Advice reaching exec-level B2B customer development interviewees (cold)


(Vineet Thanedar) #1

hey all,

I’m working on something and unlike in the past when I’d dive in straight into product development, I really want to take the time to validate the problem and hear why it wouldn’t work (if that’s the case!). I’m determined not to repeat mistakes of the past.

I’m realizing that the ideal person who I’d like to interview/validate painpoint with is CEO/COO/someone in a similar capacity. The reason is that my idea falls in a space (more effective collaboration in companies) that concerns them the most - ensuring knowledge is being shared and discussions are taking place across-the-company.

Reaching out to CEOs of well-known mid-stage startups on LinkedIn though seems daunting - not because they may ignore the email but because I wonder if this may just be too cold and ineffective a way.

What has worked for you when starting cold and prospecting interviewees (at the highest levels) for your customer interviews (pre-product)?


(Ramesh Jayavaram) #2

Even though I don’t have a direct experience as startup founder, as a startup coach at Northeastern University I have helped founders who needed help connecting with potential customers / influencers.
I think networking and warm introductions are the best ways. Use your network of friends, colleagues, professors, anybody to introduce you to the ideal customers. Online forums (like Quora, Cofounder lab, etc.) university venture incubators, venture accelerators, meetups, startup events etc. are many places where you can network.
Have a solid understanding of your competition (e.g. Slack) and why your product is better. If you can show how the product works and also provide a free trail it might help get really useful feedback. Hope this helps.


(Brandon Crossley) #3

Cold emails have been very helpful for me. It’s all about how you structure your message. If I remember correctly, it’s still 40x more effective than the next best form of digital marketing. Instead of using LinkedIn to message people, find their personal email address with hunter.io or voilanorbert.com. Everyone checks their email everyday, and it’s easier to ignore cold messages on LinkedIn. There are plenty of search results for how to structure an effective cold email, but here’s what’s been working for me (1-2 sentences for each step):

  1. Intro - how I stumbled across them / their company
  2. Why I’m reaching out (make clear you’re not looking to sell, just finding out if you can add value)
  3. What we’re working on
  4. Ask for a quick call to learn about them / their problem (20min)
  5. Offer something else of value regardless of whether they want to talk

For instance, right now I’m reaching out to people that run business plan competitions across the country. As a result of my search for competitions, I’m also compiling a detailed list, which is something that is surprisingly lacking on the interwebz. I reach out to let them know how I stumbled across their name (compiling the list), stipulate that I’d like to establish a rapport (not sell), let them know what we do (provide a solution that MIGHT be useful to them), ask for a quick call to see if we can solve any problems, then I offer them access to the list even if they don’t want to talk to me (something their students / participants might find valuable).

Just this week a few of them mentioned they never respond cold emails, so I figure that’s a pretty good sign. I’ve been doing this for the past few weeks, and I’m getting response rates around 10-15% so far, and I’m landing meetings with about 80% of those that get back to me. This isn’t the most scalable approach, but I would certainly consider it effective.

Also, download boomerang (chrome extension). it’ll tell you the “Respondable” rate of your message before you send it. Hope this helps.


(Vineet Thanedar) #4

Thanks @GiftHorse . Your note is super helpful. I’m taking cue from what others have said online and offering to share results of my findings.


(Alex Shin) #5

cold emails work fine in my opinion. I started my career at DocuSign doing this all day.

Just make sure you have some tools like mixmax, yesware etc to know if your emails are going through. Also add value with your outreach. Don’t apologize for reaching out or “taking their time.”

The whole point of a cold email is

1.) get a message across

2.) get a response back. Yes or No. (it doesn’t really matter)

Anything in the email that doesn’t help with these two points, should be left out.