Selling is tough. It can be scary. It can be intimidating. But if you wanna succeed in this life, you’ve gotta learn how to do it.

As the founder of Hustle Con, the startup conference for non-technical founders, I’ve been throwing conferences for a while now—and that means the team and I have done a TON of selling.

Whether it’s a $10,000 sponsorship or 350 tickets to a conference, we’ve learned the tactics to convince people to act. In this post, I’ll show you 4 step-by-step methods that use social media to connect with anyone and, most importantly, get them to act.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can make anyone say yes. However, using our methods you will get a response. So let’s do it!

1. Use your current network for a warm intro

Rick Marini, the founder of Branch Out and Tickle, is one of the most accomplished speakers at this year’s Hustle Con. He sold Tickle for $100 million, and Branch Out is one the fastest growing social networks in the world.

To contact Rick, we used a mutual connection with this 5-step process. Sure, it’s mostly common sense, but you’d be shocked at how many people fail after steps 3, 4, and 5.

Step 1: Find your target’s Linkedin account

Step 2:  Find mutual connections

Next, I scrolled to the bottom of Rick’s profile to see who we had in common. Sweet! It looks like my good buddy Joey The Cat is LinkedIn buds with with Rick.

(If you don’t have any mutual friends, use this same tactic but on Facebook or skip to the cold email step below.)

 

Step 3: Ask for an intro but write the email for your mutual connection

I asked Joey for the intro, but I made sure to write the majority of the email for him. (Here’s a link to the exact email I wrote for Joey. Feel free to copy) Remember, he’s doing me the favor. I want to make life as EASY as possible for the person doing the intro and write the email for them. Otherwise it’ll never happen because your bud is sitting around thinking about what to say in the intro and eventually forgets when the next episode of Game of Thrones comes on.

And if your friend decides to write a little message, like Joey did for me, your email with the important details is still at the bottom.

Step 4: Create a powerful first impression

Once you get the opening, respond FAST and hit your mark. I try to respond within 30 minutes, but ideally within 5. Rick is doing me a favor by even talking to me. He’s a successful and busy guy, so he most likely won’t respond first. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to respond quickly.

Think of networking or sales like hunting. This is your chance to make a fantastic first impression and get the kill. The goal of this hunt isn’t a deer, but a relationship. And you’re not using a bow and arrow, but kindness, sincerity, promptness, and salesmanship.

This is your opening…make it count!

The two crucial elements of a first impression: Specifics and writing style

You’ll notice that I mentioned how I knew Rick worked at Fisher Scientific years ago.

How did I know this?

Because I watched every YouTube video about Rick not only to make sure he’d be a good fit for the event, but also to better understand my “customer.”  Before I ever talk to a potential customer I read/watch everything about them so I know their wants and personality. If you’re trying to make a sale, make sure to comment about something very specific and meaningful to that person so they know you’re sincere.

This research isn’t hard to do, it just takes time. Google the person you’re contacting and read everything from pages 1 to 5 on Google. Yes, some may think it’s strange to tell Rick how much I know about him, but in doing so I’m showing that I genuinely like him and his story, and how much I want him to speak at my event. Basically, I want him to know that this isn’t a cut-and-pasted email but something meaningful.

The second thing to notice is my writing style. Always remember to write like you speak and know your audience. I wouldn’t say the word “badass” if I emailed a Stanford professor. If you wanna learn more about this, take Neville Medhora’s KopyWriting Kourse (he’s also speaking at Hustle Con).

Step 5. Close

The purpose of each step is to move closer and closer to the goal, which in this case is a phone call.

Never end an email with “so what time works for you?” You want to be as specific as possible so it’s easy for your customer.

I suggest ending your ask email with 3 possible times so the person can simply say yes to one and not have to search their calendar for a free space. Or, if you get lucky like I was with Rick, your customer will suggest a time:

Our call was fantastic and Rick agreed to participate!

2. Cold email like a master (the secret is followup)

It’s intimidating and time consuming, but cold emailing can work wonders if you know how to do it right.

When I first started in sales I thought that big time CEOs and personalities had way too many emails to actually check them all or that they had a secretary screening their email for them. But after years of experience I’ve realized that even the biggest of biggest shots check their own email (for the most part).

Here’s how I convinced Tom Montgomery, the founder of Chubbies Shorts, to speak at my event starting with a cold email.

Step 1: Find the person’s email

Obviously we have to find the person’s email, right? Most email addresses are pretty simple to guess, but there are two tools that made the guessing game way easier: Linksy’s Email Guesser and Rapportive.

Linksy’s Email Guesser creates dozens of emails based off of a person’s first and last name and URL. Rapportive is a fantastic plugin for Gmail that’ll show you rich social media profiles once you have someone’s email. Combine the two and you have a powerful combo!

