How to Write a Cold Email For Sales Prospecting & Outreach
Ready to scale your sales?
Learning how to write a cold email will be critical for your success with cold email prospecting.
Most people shy away from it, because they think it’s spam (it isn’t and here’s why).
Some have tried and failed. Believe me, I did too when I first started out. In fact, I made almost every single mistake there is to make.
When I first started in 2008 with my agency, I didn’t do a single one of these things I’m going to outline below.
I gradually tweaked my approach until I figured out what works time and again.
It helped me build my first company into a seven-figure marketing agency.
I’ve since left my agency days behind me to launch LeadFuze, which provides you the leads to start sending sales email to.
LeadFuze has since evolved into a software solution to help you build lists of accurate leads automatically, while integrating with cold emailing tools to allow you to reach those freshly verified leads.
LeadFuze has helped tons of sales reps, teams, and small business owners find real leads. Now you just need to learn how to write a cold email to get them to respond!
I thought I knew how to write a cold email in the early days. How hard can it be? But when I realized that I could make small tweaks and get higher response rates, I realized there was a lot more to it.
I’m going to share some of the techniques that we apply to cold email outreach ourselves.
You don’t want to just learn how to write a cold email, you want to learn how to write a good email.
You can always go here if you’re looking for a cold email template breakdown.
If you’re wanting to learn how to write a cold email yourself, then you’ll want to understand the framework and reasoning behind successful cold emails.
13 Tips for a Successful Cold Email Prospecting Campaign
Learn how to write a cold email like a pro following these simple steps:
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Imagine the cold email outreach your targeted customers receive.
Picture them receiving a cold outreach email from a competitor right before yours. How will you stand out?
Write Like You Talk
Try to read it out loud before you send it, just to see how it sounds. You might even want to act like you are face to face with them. If it sounds strange, make some tweaks.
How to Start a Cold Email
Forget the introduction!
Don’t dedicate any of your message to introducing yourself or your company.
They don’t know you and they don’t care.Don’t dedicate any of your message to introducing yourself or your company. Click To Tweet
If they want to learn more, they’ll see your name and URL in your signature and they’ll look into it.
Understand that many of the people you cold email will see their email on their phone or glance at their preview pane. If you start talking about yourself and who you’re with, you’re going to be easily ignored.
Nowadays, most email tools (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo) allow their users to see the first several words of the email before they open — not just the subject line.
Here’s an example from our content manager’s inbox:
Get to the Point
Your prospecting email should get right to the point and focus on THEM, not your offer.
If you offer a project management software you might want to say:
“It’s a proven way to squeeze more work out of your team which will help increase your bottom line.”
They aren’t going to care yet about your features, integrations, etc.
Don’t put your whole email into one paragraph. This isn’t a high school essay. Two sentences at most per paragraph.
Here’s an example of a prospecting email we recently started sending:
Keep it Short
The best sales emails are usually between two to four sentences and 5 sentences at the MOST.Keep it two to four sentences and 5 sentences at the MOST. Click To Tweet
Anything beyond 4 sentences and you’re going to start seeing your response rates decline.
Personalize What You Can
It’s great if you’re spending a lot of time researching specific contacts.
You’ll need to do this for higher end sales and more enterprise level sales email. Your time investment will be well worth it.
However, if you want to do cold email outreach at scale, then this isn’t really an option.
So you’ll have to make do with what you can.
Referencing a company name is decent, but even just referencing their industry can be enough if you’re providing something of value.
Note: If you are reaching out to fewer than a few hundred leads per week, it’s probably a good idea to do a bit more personalization in your outreach.
Put All Contact Info in Your Signature
Your email signature needs to include your business address. This is a non-negotiable.
It can be a PO Box, but legally you need to include your business address. I’d recommend a phone number as well since that helps build trust and credibility with the person you’re emailing.
Note: We just launched a completely free email signature generator. Check it out!
Most images you want to avoid.
Of course, you can experiment and test things (including images). But, as a typical rule, we like to keep images out and signatures short.
Don’t use call to action buttons or any images at the top of your email. This just makes it obvious that the email is not personal.
However, you SHOULD consider adding your own photo to humanize the sales email.
Include a P.S.
For the P.S. you can ask if you should speak to someone else. This also serves as a way to fulfill the opt-out responsibility in your email and still keeping it personal.
A lot of people will read the P.S. before the read your closing question so it might be a good idea to try adding a P.P.S. with something else of value. Try using a call to action that’s similar to your primary CTA in your email. Remember, you don’t want to overload your sales email with multiple calls to action.
