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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The 30-Second Fix That'll Make it More Likely People Respond to Your Cold Emails

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I can name many things that make me not respond to a cold email.

Grammar mistakes. A super long message. So many people cc’d that I’m not sure who should be responding.

Just the other day, I received one in which someone spelled my name wrong (granted, they immediately corrected themselves, but I was already tuning them out at that point).

But even if you’re someone who double (and triple) checks your messages, keeps them polite and short, and always addresses it to the correct person (please, tell me you always do that), I bet you’re missing this one thing that could make all the difference in your response rate:

Setting a profile picture.

Why is this so, so important? Because it puts a face to a name. If someone’s trying to sell you something (whether it’s a real product or just an idea), don’t you want to know that they’re a real person? And that they’re possibly (hopefully) a professional and trustworthy person?

A professional headshot immediately gives off this impression that a jumble of words and titles in your email signature just don’t.

There’ve been so many times when I didn’t respond to someone’s email because I couldn’t find them online (and as you know, online stalking is exactly what people do when your message piques their interest) And if you’re someone who doesn’t have a strong online presence, an email profile picture can only help your cause.

This all leads me to my next point: If you’re going to use a picture (which I hope I’ve convinced you you should), make sure it’s a professional headshot—a.k.a., the kind of photo you’d use on LinkedIn. That sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t realize that their Gmail account has an old, fun photo from when they set up Google+ all those years ago (side note: remember Google Plus?!)

The big kicker: It only takes just a couple minutes to add one! (If you need some tech support, here’s how to change your picture on Gmail and Outlook.)

Sure, not having a photo isn’t a deal-breaker. Sometimes, you want to keep your face out of the picture, or are doing fine without one. And I do respond to emails from people who don’t have one—especially those messages that wow me with their words alone.

But if you’re having no luck convincing people to get back to you, it can’t hurt to give your online reputation an extra boost.