Step 2: Craft an irresistable email

In your email, make sure you make it extremely obvious why participating in your conference, sale, or whatever your “ask” is will benefit the receiver. If you’ve never studied copywriting before, then just remember this one point when writing a cold email: No one cares about you…they only care about themselves.

Step 3: Follow up

This step is what creates winners.

Big time CEO’s and personalities receive 100+ emails per day, so chances are they’re gonna ignore your email. That’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t take it personally.

When I first started out, I thought emailing popular people more than once was nagging. Now I realize it’s essential. In fact, as long as you send a tasteful reminder every two days, I’d say you’re safe of being nag-free up to at least 7 emails. I don’t mind sending 7 to 10 unanswered emails or calls.

What’s the worst that can happen?

4_ways_to_get_a_hold_of_anyone_and_make_them_ACT_-_Google_Docs-10

I really want to emphasize how important this point is. I’ve emailed with big time founders, like Nick Woodman of GoPro and Evan Williams of Twitter, all because I’m constantly following up. Sure, they may not always say yes, but they will remember me.

3. Send thoughtful gifts

Sending a thoughtful gift to a potential client is a pretty bold move, but it has the potential to work wonders. My most recent gift-giving campaign was to Noah Kagan, Andrew Warner, and Neville Medhora. Neville and Andrew both said yes, but Noah couldn’t make it.

Who can I send gifts to?

To send gifts the right way (thoughtfully, tastefully, not at all creepily) , you have to know your audience—even more so than sending cold emails. I suggest only sending gifts to someone you’ve spoken with before or someone who at least knows you exist. This includes:

  • Clients in a similar industry as you
  • Someone you’ve shared an email exchange with
  • Mutual friends
  • Someone with a fun personality
  • Someone you know has heard of you or your company

If your target fits into one of these categories, here’s how you send a gift.

Step 1: Find out what they’re into

90% of cold emails, calls, or gifts are completely thoughtless and bland. You’ll really stand out from the crowd if you just take 10 or 20 minutes and stalk your recipient. Find out what they like, want, and how they think. I go about this using a few different methods:

Constantly listening: Because I’m such a fan of gift-giving, I always keep my ears open for a good gift idea. For example, when Neville spoke at Bootstrap Live he told how much he loves Dave Matthews Band, specifically his live shows.

So when I asked Neville to speak, it was obvious what kind of gift I should send: a DMB live DVD.

Use Twitter, Facebook, or their personal blog: What’s amazing about the internet is that wants someone writes something, it’s there forever. This makes stalking crazy easy. I wasn’t personal buds with Noah when I asked him to speak, but I had emailed with him a few times. Plus, Noah is super active on Twitter and his blog, so researching what gift to send him wasn’t difficult.  I found a post where he wrote about eating healthy, which gave me the idea to send a Magic Bullet for smoothies. I then did a little Google-ing and found another post about how much he loves The Magic Bullet.

If you notice, the post is 2 years old, and if you’ve ever owned a Magic Bullet you know they don’t last very long. To me this meant that a Magic Bullet was the PERFECT gift…so it’s what I sent him!

Step 2: Write a handwritten note

I didn’t realize how powerful handwritten notes were until Andrew Warner of Mixergy sent me a handwritten thank-you card for introducing him to a buddy of mine. It was just a small note, but it made a huge impact on me.

Here’s the exact letter I wrote back to Andrew when I asked him to participate at Bootstrap Live. I’ve had a lot of success with that letter’s format, so feel free to copy it. If you wanna learn more about how I snagged Andrew as a speaker, this post will answer your questions.

Step 3: Find the address

This step is obvious, but here’s one extra tip: make sure to send your package to the recipient’s office! Imagine yourself in your recipient’s shoes, opening a flattering handwritten letter and gift in front of coworkers. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Step 4. Make sure it looks amazing

You’ve picked out a gift, wrote an awesome handwritten letter, and know the end address. Now it’s time to ship it off! But before you do, make sure that your gift looks amazing.

I started to see the importance of packaging after reading Steve Job’s biography. I’m not saying you need to package your gift as meticulously as an iPod, but some nice gift wrap, a perfectly fitted box, and a fancy label will make a huge difference.

4. Facebook and Twitter targeting (the last resort)

When all else fails, I use Facebook and Twitter targeting to reach my recipient.

No, I’m not talking simple Facebook messages or tweets (but try that, too). I’m talking about a full-blown ad campaign targeted at my recipient and his or her followers. Yeah, it’s a little outlandish (and has a lower success rate than the other methods), but when you need to get a hold of someone bad enough, you gotta do whatever it takes. Right?

I used this method when trying to land Tim Ferriss as a guest for my weekly book club meetings. He wasn’t able to make it, but my message did reach him.

