Let’s face it, some of the most gifted professionals are terrible at networking. And it’s hurting their careers.

The most influential people are also busy people. They’re not rude (usually) but simply don’t have time to read your life story in an e-mail.

With brief, strategic communications, your e-mails and notes are more likely to be read—and receive a reply.

As an entrepreneur coach and marketer, I use the three sentence rule to create a too-legit-to-delete message. I use this method myself, and with clients, to establish new business relationships, referrals, and even coveted book endorsements and forewords.

First, let’s discuss salutations.

Dear Delete Me

Seriously. Don’t use the word “dear” to greet someone, unless that person is your grandma.

Instead, use the person’s first name. If you’re feeling sassy, you can add “Hi” or “Hello.” The point is to be yourself, move straight to the first sentence, and avoid alerting the recipient to the fact you’re a frightened rookie.

The First Sentence: Why

Tell them why you’re interrupting their busy day in one punchy line. This sentence must contain both these elements:

  • Why the recipient should care about your email – This might include the fact you share common personal or professional connections. Perhaps, you’re from the same home state, or graduated from the same university. Casually mention one or two of those shared interests, but don’t sound like a stalker.
  • Proof you’re really familiar with their work, achievements, and worldview

For example: “Love your latest book, especially chapter three, and I’m writing with a related question.”

Familiarity with a person’s world shows respect and lets them know that this isn’t a form letter.

The Second Sentence: Who

Show them who you are and what you bring to the conversation.

In other words, answer the question in the recipient’s mind, “Who the heck is this person, and should I care?” Make it clear that you are a peer, not a wanna-be, and bring value to the table.

Of course, we do this in a non-overt way. Instead of saying, “I’m a pretty big deal, and have an amazing 200,000-word novel drafted,” try something like, “My clients sometimes ask me similar questions regarding…”

Notice that you didn’t mention your career or “ask,” but this line shows that you are in business and enjoy interacting with your tribe—even if it’s two people.

The Third Sentence: What

Simply ask what you want to ask. Be clear. Don’t apologize.

If the goal is advice, don’t just ask ,“Could I ask a question about your business?” Ask the question.

Also, avoid the trap of a desperate ask, as in, “You’re probably too busy to read this, but…”

Whatever your “ask” is, make it clear and simple to say “yes” to.

A Bespoke Subject Line

Now that you’ve articulated a clear why, who, and what, now consider the best subject line for your email. The goals of your subject line are:

  1. stay out of spam folders
  2. to be opened, not deleted
  3. to start the conversation on the right foot

I recommend subject lines which are tailor-made for the recipient. “Quick question about an endorsement” or “Recommendation from our mutual friend Mike Loomis”

Cryptic subject lines like, “Question” or “Connecting” will likely be ignored.

Be nervous, but don’t send a nervous e-mail. Humor, punchy writing, and lack of awkward formality are crucial. Successful people gravitate towards confidence and creativity.

P.S. More Writing Tips

  • Don’t use a “P.S.” unless you’re writing sales and marketing copy.
  • Avoid frequent “I” contact. If your three-sentence email has the word “I” or “me” in it six times, keep editing.
  • Wide open spaces make pleasant reading. Have you ever received an email consisting of one long 200-word paragraph? Don’t insult your recipient. Put a blank line between every sentence of your email.
  • Do your research and make sure that you have the best e-mail address for the influencer and/or their assistant.
  • Include your web address in your signature. And make sure that your brand is solid before you hit “Send.” As a branding coach for authors, I remind clients that email recipients will click your site before they consider a reply.

Influencers are happy to help others. But too many people try to connect in ways that waste time, and prove they’re not ready for the interaction. You have one chance to make a connection, and this chance lasts about ten seconds.

Obsess over emails to influencers. It’s worth the effort, and you’ll become a better writer in the process.Opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endorse or review brands mentioned; does not and can not investigate relationships with brands, products, and people mentioned and is up to the author to disclose. VIP Contributors and Contributors, amongst other accounts and articles, are professional fee-based.