Build your Brain Trust: Simple email script to get a meeting with anyone

Let’s spend some time diving into one of my fantasies: How I would run the boarding process of a plane.

That’s right. Some of you fantasize about women or men or being a millionaire. I methodically plan how I would improve the efficiency of an airport terminal.

See, after traveling a lot, I’ve concluded that the most dreadful elements of society — the worst of the worst — come out when people are boarding a plane.

Here is what would happen.

I would have no mercy. People’s instinctive tendency is to crowd and congregate, blocking the pathway, like in this picture I recently took at JFK:

Clueless people blocking the ENTIRE WALKWAY at JFK

Passengers would line up military style. I would organize by height, weight, and for fun, clothing colors of the rainbow.

If someone tried to skip the line and board before their row was called, they would suddenly become an example to the entire line.

I would hold up their ticket, pretending to be innocently curious, and loudly exclaim, “EXCUSE ME? DID YOU KNOW THERE IS A LINE? OH YOU ADORABLE THING. THE LINE ACTUALLY STARTS BACK THERE.” They would slink away, avoiding eye contact. There would be no more line cutters.

I would go beyond my job duties.

As any traveler knows, the real transgressions begin when people actually get on the plane. People stop in the middle of the aisle, spending 80-90 seconds inexplicably pawing through their bags and blocking the TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE behind them.

In my world, this problem would not exist.

I would walk through the plane with a god damned toilet plunger through the aisle. Clear the aisles, people. What seems disconcerting would ultimately be welcomed and applauded as the plane boarded 25 minutes early.

JetBlue would wonder why their turnaround time has plummeted by 40% at this one particular gate at JFK. They would spend half a million dollars on a research study, which would lead them back to one gate agent.

Gate agent Sethi.

Damn, that’s how you do it.

We all have fantasies. This week, we’re going to examine how the subtle things we do — the emails we send, the ads we see every day — influence us. Like my airport fantasy, you get to be the expert.

To start, here’s a salon I walked past the other day. Would you go here?

It comes down to a simple question: Would you get your haircut at this unisex hairstylist?

If you’re a man, maybe — if it was close to your house. But if you’re a woman? NO — of course not.

Forget about the sign. Who really wants their haircut at a unisex salon? Very few people, especially women — which means they might as well call it “Cheap Haircuts For Guys.”

Everything about it practically screams “this isn’t for you.”

But great ads speak directly to a reader. They make people want a product, not just tell them the cheapest way to get it. No one wants a unisex salon, because no one has unisex hair.

Let’s take a look at a different example. Here’s the homepage for a barber shop in Brooklyn:

Nice photo. Good-looking guy with flawless hair getting a beard trim. I wouldn’t be surprised if they served him a whiskey when he walked in here.

This hits home. It makes me want it. (In fact, I’d probably be willing to set aside price and focus on the cut.)

This is what so many others miss. They instinctively begin talking about discounts and price, as if that’s the only lever they have. It’s like me walking up to someone I want to meet and saying, “BUT I’M A REALLY NICE GUY! I CAN TAKE YOU OUT TO A NICE DINNER! HAVE YOU BEEN TO MASA? IT’S SO GOOD. EXPENSIVE, YEAH, BUT I COULD TAKE CARE OF YOU.”

Ugh. Such a turnoff.

Effective communication means connecting with your audience. It’s about meeting your audience where they are, being playful, and being candid about what you want, as well as what you can offer.

And you do not have to mention price up front!

I know it seems obvious. But if you pay attention, this simple idea can change your life.

For example, say you needed to email an important person out of the blue.

(Why would you want to email someone out of the blue? You and I have heard people talking about the power of building relationships. Imagine having a “brain trust” of people you could call on and ask for help, people who want you to succeed. You start with one person. And yes — people want to help you if you approach them in the right way.)

This is trickier than you might think. We know people who’ve tried to schedule a call with a busy person, and after repeated back-and-forth scheduling emails, the busy person simply gave up and said, “Sorry, I just don’t have time.”

