Email. We live and die by it. We receive hundreds a day and have to prioritize where to spend our time.

We don’t mean to ignore you, but sometimes you give us no choice. We receive countless uncustomized template sales emails and Inmails. The worst kind fall into the categories below:

Fake Vague Relationship. “Hey! It’s been too long! Remember that long convo we had that night at the conference? We should catch up over coffee and continue that conversation.”

Lather, Rinse, Repeat. “I take this opportunity to touch base with you on our previous interaction, please refer to below emails. ” [Four emails that show the exact same template language repeated with no customization.]

The Unverified Laundry List. “We today work with Intel, Motorola, Sony, Samsung, TI, Dexcom, Keynote, Qualcomm and have over 150+ CWF – primarily in the areas of mobility, analtyics, Android & apps, testing…”

Only Connection Segue. “I wanted to reach out because we have 2 things in common, both UCSD alums and both with a history in staffing!”

Receipt Confirmation Trap. “I wanted to follow up on couple of emails send to you earlier and check if you were receiving them and were ok?”

Any RFP Will Do. “Would you please be able to provide information on your current Contingent Workforce Program. I’m curious if you contract is up for renewal with your current provider. My organization would appreciate being notified the next time you go to RFP.”

Our Divine Right. “We are your customer; we should be allowed to join of your approved vendor list!”

Same Message, Wrong Client. “As discussed earlier (Please refer below emails), I wanted to reach out to you today to know if we have present change to support you on [wrong name]’s staffing needs. Please advice.”

We are not asking you to forget the unsolicited email approach entirely. In fact, done right, there are two types of un-solicited emails and Inmails that I am more likely to respond to:

Referral introduction. A hiring manager or CW program owner reaches out to me on behalf of a supplier and describes their hiring and engagement experiences with them. They indicate that the supplier was interested in working with us and that they were happy to be a reference. If I’m interested, I will call them. We chat first and then they introduce me to the supplier.

Three-way connection. A supplier contacts me, but cc’s the referral or provides the referrer’s name, title, company, professional email and LinkedIn profile (if we see no LinkedIn profile, we assume that it’s one of your colleagues). For me, the referring party must be either a hiring manager, MSP, CW program owner and someone who has worked with the supplier within six to 12 months. Same private conversation occurs to validate their experiences.

In other words, no more fishing by casting a wide generic net. Spear fishing is now required.

And contrary to popular belief, the recommendation doesn’t always have to be from the most recognizable company or the one most similar to mine. Skill sets will always be important, but it’s the level of satisfaction and success that the recommender is able to provide that speaks volumes.

Targeted time. Of course, this approach cannot be applied to the masses. You won’t be able to send out 100 emails in less than 15 minutes. It will take thoughtfulness as to who would make the best recommendation and effort to cultivate their willingness to speak to three to four clients on your behalf. But it will be worth it. When you include shared connections and a real referral, more responses will follow.

If your team can’t find someone who is happy to act as a reference via email or take a call, you don’t have the relationship or success you think you do with them.