It’s hard to write cold emails. To contact a complete stranger, make them understand you and want to talk to you. They’re also fraught with traps. If you don’t make a good first impression, those opportunities and targets will slip away.
Hitting delete is often the most common response, yet cold emails are a crucial weapon in a salesperson’s arsenal. Done well, cold emails are a scalable way to make first contact with new business prospects, and can allow you the opportunity to succinctly sell your product or service, straight to your target’s inbox.
But get this, the open rates are between 14%-28% depending on the industry, according to Mailchimp. That says a lot about how hard your content needs to work.
The experts’ guide to cold emails
So how do you write the ideal cold email? We asked some industry experts for their cold email tips.
CEO at Leadable.
“When it comes to Enterprise sales, I believe that personalization and relevance should be at the core of all cold email strategies. As the larger contract values associated with Enterprise justify the time and effort spent researching and writing unique copy for each prospect, applying a ‘quality over quantity’ approach is critical to success with cold email.”
Business Development Executive at Athena Capital.
- Never buy a list. “Don’t get me wrong, I purchased lists many times and achieved some results, but I am not proud of that. If you think a list of the contact info for 500 Investors for $50 from someone who reached you via LinkedIn is the answer, then think again.”
- Scrub your list. “Scrubbing is easy and cheap using tools like Bulk Email Checker or Voila Norbert.”
- Use personalization. “It is enough to separate you from the majority of the lazy sales reps. Use merge tags and go beyond the “first name” and “company name”. Use “location”, “info pulled from social accounts” and the “last news and activities for your contacts or their companies”.”
- Follow up. “I don’t mean with meaningless “touching base emails”, every follow-up email is an opportunity to warm your lead or to establish a good relationship.”
- Go omnichannel. “The smart cold emailing camp is the Omni-Channel one. In parallel use email, social media and InMail to grab attention and to deliver more value.”
- Don’t be boring. “While everyone sends lengthy wordy emails, send smart 6 lines max message and follow up with a valuable message like a “Case study”, an “Infographic”, or even a “Personalized Video”.. if you are smart enough be funny.. follow up with “GIFs” or even “Memes” just make sure you don’t offend anyone.”
- Capitalize on the P.S. “This is my favorite. If done right it is a game-changer. It doesn’t matter what is within your email, the P.S. section is your opportunity to shine, use a charm offensive, or be impulsive... with magic copywriting you can be on top of their mind.”
Sales Manager at Leadfeeder.
“Do not neglect the importance of the subject line.
“Most unsolicited emails (cold emails) will end up being deleted. If you want to stand out from the other hundreds in prospect’s Inbox, you need to start with the subject line.
“If your subject line is [bad], your e-mail might as well delete itself. Even if you have a personalized ‘hook’, a low-commitment call to action and a value proposition that solves the prospect’s problem.
“If your e-mail doesn’t get opened in the first place, having all the above is totally useless. Subject lines are therefore the gateway to your cold email’s success.”
Sales Manager at ONBORD.
- Research. Ensure you understand who you are messaging and don’t just spam
- Relevance. Keep the message relevant to the person and organization being approached
- Refine. Both in the sense of keeping to the point and being polished.
Sales Manager at Stylo.
“My approach is to keep the email short and sweet and focus on using powerful imagery to sell itself. I work in a very creative market and for the client to see the final result does all the talking.”
Sales Development Representative at Gong.
“For cold outreach, I try to keep my first email short, sweet, and to the point, i.e. three sentences long.
“The first sentence ties whatever events are happening in the business directly to something I’ve learned about them (usually lifted from their LinkedIn profile).
“The second describes how folks in their role who are experiencing a business event leverage our solution to remedy the accompanying business pain related to that event.
“The third sentence is my ask, which, if it’s for time to talk, is about a conversation around how they can not only solve their business pain but achieve a goal related to their business event and specific role.
“The whole email should maintain continuity from the first sentence to last, and be read on a phone screen.”
Founder at Pipe Bagger
“In my opinion, email marketing must be designed in a sequence of at least 8-10 emails. And the content should be educative, provocative and personalized.
