When Melody McCloskey was 26 years old, she set out to launch an online beauty start-up StyleSeat.
She had no experience in software engineering and was not part of any accelerator program.
Without getting feedback from others, McCloskey knew she wouldn't succeed.
"I remember not wanting to bother people," the now 32-year-old co-founder and CEO told CNBC. "That really held me back in the beginning."
It's a common fear, but it's one that she had to overcome to succeed. Now McCloskey oversees a company that has done more than $3 billion in appointment bookings.
Here's this CEO's step-by-step guide to sending a great unsolicited, or "cold," email, and to turning a first contact into meetings, relationships and more.
Successful people want to help others, McCloskey learned.
"The reality is, especially if they've done something interesting in their career, they want to give back," she says.
"More likely than not, they've had a hand up or they've had support from other people," she said. "They know how important that support was to their success."
Don't email just anyone. Research people in the industry you're interested in, learn about their companies and make a list of the right people to contact, and then tailor your email accordingly.
"Find people that you admire," McCloskey says.
"Email a bunch of people," she says. "Some of them will write you back. Some of them will meet with you."
Be very brief and very efficient.
She suggests writing something along the lines of, "I would love 15 minutes of your time. I'll come to you. Can we grab coffee or spend some time in your office? I would really appreciate the chance to ask you a couple of questions of how you got started, because I'm starting a project and I so admire what you've done."
Once you meet with someone, turn that encounter into more meetings.
"Ask that person if there are three other people that they wouldn't mind introducing you to," McCloskey says. "Then you go from a cold email to three warm introductions."
"You have to get over being fearful of people being annoyed with you," she adds.
Remember to be gracious to others. "Pay it back once someone helps you," the CEO says.