Say your outreach email was trying to get them to download a whitepaper, your P.S. might look like this:
P.S. If you aren’t the right person to contact, let me know! Don’t want to receive any more emails? Let me know that, too!
P.P.S. Here’s the link to [awesome resource], again. Would love to hear your feedback.
Close with a Question
I always recommend closing your cold email with a question, so they’ll respond and then from there it will start the dialogue.
In ours, we combined the P.S. with a question. Here’s the closing question from our example above:
P.S. Idea #6 is my favorite, how about you?
The question leads to a logical next step in the sales process.
I’m also not asking them to commit anything.
I see a lot of people recommend trying to ask for a 15-minute meeting. Don’t jump the gun.
Ending with a question like the above will usually get them to respond with their targeted industry and a request for more information.
Now you can get them on the phone.
Follow Up, then Follow Up Again!
Just because they don’t respond, doesn’t mean you should move on.
In fact, nearly 85% of the hot leads we generate come AFTER the initial email send.
Create a series of follow-up messages that go out to people who don’t respond right away. Every 3 to 7 days you should send another. In fact, we are currently experimenting with sending 3 emails in the first 3 days, then waiting 3 days, then 4 days between. That’s 5 emails in the first 10 days.
Test Your Messages
Don’t just use the same sales email message time and again if it isn’t working. You need to measure three things to determine the success of an email:
- Open Rate – This will tell you if your subject line is working
- Response Rate – This will tell you if your message is hitting the mark
- Sales Generated – This will typically be higher the higher your open rate and response rates are. However, that isn’t always the case. If you’ve tweaked the first two and seen increases there, but it isn’t moving the needle towards sales, then chances are your messaging isn’t really aligned with your sale.
- Attachment Engagement Rate: Tracking your email attachments will tell you if your attached collaterals are keeping the prospects engaged till the end or they drop out without going through them.
Don’t test too early though. Looking at these numbers when you’ve only sent 50 to 100 emails won’t give you measurable data.
You’ll want to send at least 200 to 300 before you start making major adjustments, and ideally over 1,000 so you have more reliable data.
Bonus Resource: If you’re serious about testing, we’ve laid out over 50 email specific split tests, right here.
This is the most important thing when it comes to sending prospecting email.This is the most important thing when it comes to sending prospecting email Click To Tweet
Do some level of outreach every single day. This keeps your pipeline humming.
Failing to do this will lead to a dried up pipeline.
Even when you are slammed, you need to find the time to continue doing your outreach.
Tips to Improve your Cold Sales Email Response Rate
We all know how to put together an email when our friends and colleagues from work are the intended recipient.
But, these emails are going to complete strangers.
Learning how to write a cold email can turn complete strangers into warm prospects.
These prospecting emails should be composed in a way that captures the reader’s attention and steers their interest in the desired direction, be it cooperation, service or a product.
If you’re unsure how to approach the issue, these cold emailing tips may be just what you need.
Essential cold emailing tips for increasing response rates
You can increase your cold email open rates by following some simple, yet essential principles.
The following cold emailing tips are based on the best principles and practices related to crafting and sending prospecting email.
The subject line matters
A subject line is the same as a text title.
It has to be catchy and attractive or your email will end up in the trash.
A concrete and concise subject line will single you out from the crowd and get you noticed.
Make sure to keep the subject line under 50 characters. No need to tell the entire story there. You can even use a single word if possible, or three words at most.
Steer clear of spammy subject lines like DISCOUNT! DON’T MISS THIS GREAT OFFER!
They don’t resonate well with readers. You can also add a bit of personal touch by using the recipient’s first name, or even company name, in the subject line.
Pay special attention to the first paragraph
I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.
Now that your message has been opened, do your best to ensure it’s fully read – from start to finish.
This is where the first paragraph comes into play. It has to speak to the readers and capture their interest.
Keep in mind that many email clients are set to preview a portion of the first paragraph of the message, so make the introductory part as attractive as possible for your target audience.
Always state your reason for writing in a clear and direct way. Don’t embellish the text with unnecessary wording. You are writing a business proposition, not a novel.
And again, I’ll mention this… avoid any information about yourself in the first paragraph. People need to know why you have sent them the mail, not your academic background, professional experience or your goals in life.
Add a personal touch
Remember – even though your cold emails are addressed to business entities, they will be read by actual people whose assistance you need to secure. The tone of your email should reflect that.
Always include the reason why you have chosen that particular person as a recipient and why you believe they are the right contact.
It’s also a good thing to show familiarity with their business. It creates an impression that you’re thorough and serious about your work.
When addressing the recipient – keep it casual. Modern styles of communication rarely include boring and strict forms of address and greeting, like Sir, Madam or Cordially.
