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A lot of people reach out to me via LinkedIn, Instagram, email, and text. Depending on who it is, I typically choose different responses. Here is what I think is acceptable and should be expected when reaching out to different people for different reasons.

1. Ice-cold outreach: no response

When you reach out to someone with whom you have no prior connection or mutual contacts and don’t do any research on them before reaching out, I call that ice-cold outreach. The likelihood of receiving a response is zero. We all receive dozens of unsolicited emails and messages, making it challenging to respond to each one, especially if the relevance of the message isn’t immediately apparent. In those cases, I choose not to respond and don’t feel bad doing so. If you’re not going to take the time to research me and understand if I’m remotely a good fit for what you’re asking, then why should I take the time to respond?

2. Lukewarm outreach: “I’ll check it out” or “No, thank you”

If someone reaches out to me and has done their homework, citing the projects I’m involved in, mutual connections, and anything else that seems relevant and from another human, I’m significantly much more likely to respond. Even if the response is ultimately, “No thanks” or “Not right now,” I’ll acknowledge the person and the effort they put forth to engage with me.

One of the best tactics I’ve seen work on me is someone mentioning that they checked out my band and liked a specific song. Even if they didn’t listen to it, the fact that they took the time to make a hyper-specific comment on something I value catches my attention. I still don’t have to buy their thing, do their demo, or anything for that matter, but I do feel compelled to respond.

3. Warm outreach/referral: “I’d like to hear more” or “I don’t have time at the moment, sorry”

Warm outreach usually comes from someone I already know or a direct referral of someone I know. If you’re just mentioning LinkedIn mutuals, it’s highly likely that I barely that person. But saying, “I talked to Brian the other day and he suggested that I reach out to you” is much more compelling. Even more compelling is Brian reaching out on your behalf and asking if I’m willing to chat with you.

I’m willing to give most people some time to get to know them and learn about what they’re doing. If I don’t have time or don’t feel like I can help, I will say so. What I won’t do is leave them on read/ghost them. At least not on purpose. I try to respond to everyone who is at a level 2-3. This brings me to my last point; follow-up.

How to follow up properly

If you reach out to someone, especially if it’s for help or to sell them something, and they don’t respond, it’s your responsibility to follow up. Requests for my time and energy (especially lukewarm ones) are still near the bottom of my priorities list. If I read a message in the middle of something else, it’s possibly going to fall through the cracks. Not responding after 1 message is not rejection/ghosting. It’s just de-prioritizing. Send 1-2 more follow-ups if you don’t get a response. After that, let it go. But don’t assume just because you didn’t get what you wanted on the first try that the relationship is over.

If you do get a response from someone, it’s still your job to follow up on that response. Book the meeting, share the materials, write the ask, etc. Again, they may be busy and your request could be request #99 out of 100.

After you do have the requested engagement (call, meeting, demo, etc.) it’s still your job to follow up with a thank you and/or an update on what happened since your last engagement. If you expect the other person to do you a bunch of favors and then disappear into the night, then you will start to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. If you have a hard time remembering to follow up, put it on your calendar as soon as the meeting ends.

What tips do you have for reaching out to you/others? What are your pet peeves? What have you seen work well?