Trying to get the attention of a busy person can be exhausting and emotionally draining. According to very-busy-person/investor Julie Menter, the key to getting her attention is the art of pleasant persistence.
Menter is principal at New Media Ventures, a first seed fund and national network of angel investors. The fund supports media and tech startups that disrupt politics and catalyze progressive change.
After I attended Menter’s session at the Unrig the System Summit, we chatted about the patterns she sees.
“More often than not, people are worried about pestering me,” she says. People will send one email and think that if she doesn’t respond, it means she’s uninterested. In reality, she says investors are all “in email dark holes.” If you email once and don’t get a reply, it probably means that either no one read your email or that someone read the email, but there was no urgency for them to take action.
The people who do it best, Menter tells me, have a system. “They use Mixmax or another tool that reminds you, ‘You sent this email and no one ever responded’, or ‘Your email was opened, so you should follow up.’”
Whatever you use, be it a CRM, an Excel doc, or a list on a piece of paper, Menter says it’s valuable to be able to strike that healthy cadence of communication.
Menter describes an entrepreneur who emailed her every four to six weeks. She responded to some of the emails, but certainly not all. Eventually, the entrepreneur realized they were both going to attend the same conference and coordinated a meeting there, in-person.
Until someone tells you, “No, I’m not interested,” keep reaching out. It’s just par for the course, according to Menter.
She shared the following four qualities of an effective follow-up email:
Be polite: Menter suggests something like, “Wanted to keep this on your radar. Let me know if there’s any info you need.”
Keep it short: Especially given the email “black hole” investors are facing, brevity works to your advantage.
Create urgency: Use changing circumstances to your advantage when you can. If it’s a for-profit, be sure to mention if you’ve secured another investor or your round is closing. For nonprofits, you could describe an exciting big project that you need to hire for and that it’s time sensitive to fund the position.
Make any requests specific and easy: For example, if you’re asking for an introduction, write the email for her to forward.
As for what not to do, Menter describes a time when someone requested an introduction, but when she asked them to draft the email intro for her, she never heard back. “Not only were they not getting the intro,” she told me, “They’re losing points,” because now she perceives them as unreliable. “If you’re not demonstrating that you’re persistent – if you can’t send a follow-up email, how am I to believe that you won’t just give up when things get hard?”
Menter sees these early communications as an indicator that you have the skills required to actually deliver on the project you’re embarking upon. Entrepreneurship and all major projects require grit and consistent follow-through. Pleasant persistence works with investors, in part because Menter says, “You’re demonstrating a critical skill."
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.