Your goal is to minimize the back and forth and make it easy for the busy person to find time to talk to you.

Here are a five important things to keep in mind when you write the email:

1. You (the lower-status person who wants to talk to the busy person) should initiate the call, but provide your phone number in case they want to speak to you right now

By the way, don’t get offended by my use of the phrase “lower-status.” Let’s be candid: If you want something from someone else, in this situation, you are lower-status.

Whether it’s less famous, less wealthy, less successful, less important, or less busy, that’s just the way it is. Remember, YOU want something from THEM. It’s important to recognize this and work around the busy person’s schedule. That means:

2. Don’t make them think

You can’t ask them to work around your schedule, but at the same time you want to make it easy for them to say, “yes.” Don’t make them come up with a bunch of times that work. Instead offer them a couple of different options for times that would work for the call. That respects their schedule, and leaves the final decision in their hands, but doesn’t require a lot of thought.

3. Send the email when they’re most likely to read it

You wouldn’t believe how many people email complex questions to a busy person on a Friday afternoon.

Why? Why would you send something requiring lots of work to someone on their way out for a weekend?

The answer: “Oh…I didn’t think about that.”

If you don’t think about the busy person, you lose.

To maximize your chance of getting a response, email a busy person when they’re most likely to read and process it.

In other words:

  • Do NOT email a busy person on Monday morning
  • Do NOT email a busy person on their birthday (unless it’s a simple happy birthday message)

Instead, think when they’re most receptive. Maybe at lunch? Maybe Sunday night when they’re prepping for their week?

4. Formatting

Bad formatting can scuttle even the most helpful, interesting email.

Use paragraph breaks and bullet points liberally to make your email easy to read.

Also, send it in plain text rather than HTML so it can be easily read on a mobile device. For VIP emails, I like to send myself a test to make sure it’s readable and any URLs are clickable.

5. Use correct grammar and spelling

Lazy typos signal laziness. Use proper punctuation and capitalization.

Don’t use lower case “i”s or texting abbreviations. An email should be more polished than a text message.

Always proofread your email. Let the reader focus on your well-crafted message, not the fact that you still do not know the difference between “its” and “it’s.”

You wouldn’t think I’d need to say this, but I do.

If you keep those 5 things in mind, you’ve got a great shot at getting a positive response, but let me give you an example of these principles in action.

Let’s say a college student (low status) needs to email the CEO of a business (high status). A great email would look like this:

There are a few things I want to call your attention to in this email.

  1. The writer quickly introduces their referral and affiliation. If you have a connection to the busy person, always put it right up front.
  2. For the purposes of this email, the pitch is irrelevant. Be specific that you have a reason for emailing, but keep it brief. The point of this email is coordinating the phone call.
  3. Always specify a short time period. A busy person is less likely to object to a minimal time commitment to a total stranger.
  4. Offer them a few choices, and try to provide one all day option, as well as two narrowly defined times. The “after 1pm” suggestions help busy people cope with the paradox of choice.
  5. Explicitly acknowledge that they are higher-status and politely offer to honor their schedule.
  6. Give the busy person the option of what to do. Sometimes, busy people will just call you right when they receive the email if they have a few minutes.

With a couple of tweaks, this email can be used to email any busy person in any situation.

So today I have a challenge for you. Think of one person you could send this to today to build a relationship that would help your career, your hobbies, or your business.

Let me know who it would be in the comments below. Bonus points if you actually email them and tell us how they respond.

There Are 26 Comments

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Great read!

For me, the one person worth emailing with this template is Russell Bower. Although I don’t play it anymore (far too time-consuming), he is the composer of many World of Warcraft expansions, all of which has fantastic soundtracks. As a composer, I’d love to speak to him regarding his day-to-day inspirations and motivations.

I might email him later today. In fact I totally will. Right now.

Thanks, Ramit, for the great post today!

