The Web is littered with questionable advice on cold email tips and strategies. We're told cold emailing a CEO or MD is as easy as sharing value, making them smile or being direct about what you want. 

Ask for the meeting straight away.

But effective email copy avoids these obvious ploys; instead, focusing on provoking curiosity.

Yet self-appointed experts flood LinkedIn and their blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and static templates which everyone ends up using -- making us all easy targets for deletion.

Remember, your goal is NOT to book a meeting or demo on first contact with a CEO or MD.

Whether you're trying to provoke a discussion or continue one that's stalled... you're not selling. You're facilitating.

Facilitating a conversation about change. Change the decision-maker likely isn't, yet, willing to invest in.

That's where sparking curiosity comes into play.

Don't rush the meeting

"Any time you begin with an attempt to get an appointment you are being rejected by 90 - 97% of perfectly good prospects," says Sharon Drew Morgen, creator of the Buying Facilitation method. Sharon has over 20 years of experience working with sellers.

Here's what you need to know:

  • At least 50% of the people you are calling are viable prospects.
  • Easily half of these can close.

Are you closing at least 25% of all of your raw leads?

Because "these CEOs are going to buy something similar to your solution within 2 years, but not from you," says Sharon Drew.

Simply because you rushed the meeting rather than the conversation (about a potential meeting).

Question: Are you giving prospects the chance to understand why they need to talk with you and decide (for themselves) when?

Instead, get invited into the discussion first. Because this helps the buyer understand why they want the appointment.

If you do Sharon Drew says, "you will close more, help put together and become part of the Buying Decision Team … making yourself invaluable."

Do this instead

Re-frame. Think about it this way:

  1. This is a first date. The meeting will come. Trust in it. Don't rush. Attract the meeting/demo to you. This way you …
  2. Let customers qualify themselves so you don't have to! This is the point of email prospecting. Scale. Speed.
  3. You are irrelevant. ALL discussion about you is forbidden in email #1.

Instead, attract the potential buyer to ask YOU for the meeting, demo or face-to-face. Get invited to discuss a challenge, fear or goal your prospect has.

Facilitate conversation with your CEOs. Sharon Drew Morgen calls it "facilitative questioning." This email communications technique works best. But it takes provocation.

It takes curiosity, intrigue.

However, getting response demands being provocative in a way that sparks curiosity.

Because executive decision-makers are filtering emails on-the-go. They are mobile. Getting a reply demands you being brief, blunt and provocative.

Attract them - like on a date

Smart daters understand the power of curiosity and status.

Sending a cold email to a CEO is the same.

There's one surefire way to blow it on a date: Talk too much about yourself, too soon. Speak about yourself, your hopes and dreams... in detail and at length.

Consequently, leaving no room for curiosity to develop on the other side.

Attract Sellers Like on a First Date

It's the same in business. Often times we try too hard. We add value, educate or ask for a meeting and lower our status in the eyes of the decision-maker or CEO.

We look needy. This hurts our chances of provoking the potential customer's curiosity.

Instead, attract prospects more by saying less.

Let's say you decide “I want another encounter with this person.” You're attracted to them. The most effective strategy is to help the other person ask for the next date. 

Because their request confirms attraction to you. Bingo. You're in.

Experienced daters know dating is a process, systematic. As cold as that sounds meeting one's life mate is serious business.

The output of a rock solid dating system is quality leads -- a short list of potential life mates. The process filters good candidates from the poor ones.

Effective email prospecting is the same.

But it takes a mind-shift. Away from asking for meetings, toward provoking … and sometimes a bit of seduction. Yes, you can seduce a CEO into taking a meeting!

Help your CEO self-qualify

Think about what makes a successful first date:

  1. You are attracted to the other person.
  2. Getting asked out again.


In business the goal is identical. There are 2 ways to get an appointment with a CEO using cold email or InMail.

  1. Attract the meeting to you (via a short but meaningful conversation).
  2. Ask for it directly.

Which do you prefer?

You should prefer #1. Because when someone asks YOU out (or for a meeting) they're showing active interest. They're qualifying themselves.

They're attracted to what you've said … so far.

They've become curious about you.

Success often boils down to your ability to give prospects an irresistible reason to talk. This sales copywriting technique is what we learn how to do … in our online Spark Selling Academy.

Spark curiosity

When prospecting, your goal is to create an urge in the potential customer to talk.

No urge created? No chance to talk with them.

Making qualified sales appointments via email (faster, at scale) is mostly about:

  • not saying “too much, too fast” about you;
  • not asking for the appointment;
  • helping prospects want to reveal what is most important right now and - sparking curiosity in how you might help them (not your solution).

Pull, don't push

Attract CEOs to you. Pull. Say just enough to get the conversation started a short chat about what's meaningful to the other person.

Then, allow your CEO to do most of the talking beyond the first, cold email.

Make it a habit. Hold yourself accountable to:

  • Staying committed to provoking curiosity, going slow;
  • not talking about yourself in the message;
  • holding a little back … to create curiosity.
cold email to ceo

This helps attract the conversation to you and create questions in the mind of the potential buyer/candidate. Questions they will be prone to ask you and you will answer BRIEFLY. Not completely.

The CEO will see the appointment as a way to short-circuit all of this emailing. He or she will want to get right to the point with you.

Structure the way you reply. Be deliberate about it. If you need help there's an entire community waiting to help you get on track... and stay on it.

Good luck!

In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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