Why Do People Reply to Emails from Someone They Don’t Know?

Someone on Quora asked:

Why Do People Reply to Emails from Someone They Don’t Know?

How can we grab the attention of busy founders and leaders in industry through an email or message?

For example, if someone wanted input on something or was seeking a mentor, what would compel you to respond?

This was my response: 

Some people consider me a big deal.

I don’t.

Top Writer. Author. Strategist.

Whatever. I think I’m just a normal guy. Actually, this is proven to me every single time I get off my computer. Not a single soul knows who I am. Even the LA Times called me a nobody by name. 

Wait, does being called a nobody by the LA Times make you a somebody?

Hell if I know.

Anyway, over the last year, I have received thousands of incoming messages. Some I responded to. Many I ignored.

I was sick and tired of getting ridiculous messages in my inbox. So is my friend, Angel Investor and Startup Consultant Terrence Yang of Yang Ventures.

Actually, we make jokes about how ridiculous our inboxes are. The sad thing is that we can go on for days about this stuff. It seems people have absolutely no sense of reality. But the crazy thing is a lot of people use us as sound boards and credible sources when asking about an individual. When questioned sincerely, if we go back to the messages we received, more often than not, we can’t make a recommendation on their behalf. Sometimes, we might have to give them that look.  Other times, we even have to say, “Did you know that they did this?”

People are losing out on opportunities everywhere.

From job opportunities, investment opportunities, to mentorship opportunities, all due to poor etiquette. This even spills over to relationship opportunities and even friendship opportunities.  It is becoming an epidemic.

So I wrote a book to solve that. Within that book, I made a huge list of what not to do, along with a more precise list of what to do. I even showcased dozens of examples straight from my inbox, with commentary. (Want to know what kind of messages a highly visible person receives? Now’s your chance!)

Here are a few of the simple things I wrote about:


  • Ask irrelevant questions.
  • Demand that someone stand behind your cause.
  • Talk about delusions of grandeur, like becoming an overnight success.
  • Ask people vague questions that they can research on their own.
  • Ask for handouts.


  • Address the recipient by name.
  • Use proper grammar.
  • Do thorough research about the person you’re messaging.
  • Showcase your personality in your message.

Here is an example of a few cold messages I haven’t responded to, and what I thought about after reading them:

Hi Leonard,

If you happen to see my message can you please call me on +xxxxxxxxx404

As I am unsure of what I want from life. By profession I am a Project Manager.

Why would I call anybody?!?

You know what? Your story is just… I don’t know. Let’s talk – xxxxx@gmail.com

What would we talk about?!?!

Person: “you are awesome ! i want to talk to you. can you please give me you email id ? i know you are too busy”

Leonard Kim: “Thanks! Seek and ye shall find.”

Person: “you mail address ?”

Person (five days later): “?”

This person wanted to collect my email address so he could reach out to me.

He missed an essential step in the etiquette of social media. He forgot to do his research. My email is listed on my profile page. If he had taken two minutes to look for it, he would have been able to send me the message he wanted to send.

Person: “Hi Leonard, Thank you for following back. I am looking for mentor. Will you be able to help?”

Leonard Kim: “What are you working on?”

Person: “For Startup help and Life Coach! Can you help Leo?”

Person (several weeks later): “Hello Leo, Hope you are doing well. I am just following up on my request of last month. Will you be able to help?”

Leonard Kim: “What are you working on?”

This person completely ignored my question.

I could go on with the wrong type of messages for days…

So why do I respond to cold emails?

Because they address me by name.  They show their personality.  They researched who I am.  They used proper grammar.  Then the list goes on and on.

Want to find out more about the book and have all the resources you need to get people to respond to your cold emails?

Visit this site to find out more about my book: The Etiquette of Social Media: How to Connect and Respond to Others in the World of Social Media. This guide will explain everything to you, especially in the ever changing world of social media.

Originally posted on Quora.

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