Use casual forms to give the email a more human, personal touch. I like “Hey Joe!” or something similar.
Say what you expect from the recipient – be specific
Your call to action should be clear. Do you want them to respond to your email? Literally say:
“Just respond to this email and let me know.”
Avoid having more than one call to action in a sales email.
Suggest methods of communication and make it easy to respond
It doesn’t matter whether you want to meet in person, correspond via email, talk over the phone or have a skype chat. The most important thing is to make it easy for your recipient to respond. Craft your call-to-action in a way that speaks directly to something that she would be (genuinely) interested in, and make it easy to say “Yes.”
Make sure readers get the gist of what you’re proposing
People receive heaps of emails every day, so you have to make it easier for them to read your mail.
Don’t dissipate the essence of your text into a sea of vague sentences without a specific point. Keep your message brief, clear and concise.
The reader should be able to grasp the purpose of your communication attempt and your expectations without much effort.
Show them you can deliver
Your cold calling email should create an impression that you are the solution to the recipient’s problems.
Briefly address the issue in question and suggest a solution.
The point here is – make it easy for people to see the value in your offer.
Making them realize that the email (and your future correspondence) can help them resolve an issue will increase the probability of getting a response.
In a nutshell, try to keep your emails short, sweet and simple.
Maintain focus on your potential clients, not yourself. Show them you know what they need and convince them that your offer is the perfect choice.
Know to whom you are writing
When it comes to cold emails, it’s crucial to be certain that you are writing to the right person.
It’s just as important as the quality of the email itself. You can’t rely on the assumption that the person who gets the email will forward it to the right person.
Let’s say you need the person in charge of making advertising decisions.
However you send the email to the person in charge of carpool maintenance. The latter might not even bother forwarding your email to the former.
Try to send your emails to personal addresses, not generic ones such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Look for the names of the people you want to contact.
Check the website of your target recipient’s company.
Check LinkedIn and other social networks.
See if you can find the email address of another person who works at the same company.
Then, try using the same format with the name of the person you are looking for.
Perform thorough research about the recipient’s company and personal interests. It will help you craft an email which will grab their interest.
If people perceive your cold email as generic, you’ll never get a response. Always mention something specific about the company or the recipient to show why you have chosen to contact that particular person.
Make it personal, make it about them
When trying to push an offer, people tend to write too much about themselves in their initial cold calling email.
This is one of the most common mistakes that people make in crafting cold emailing templates.
Focus on the “customer” instead of writing about yourself. Show intent to help solve the recipient’s problems and needs, not your own.
Try to find shared interests with each one of the people that you plan on contacting.
Add value to your email by mentioning said interests.
Be confident that you have the answers to the recipient’s questions, but don’t try to oversell.
You need to find a good balance to trigger people’s desire to respond to your cold calling email.
You can go out there on the web and find a bunch of cold emailing tips and cold emailing templates, ones which have worked for other people.
But, what you need to do is develop templates that will work for you and your business.
Once you have a template, you should carefully customize it to make it sound personal each time you email someone new.
The more you personalize your emails, the greater the odds that you’ll get a positive response.
Keep it short and specific
The first impression people get about your cold calling email comes from the subject line.
Never write long or misleading subject lines.
Announce what people can expect after they open your email.
Nobody likes to read long and boring email messages, especially when they come from a person they have never met before.
Keep your emails short. Try to say everything you have to say in 4 to 5 sentences, max.
Be specific. Include a clear call to action. Let people know exactly what you expect from them.
You can’t say everything you want in one email, so don’t try to do this. Carefully select the information you consider relevant to share in your cold email. Do not attach any documents. Briefly present your offer, tackling the main interest of the recipient, and ask for a response.
Build Trust with Your Cold Sales Email
Risk is one of the inherent elements of business and hence one of the biggest obstacles to selling.
You need to give your potential clients a sense of safety and a reason to respond.
People are seldom willing to be the first client of a company with no track record or reputation.
Include a few words about your successful cooperation with another client they are familiar with and the results you have achieved.
This way, you will be perceived as less of a risk.
Here are 7 tips for building trust with your sales email:
Include All Contact Information
In all your email sign-offs, you should have a signature.
Make sure this signature not only contains your name, business, and title, but also includes the address, and phone number.
This helps to show that you have a real business and are legitimate. Traditional spammers do not include any of these things.
Do you have a testimonial you can use?
Maybe there’s some industry award you’ve won?
Reference them as a part of your email signature. Nothing lends more credibility than having social proof.
Use this in your email signature if possible to show you’re a real human.
