After recording more than 250 episodes of my podcast, The Learning Leader Show, one of the common questions I get from listeners is, “How do you get such high quality guests?” My consistent reply is “I start by sending them a cold email.” Their inevitable follow-up is, “What do you write?” The purpose of my post today is to answer that question.
First, specifically tell the potential guest why their work has made your life better. Do not simply say “Your work is inspiring.” Tell them why they inspire you. For example, when I first sent Jim Collins a cold email, I told him why Good To Great had changed my life. “Your work helped me understand AND find my personal “hedgehog”. Additionally, I learned and implemented my own “20-mile march” because of what you wrote in Great By Choice. “I learned that my paranoia about my sales quota was actually an advantage and helped me achieve high levels of success because you revealed that high achievers have something called productive paranoia.” I told him specifically why his work changed my life for the better.
I told him specifically why his work changed my life for the better.
Find an uncommon commonality — Find something you have in common that will come as a pleasant surprise to this person. This takes time and research. For example, when I sent a cold email to Adam Grant, (someone who gets thousands of cold emails each week), I did extensive research on his background, (in addition to his books/TED Talks). I learned that Adam earned his PhD from The University of Michigan. I happened to have played a game and scored a touchdown in the big house (got called back for a holding penalty after the fact) while I was the quarterback at Miami University my sophomore season. In the email I wrote him, I told him about the game and the touchdown and connected with him on a deeper level.
This part takes time and research, but it will differentiate you from the rest of the typical cold emails they are receiving.
Share information that adds to your credibility. Some credibility for me that I communicate in each cold outreach: I’ve recorded more than 250 episodes over the last three years… That there have been millions of listeners in more than 134 countries worldwide… Forbes called it “the most dynamic leadership podcast out there.” Inc Magazine named it “1 of the 5 podcasts to help you lead smarter.” I will share some of the leaders who have been a guest on my show that may interest them (I tailor the names depending on who I’m emailing). If you’re just starting out and don’t have that type of credibility built yet, write something notable about yourself (“I traveled abroad and gained incredible perspective, etc).
Then, make the direct ask in bold. “Would you like to join me as a guest on my show?”
You can tweak the language to your specific ask, but make sure it stands out, so they know exactly what you are asking them to do.… One last note: DO NOT use the phrase, “Can I pick your brain?” Instead, say, “Can I ask you for advice?” It sounds more appealing (and less creepy).
Next, thank them and ship it.
My response rate has remained high (80%+) and the acceptance of my offer has increased as my show has become more popular. As with anything, it was much harder at the beginning of this process more than three years ago. However, following this formula helped me land some incredible guests before I even launched the show (I recorded 22 episodes prior to launch).
Sending cold emails to your heroes can be very rewarding… If you do it right. Developing a friendship and earning respect from people you look up to can truly change your life. This was discussed on episode #232 of my show. After cold emailing hundreds of people, recording more than 250 interviews with the world’s brightest leaders, I was able to make my “side hustle (The Learning Leader Show)”, my full-time work at Brixey & Meyer.