1. Create Twitter and Facebook ads

You’re not necessarily aiming to get your main target’s attention—more so their close buddies and fans. Think about it…there’s only one recipient but thousands of fans and friends. Chances are that the fans/friends will forward it to the recipient. Vungle, a startup with $25 million in funding, used this method to court Thomas Korte, their first investor.

Facebook: If you’ve never used Facebook ads before, refer to this guide.

It’s important to read about targeting. If your recipient is well known, he or she will most likely have some type of fan page or could even appear in the “Interests” section. For example, when I was targeting Tim Ferriss, I targeted people who had the The Four Hour Body and The Four Hour Work Week as Interests as well as people who were fans of Tim Ferriss’s page.

Twitter: When using this tactic I actually prefer Twitter over Facebook for two reasons.

1. Targeting is much easier. All you need to do is target your recipients’ followers. It’s dead simple. If you really wanna make it complicated, you can target the people your recipient follows, in hopes that your recipient will see the promote tweet on their feed…but I think just using the first method is easy enough.

2. No need to create an ad. With Twitter, your ad is just a tweet. So no Photoshop or searching around for the perfect image. Just text.

2. Create a destination

Once you have your ads set it you’ll need a destination to send the clicks to. There are two ways you can do this

1. Create a website: I like to use Unbounce to do this. It’s fast and easy to create a site. But it does cost a little bit of money. When I ran my Do You Know Tim campaign I had my site up and live within a few hours.

2. Create a YouTube video: If you feel comfortable in front of the camera, YouTube is a free and super personable solution. My buddy Daniel had amazing results when he used a YouTube video and Facebook ads. Check out his video…pretty mind-blowing.

That’s it!

So there you have it—you now know what we know. If you follow the steps of these four strategies, you can contact anyone—the right way.

influencer outreach 4 strategies

What tactics have worked best for you to connect with influencers or other people important to your work and get noticed? Let me know in the comments!

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Written by Sam Parr

Sam runs Hustle Con, an annual conference in San Francisco that showcases non-technical startup founders. Before that, he co-founded a roommate matching website and Southern Sam’s, a badass hot dog cart in Nashville, Tenn.

  • Great post Sam, love it.

    • Sam Parr

      Thanks brother!

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  • saulofhearts

    The first two tips are great, but the last two felt just a little creepy. I promise to get back to your e-mails, Sam, no need to send a gift.

    • Sam Parr

      Ha – no doubt they are bordering creepy, which is why I only use those tactics on people who will find it funny. You gotta know your audience so I wouldn’t suggest doing that to someone uptight.

  • Jeanne

    The example emails come across as informal and a bit presumptive – if I got them in my inbox, I’d think they were spam – especially the one sent to Evan at LinkedIn. Sam – do you think the tone and frequent emails may be doing more harm than good sometimes? Or is that just accepted in the start up industry? Additionally, the casual tone with “whaddaya” and “badass” and “dude” makes me wonder if it’d be received more negatively if it came from a female writer. What are you thoughts?

    • Sam Parr

      “The second thing to notice is my writing style. Always remember to write like you speak and know your audience. I wouldn’t say the word “badass” if I emailed a Stanford professor.”

      My message changes depending on who the target is. I only use those words because I know they will dig it. If the person is formal then I’d write in a formal way. And not everyone in the startup word is as casual as I write, but the people I used in this example are.

  • Maria

    Great post! I consider it offers great tips. They may not adapt to each of us, but still are of great “help”. Some are great, other ones just rock it! Thanks for sharing Sam!

    • Sam Parr

      Thanks friend!

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  • Love the hustle. The insights here are great.. I’m afraid a lot of people will simply copy and paste these emails and try to use them for their own outreach. Or at least, they’ll get caught up on the “Hecks” and “Badasses” in this and suggest that the approach is incorrect.

    What people really need to focus on is the rationale behind the different emails, the frames you set up, the rapport you build and the overall story you tell. It’s the flow of the story, the hyperlinks, the effort to establish rapport, the research on your prospect and so much more that truly makes this post kick ass. Great read Sam – This is the stuff they should be sharing at Colleges.

    • Sam Parr

      Thanks man, happy you like it!

      I pick and choose who I used “heck” and “badass” with. I only used those words in these emails because I knew the audience. Every email is different depending on the audience, it just so happens that Hustle Con and its target demo is fun and light hearted – ya dig?

  • Thanks so much for the tips, Sam – very useful advice indeed!

    • Sam Parr

      Yes mam!

  • Anon

    Interesting ideas, though I’d be really, really careful with the “last resort” tactics unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

    Had those used on a friend once and it just came trough as super creepy. I do admit that we did admire the effort, but the tone was so off* the person went straight to the “call the cops if he shows up” file.

    *but not off enough that it would have been obvious to all people.