Try to avoid using obvious headshots though, as spammers will use those from time to time.
Feel free to crop a photo and have some scenery in the background to make it feel authentic.
Make sure your message doesn’t contain spelling errors or grammatical mistakes.
This may seem obvious, but it is pretty incredible how often this gets overlooked.
You spent the time writing it, now spend an extra few minutes asking someone to proofread it.
You don’t need to have them fully “edit” it since they won’t be as “in-the-know” on cold email best practices; you just need them to look for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Personalize Your Cold Sales Email
Even if you’re just referencing the company name or industry, it will help you stand out from the blanket messages they receive.
If you are doing outreach at scale, then company name or even industry is a decent starting point. However, nowadays, you need to one step further.
Ideally, your prospecting solution will give you at least one more additional detail about the company that you can use to standout.Your goal is to make the person feel that there's no way this was sent to them in an automated fashion. Click To Tweet
Use a Business Domain
One of the best ways to establish yourself as a true professional with honest intentions is by having an official company email.
Don’t use an @gmail or @hotmail or @aol email extension.
This means trading in your usual “firstname.lastname@example.org” mail for something like “email@example.com.”
To do this, you’ll first need to own a domain.
A lot of the business hosting providers will already typically include domain purchase and ownership, and all that’s left is to link your domain to a corporate email service such as GSuite.
This way, you also avoid bias from your intended recipients.
They’ll know right away that you’re more credible if you have an official company email address.
This smells of spam.
If you do heavy cold emailing, I’d recommend purchasing an alternative domain and using that just for your cold emails.
The reason you might want a separate domain for cold emailing is so that it keeps your main domain protected in case people do flag it as spam.
Be sure the domains forward to your main domain though. That way when the prospective customer does their research, they’ll still be taken to your main website.
How To Use Referrals to Warm Up Your Cold Sales Email
Referrals can be one of the most efficient ways to gain new clients.
By asking your current clients to recommend others that might be interested, you can remove one of the biggest barriers to getting prospects to convert: trust.
People inherently trust their friends more than random strangers, so adding a shared connection to your prospecting emails can bring weight and authority to your offer.
When to Ask
Like anything in life, there are better and worse times to ask for referrals.
Obviously, you don’t want to ask for a referral before your client has had a chance to experience your work.
You probably also don’t want to ask them if they terminate their contract because they are unhappy with it.
The ideal time to ask for a referral is within the first 30 days of your relationship with the client.
This gives them enough time to experience their “joy moment” with your service but not enough time for your service to become routine.
Ask for a referral at a time that they are most happy with your service, which is generally right after the initial delivery.
For productized services, SaaS, or other recurring revenue businesses, ask for the referral when you know that the client has had a chance to benefit from the software or service.
Companies in this realm tend to ask for recommendation too early, so give your client some time to use it, but try to stay within the 30-day rule.
How to Ask for Referrals
Regardless of when you chose to ask for referrals, aim to make it simple for your clients to provide them.
Generally, you shouldn’t ask your client to send an introduction email to people they are referring.
Your clients are understandably very busy and asking them to send such an email is a quick way to ensure that it never gets done.
Not because they don’t like you, but because you have added another thing to their to-do list, and in most cases, getting you more customers is not very high on that list.
Instead, simply ask for a name and email. Tell your client that you would be happy to reach out yourself, and make sure that they don’t mind if you mention their name when contacting the new prospect.
The exception to asking for an introduction is if you happen to know exactly who you’d like to work with, and your current client is connected to your ideal prospect in some way.
If you ask them to make an introduction, make it as easy as possible for your client.
Email your client in such a way that your message could simply be forwarded to the relevant party without being changed.
How to Write a Referral Email
Reach out to any referrals as quickly as you can.
You want the referral to be fresh in your client’s mind, in case the prospect asks them about it.
Contacting the referrals will be slightly different from sending other cold emails, but many of the best practices are the same.
Be sure to mention your client’s name in your first email to the prospect. This has the effect of immediately breaking the ice and gives the prospect a reason to trust you.
Give a brief description of the work you are doing for the client that referred the prospect, if you can do so without disclosing any private or proprietary information.
Follow this up with a short overview of all the services you offer, and mention that your client thought your work might be beneficial to the prospect’s business.
As mentioned previously, close with an open-ended question that will help you determine the prospect’s needs.
Overall, you should aim to be sincere and personable. Your tone and message may get back to your original client, so they should be in line with the conversations that you have already had with your client.
Referrals are awesome when you can get them. They help to warm up prospects by breaking the ice and establishing trust and authority.
When you make it easy for your current clients to refer others, you also make it easy to grow and scale your own business.
