Discover more from Words, By Mat Sherman
You Want Tribal Energy, Not Pay It Forward Energy
A Case Against Cold Emails
The most effective way to break into a network is by getting a vouch from someone else in the network. In this case, everyone knows that a network member trusts you, so everyone trusts you by default, until you have given them a reason not to. You are part on the tribe on day one. You get invited to the meetups, the dinners, the events. You’re in the club.
One of the reasons this is so valuable is because that one node who got you in already has context on you. They ideally know who are and what you’re about, so current members of the network can always go to this person and ask about you. And no one wants to be known as someone who brings unfit people into a new network, so most filter as well as they can. This is how networks stay strong to their culture. I call this tribal energy. No one would bring someone to the tribe if they were unfit to join, so hence trust is given quickly.
The opposite of this energy is cold emailing. When you cold email, you’re known as the person who didn’t have an “in” to the network, so you had to resort to a unnatural way to break in. A way that doesn’t carry trust or context. A way that some could perceive as lazy, even though this isn not the intent. When you cold email to get into a network, you are tagged as a “outsider”. If you are a great cold emailer or have an interesting story, you may be let into a network but at kept arms length until real trust is built, which could take weeks, months, or even years. Why? People don’t know you. There is not that single responsible person to make sure you’re not a shmuck. You could be anyone. And the trust builds more slowly because of it. I call this “pay it forward energy”. People want to help you, they are intrigued, but it’s seen more as charity to them than self interest. And they aren’t in a rush to integrate you because they feel like they need to figure you out first.
Personally, I’ve relied on cold emails a large part of my career, and in hindsight, I think it’s hurt me more than its helped me when it comes to working up the ladder. Even when given opportunties, it’s in the realm of “paying it forward” or “helping out”, not in the realm of “one of us” tribal energy.
It took me a while to get this DNA out of me, and it’s still lightly there. A few years ago I got a notable investor on our cap table and he saw me reaching out to people cold on Twitter and said “stop, you should just ask me for a warm intro instead”. Even if I am the same person, and the person I want to meet is the same person, the method in which I get to them matters a lot. At the end of the day, you want to get to tribal energy as soon as you can, and not benefit from “pay it forward” energy which comes from cold emails. Pay it forward energy is slower, less genuine, and just less effective…even if the intention is pure. Join the tribe, don’t be a someone to be figured out.
Sometimes, you can’t get a vouch. My company, Seedscout, is building a middleground between cold emails and warm intros. Check it out here.
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