For fun: I’d email pro snowboarders Kimmy Fasani, Helen Schettini and Chloe Kim because I would love to know what snowboards they recommend. I’m buying one for next season and am way too good of a rider for the deck I’ve been using for the last 8 years.
For real: Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, since I too cook in a tiny NYC apartment and just started my own cooking blog. Would love to get her insight on best cooking blog practices.

Hope you don’t mind me sharing my two cents but the snowboarding question seems like something you could easily research online or find out from the staff at a snowboarding store. It just seems like they are so high profile and busy that it seems like a bad use of their time to get on a call to say what their favorite snowboard is. You can probably tell by looking at the ones they use. Also for the owner of Smitten Kitchen, do you have a more specific question for her that you couldn’t answer anywhere on your own? She might have also written or spoken about strategies for successful blogging so I’d check for that first before essentially asking her to write you an essay about the secrets to her success or get on a call with you to tell you things that you probably already know.

I think I’d like to touch base with author Matthew B. Crawford. I’ve never consumed a book so ravenously as I did his “Shop Class as Soul Craft.” And now, barely 20 pages into his follow up, “The World Beyond Your Head,” which is proving a sharply objective report on the state of human attention, I know my horizons are about to be expanded again.

There’s just one problem. I don’t know what I’d want to ask him about that he hasn’t already Addressed. Should I simply send him a thank you note for opening my eyes to the intrinsic value of what I do?

Thanks for the good idea today, Ramit.

The person I need to email is the marketing manager at a local business. I have been “writing” the email in my head for months but I’m afraid to send it even though I’m almost guaranteed a yes on a sponsorship deal if I send it to her. But today, I’m going to write AND send that email.

Thanks for the push!

Thanks. Great information indeed!.
One person whom I can think of is a director of marketing in my company. I have been trying to schedule 30min time slot for last 8 months but no luck. No response, no acceptance etc. Such a great advice Ramit..Thanks!. I will follow and share what happened?..thanks again.


Ironically, I just contacted 8 different people in the process of applying for and interviewing for a position at IWT. By being a student of IWT for a while, I had amassed the insight on how to write these emails and was excited to see I hit all the points (at least most). I got 5 responses back so far, which I am fairly happy with.

One of the highlights was emailing Seth Godin to get his opinion on the scaling of a business. Although he’s written (small amount on his blog) on it, he hasn’t extensively gone into it. He responded with encouragement but politely admitted he wouldn’t provide a lot of value. It still was a win! Now I have something to build on if I ever need to reach out again. So much value in this email framework. It has also helped in many other areas that I wanted to network in.

Brandon Grooms

The person I would like to email is Jeff Osterfeld, the CEO of Penn Station East Coast Subs. He started a national fast food chain out of Cincinnati, OH, which is the nearest metro area to my small neck of the woods, and he built and designed his own golf course. This is exactly what I’m looking to do and I want to learn how he was able to do so. However, I cannot locate his email address online and the person I paid on Upwork to find it could not find it either. I have a friend who works for him at the golf course he owns but she wasn’t too thrilled about giving me his email address. I’ll have to be more cunning in finding it.

Hey Branson, take a look into the example again (the UC San Diego one). What’s in phrase A?
Does this suggest to you something?

Hint: you can address Jeff’s coworkers first.

Paula Bean

Food for thought: These tips will work exceptionally well with good old fashion snail mail. A short card will also stand out better than a full inbox. Look him up in public records, he probably owns a house, or send to the golf course or sub shop (make sure to stamp personal and confidential on it so staff won’t open.)
Good luck!

AJ Jacobsen

I actually did just this earlier this year…I reached out to a well known motorcycle riding coach, Ken Hill (, about something I was struggling with. I knew the pros must have ways of dealing with it, but there wasn’t really information out there on the reality of when you’re there, what to do.

Ken not only took the time to discuss that particular issue, he has continued to offer his advice over the phone, reviewed some of my videos, and even arranged some coaching with one of his other coaches.