16 Ways to Split Test Your Cold Sales Email
Split testing is an important part of cold emailing, but it can be difficult to come up with different things to test to keep your response rate climbing. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 16 things to try in your next batch of cold emails.
We’ve discussed the importance of your subject line before. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire subject that gets guaranteed opens. Instead, test out a variety of subject lines to see what your audience responds to.
- Specific versus vague – Test out subject lines that mention what is in the email specifically versus a more general subject line, such as “30-second question for research on accounting” versus “quick question.”
- Personalized vs localized – Instead of personalizing the subject line with your prospect’s name, why not try using their company’s location instead? “Mike, this offer’s just for you.” vs “New York SEO services”
- Your company vs their company – Try subject lines that only consist of the name of your company or the name of their company. Super simple, both of these subject lines should see good open rates, though your response rate may be low, since there is no indication of what the email contains.
- Questions – Ask a question in your subject line, such as, “Do you need SEO?” With this variation, your open rates may drop, but the proportion that responds should go up, since people who opened the email will have already answered your question in the affirmative.
- Oddly specific numbers – Draw your prospects eye to your email by using random, specific numbers in the subject line, like “Why He Paid Google $5,129,346.21”
- Percentages – Similar to using numbers, using irregular characters in your subject line can help your email stand out in your prospect’s inbox.
Digital Marketer has a whole host of other suggestions to try, including:
- Add [Video] – “Make Your Lead Magnet Sexy [Video]”
- RE: – “Re: Watch Me Build Your Membership”
- Going negative – “Things Are Bad… (Maybe)”
Getting your emails opened is only half the battle. Your content needs to provide a compelling reason for your prospect to respond.
- Humorous vs straight-laced – Injecting a quick joke or unexpected one-liner can help brighten up dull emails. Don’t go overboard, but maybe try using a meme or pop culture reference in your next batch.
- Saying “Thanks” – Test out different versions of “thank you” in your email, like:
- None: no mention of thanks in the email at all
- Manipulative: “Thanks in advance for your help.”
- Appreciative: “I imagine you’re super busy, so your response would mean a lot!”
- Short vs long – It’s been pretty well documented that short emails get higher CTRs, but is there such a thing as too short? Test out variations from 1-2 sentences to 4-5 short paragraphs to find your ideal length.
- Text-based vs images – Send out versions of your cold emails that are completely text based as well as some that use 1 or 2 well-placed, content-specific images.
- Link placement – If your cold email contains links, test out these links in the beginning, middle, end, or a combination of locations.
Sending your emails out at the wrong time can doom them to the Trash pile.
- Time of day – Use a tool like Boomerang to test out different times of day to send your emails.
- Day of the week – Depending on your target market, your cold email might be better received on weekends or weekdays. Boomerang can also help you test this.
Most people will not convert off of the first cold email. Develop a system of follow-ups that helps nurture your prospects as they move through your sales funnel.
- Number – How many times will you follow-up with your prospects? Test this metric to find the optimal number before a prospect either converts or unsubscribes.
- Frequency – Space out your follow-ups at different intervals to find the best converting sequence.
- Style – Depending on your prospects’ reaction to your first email, you can place them into 1 of 3 follow-up styles, and tailor your follow-up emails for each specific group.
- Those who did not open the email – Try the same content with a different subject line.
- Those who opened your email, but didn’t click – Try putting a time constraint on your offer.
- Those who clicked on your emails – Try offering a direct incentive for signing up
Analyze your data to continue improving your campaigns
Part of a great email marketing strategy is being able to analyze how well your cold email outreach campaigns are doing.
Some of the metrics you may want to be measuring are the following:
- Bounce Rate: If this is high, you need to develop ways to test/scrub your email list. If you’re using LeadFuze, this is already handled as we do this in real-time when you build your list. Open Rate: If this is low, you have a weak subject line that doesn’t resonate with your audience.
- Reply Rate & Click Rate: This varies by industry. If this is too low, your CTA is weak. Experiment between what kind of CTAs work best for you: asking for a reply, or getting recipients to click on a link.
- Website Conversion Rate: Your CRO is calculated by dividing the number of conversions (desired actions taken) by the total number of visitors and multiplying the result by 100 to get a percentage. This will be used if sending potential clients to landing pages for example.
Sending prospecting email is a great method for generating leads.
I built a seven-figure marketing agency using this approach, and now I’m doing it with LeadFuze.
Hopefully, this post has helped you learn how to write a cold email.
What cold email strategies are you using? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Want to help contribute to future articles? Have data-backed and tactical advice to share? I’d love to hear from you!
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