people I’ve talked to about these types of scenarios look at me like I’m from another planet because they just can’t visualize what it’s like NOT to have a sweaty palm-like conversation with a manager, peer or direct report. And what I say is: it’s all in the prep.

Oftentimes our conversations feel so out of control because they crash down upon us like the angry waves in the 1990 Patrick Swayze classic Point Break.

Continue reading on Ivy Exec’s website here. And if you’d like to join a free class on this topic, click here to register. 

How to Handle the “Everyone’s Got an Opinion” Syndrome

Do a lot of your conversations consist of people starting sentences with, “If I were you, I’d…” or “I think you should…” without you asking for it? And then do they continue with a lengthy list of suggestions and how they would go about whatever it is you’re doing, leaving you stuck as a captive audience listening to things that would never work for you or things that make you question the path you’re on?

Don’t worry- this is common, especially when you’re starting a business, looking for a new job or launching your own business. (And other aspects of life fo’ sho- believe me, people had a TON of suggestions for me all those years I was dating and looking for Mr. Right).

I would say this is a common theme among many of my clients and one we spend a significant amount of time working through. Many times it’s a casual acquaintance or business contact and other times it’s a central person in your life, making it harder to grapple with.

So, how do you deal with the constant barrage of unsolicited advice?

Remember where it’s coming from. i.e., a good place. I would say the vast majority of people who want to provide advice about your career or other aspects of your life only mean good stuff by it and want to provide a perspective. Maybe they went through something similar and they are putting a one-size-fits-all solution on your issue. And be aware- there are probably situations where you’ve done the same thing. I know I have, and remembering that helps me keep the this-will-never-work-for-me advice in perspective.

Interrupt. Yes, I said cut ‘em off. If it’s a litany of advice that’s going on for quite awhile, It’s ok! But there’s an ok way to do it without being rude. You can say something like, “Can I stop you right there for a second? Something you said sparked something in me.” This shows them that you’ve not only heard them, but you’re also listening and processing what they’ve said. Then you can say something like, “I considered that but it won’t work for me because of X, but I thank you for the thought”

Be Gracious. This may go without saying, but thanking the person for their thoughtfulness and time goes a long way toward preserving the relationship, whether it be a business contact, friend, or family member. You don’t have to go over the top, because in reality, you may want them to stay out of it, but starting with a simple, “Thanks for your perspective” will show them they’ve been heard. And without something like that, they may press on with the advice giving.

Be Open. Some of the best ideas come from bad ones. Maybe the suggestion you’re getting is so off the wall for what would work for your business, job search or career change. But maybe a kernel of what they’ve said sparks another idea in you, which gets built upon, which in ultimately gives you the grand idea you were looking for all along! Yay! Make a point to consider different ways of packaging or thinking about what the person has said and maybe even jot a couple of notes in your notebook or phone after the conversation or meeting and save it for later. I’m not saying to go down the rabbit hole of every idea that comes your way, but approach thinking about it lightly and asking yourself the question, “What about their idea or suggestion COULD work for me, if anything?”

Be Clear. These do-gooders could think you want this advice all the livelong day if you’re not clear. Be clear IN the conversation that while you appreciate the advice (See “Be Gracious” above), the idea(s) won’t work for you or your business but . It could be that the idea would be great for someone you know doing a job search or someone in another industry. So a script could look something like this:

“Can I stop you right there for a second? You said something that sparked a thought…I so appreciate the advice, but it’s not going to work for my business because print costs for that are too high to be worth the investment for my industry, BUT I know my friend who is a lawyer would LOVE to hear this idea.”

Now, maybe you’re past this level of diplomacy and politeness with your well-meaning aunt, for example. I got one thing to say about that: that’s a wholeeeee other post, people.

What tactics have you used to acknowledge and move past well-meaning unsolicited advice that is not useful, gets under your skin or just plain annoys you? Have you tried anything above with success? Leave your comments in the section below!

How Not To Handle a Request at Work You Don’t Agree With

I once overheard half of a kind of nuts phone conversation that I could tell was NOT going well. (PS: I don’t make it a point to listen to others’ conversations- we were in the same cubicle, and she was screaming.) The person in question clearly did not agree with a request given to her by her manager and what started as a semi-rational, “I don’t think this is a good idea”, devolved into screaming about how stressed she was and how she ‘understood how her manager had to play office politics.”

Yikes, man.

The above is an extreme cast of how not to handle a request from a superior or a manager, but there are lessons we can take from this on how NOT to deal with this type of situation:

Don’t Be Reactionary: This person got the request via email, let out a huge sigh, yelled “how can they expect me to do this?!” and then picked up the phone to call the requestor. Now, I’m a huge fan of the phone to discuss this topic and many others, but doing that boom-bang-boom (official term) of immediately picking up the phone when you’re heated doesn’t bode well for the ol’ outcome. Instead, take deep breaths, remind yourself that you can give yourself 5, 10, 15 or more minutes to respond, and that the world will not implode if you don’t respond right away. I remember back in the olden days receiving emails so infuriating that I’d actually feel a jolt of anger go through my body or I’d turn red. I learned that those were precisely NOT the times to reply to something. Just because you receive an email you don’t like doesn’t mean you need to react immediately.

If it’s an in person request or in front of a group in a meeting, politely say that you’d like to think about the request and get back to them by <insert time here>. This is the bona fide number one step to avoiding a debacle of a conversation

Don’t Rely on Histrionics: Blaming stress, office politics, Mercury in Retrograde, whatever, for not wanting to do this task or not thinking it’s a good idea will not get you anywhere. That’s the honest truth right there. Everyone is overstretched and busy. Everyone tires from time to time of the office politics game. Not sure about Mercury, but calling out that you’re stressed in a stressed out frazzled tone of voice is absolutely NOT going to win your case for why you don’t believe the task or project should be prioritized in the first place. Remember, it was because it wasn’t good for the strategy of the company?

Instead, before you respond or pick up the phone or head back to her office to state your case, lay out the reasons why you don’t think this is a good idea. Make sure they are based in fact alone and tied to the overall strategy of the company. Maybe the ask will take X days of your workweek which you think would be better suited to reaching the company year end sales goal, which would mean working on another work stream, for example. If you’re clearly stating that what you think is best to work on will more directly serve the company goals, your manager will likely praise you for your vision and prioritization skills, rather than think you’re a frazzled spazball of negative energy.

Don’t Be Hypocritical. Unless you have sound, based in reality facts, of course. I’ve seen people repeatedly resist requests because they say they don’t have time to do that AND make the company’s mid-year goal,  for example, but then they’re coming into the office at 10 or 11am and taking a full lunch everyday.

Instead, be mindful of your behavior and patterns and remember that people, for better or for worse, pay attention to those things. So when you push back on a request, you’re more likely to get this inner monologue from the other person: “Right and I see him online shopping all day on his computer, so I TOTALLY don’t believe it” versus “Maybe Sally has a point here and we need to consider alternatives.”

Don’t Carry The Torch: Sometimes decisions are out of our worker bee collective control. Once you calmly state your reasoning in a non-reactionary way, your manager may still ask you to do it. Maybe the reason is still not good, but maybe there’s something you don’t know. Whatever the case, spending more time having angst over it IS taking away from the goal you WANT to reach (in our example here, meeting the sales goal) and you’re not doing anything and wasting more time and energy on it! So after standing your ground and stating your case for the record, just go do it.

What other tips have you used to handle a request at work with grace and poise and what results did you achieve? Leave comments in the area below!