It has gone far beyond what I would have expected or hoped for from someone who makes his living doing this. He’s continued to help me throughout the year despite the fact that we’ve only ever met in person, once, and briefly at that time. I’ve not been to one of his schools yet – but his help has completely changed my riding this year.

And all of that simply from reaching out and asking a question. Literally taking my long term goals (which seemed more like pie in the sky dreams) to putting me in a place where I feel like they are very achievable goals (still a lot of work to be done, but I now know it is reasonable to expect it to happen).

CeCil Westerhof

It is a bit of topic, but I think a is a good illustration. I saw last week a combination of point 1 and 2. Someone was complaining that he did not get a project: every time he was rejected.

He was asked to give a ‘presentation’. The feedback he got was that he talked to much about what he could not do and not enough about what he could: this was torpedoing his change to get a project.

His response: “but they should listen better to what I say”. In theory he has a point, but in practice it will not work like that. It is true that the potential clients need someone to do there projects, but in most cases there are a lot of takers, so you should ‘sell’ yourself. Without lying of-course.

Now I think about it: it is something I should practice better myself also.

Guest speakers from the diabetes association and cancer society, and some media people for my studio event a few months away.

Ryan O’Connor is the person I will email if I can. I was DJing at a local nightclub about an hour from Orlando when this guy in probably his late thirties came up to me and introduced himself as Ryan. He said he was heading out the door but wanted to make contact with me. He said DJs on tour across the country and is in charge at Venue 578 in Orlando, which is a club I have seen MANY top DJs in the electronic dance music industry play at. He gave me his number and then the other day he texted me and offered to talk shop over coffee during the weekend. I said yes and asked when he would want to meet but he didn’t answer. I asked again on Saturday and still got no answer. I was thinking I’m just going to call him. However I know he’s a busy man and I don’t want to bother him but at the same time I can’t miss this opportunity. I’m trying to become famous! Maybe I should just text him again and ask for his email? Or maybe I should use this template to make a very professional looking text message?

This was exactly what I needed to read today! I have been struggling all week with this exact issue!

I’m going to try this on Lou, the new VP of my division.
He’s known to be extremely busy, so it’s a good test case.
And, if I’m going to be a top performer at my company, his needs are the ones I have to solve.

Here goes!

James Ford

Thank you for this!

I just sent this to my business partner because he speaks artist, not so much business.
This has saved me good amount of time!


Yev Marusenko

What’s missing from the email example?

The useless person didn’t say the value that the important person will receive. Hmm… In some cases no benefit proposition is the simplest and clearest way of getting atleast any response, rather than stretching it.

Dustin Bronsink

I plan on contacting a wedding planner and asking her about booking wedding for my freelance wedding cinematography business I’m planning on launching. I think her thought on where to find clients as well as what brides are looking for will be invaluable. She also may be able to give me referrals and vise versa in the future.

Hi Ramit,
Outreach to busy Senior Level Exec’s is what I do all day, everyday. It’s my passion!
I’m weird, I know.
So I modified your challenge somewhat. I decided to reach out to Exec’s in the QSR industry on behalf of one of my clients. I tested your email in the following manner.
Ramit’s email My std. intro Hybrid
Sent 32 41 61
Opened 10% 1% 33%
Forwarded: 40% 0% 31%

No immediate meetings BUT of the 3 groups your email performed the best, in my estimation, because of the number of Forwards. In a few instances, they were forwarded about 6-8 times. So they become pipeline accounts to follow-up on immediately.
Thanks for the Challenge Ramit, my email intro obviously needs a lot of work!

Chris Duff

Hey Ramit, thanks for writing this article.

I live in the Chicago-land area and entered the ecommerce industry within the past few months. Listening to EOFire, Brian Burt, who mentioned he lives in Chicago, was on and is a successful internet marketer. I will reach out to him before this week is up. Thanks for the encouragement!

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