“The emails must be short, to the point and the reader must get clarity that it was written just for them and is not a copy-paste job—basically they must get a clue that the sender has done some homework.
“If a human is triggering human emotions and making sense then I’m sure the campaign will yield good results.
Partner Sales Manager at Xactly Corp.
“My advice: make sure the email is concise, compelling and relevant (to the industry, company and persona), and then quality, relentless hard work will lead to the quantity and that volume required to guarantee success.”
CEO at Proposify.
“Avoid being broad.
“We’re now programmed to ignore emails that are obviously generic, mass emails. One way to stand out in someone’s inbox is to make the subject line and the opening line customized to them as a person.
“The subject line should be thought of kind of like a headline: don’t give away the punchline, but create intrigue enough for them to open the email.
“The opening line of the email should be heavily customized to the prospect. Statements like below work really well and show that you are a real person:
- I saw you…
- Read your post about…
- Noticed you had talked to [shared connection] a few months ago…
- I heard you...
- [Specific name] told me X about you…
“Only then can you get into the meat of the pitch. Keep it light, less is more. Ask about their problem, let them know it’s what you solve. They aren’t going to read a book on features.
“Finally the CTA. Don’t ask for a meeting or offer a proposal yet. The goal of a cold email isn’t to close a deal, it’s to find out if the prospect is right for you.
“If the prospect is interested and desperately wants your solution, they will ask for a call.
“Instead, make a very light ask: ‘Any chance you’d be up for helping me make an introduction to [specific name]?’
“The key here is to know who you want the intro to. A vague ‘Can you intro me to your VP Sales’ or, worse, ‘Who in your company should I talk to?’ won’t have the same effect.
“If they indeed are the right person they’ll let you know. If not, it’s as simple as an email intro for them.
“Finally, closing with an open-ended question like: ‘What are your thoughts?’ is all that’s needed to start a dialogue. If they want to talk, they’ll reply.”
Founder of Sales Rebellion.
“Emailing is still going to be extremely effective in the year 2020 for sales and marketing professionals. It is also going to continue to be one of the noisiest mediums being used!
“To create effective emails, reps are going to have to embrace what might currently feel uncomfortable. And, most importantly, no more clickbait, generic outreach copy, safe subject lines, or jam-packed newsletters that continue to go straight to the trash bin.
“Create undeniable curiosity, drive relevance, bring a level of familiarity with your outreach that the prospect feels compelled to respond to and start changing the game. Use GIFs, memes, emojis, and talk to people like a normal human being that they would encounter in real life—because emails are beginning to feel fake and straight out of another universe.
“One that was abandoned by people ages ago because of how boring and weird the sales world eventually got. Stop taking us back there!”
The dos and don’ts of cold emailing
Avoid the most common pitfalls by sticking to the dos and don’ts.
- Start with the subject line: The aim is to grab the reader’s attention and ensure they open the email. Do that, and you’re on your way. Be exceedingly clear and concise – it’s worth taking time to perfect the best cold email subject lines.
- Be succinct and direct: Introduce yourself clearly upfront or “be short and relevant,” says the chief commercial officer at a leading investment broker. People are busy: read your email out loud, if it’s longer than a minute, it’s too long. Try writing like you talk – introduce yourself, be nice, connect.
- Get personal: Connect with an engaging hook or “make it look like someone I know has suggested you,” according to an executive at a digital sports platform. “Do your research. Make it relevant. Keep it short. Offer me something of value that you know I’m interested in” another panelist said. You can also mention a competitor if you feel like it would help.
- Be credible: “The EUREKA moment for a prospect is when they immediately see how the seller can make their life easier, manage workflow, see the wood for the trees, and improve their commercial gravitas,” says a board director of an internationally famous brand.
- Call to action: This is the equivalent of the home stretch and, arguably, the most important part of your pitch. You won’t get one if you don’t ask, so if you want a 15-minute meeting or a call, be sure to include this at the end of the email.
- Blind email: “I just mark them as read, without opening them,” says one marketing director. Nothing screams ‘copy and paste’ more than using Sir or Madam. Avoid this at all costs. If you don’t know who you should be speaking to, research your prospects online or call up the company’s reception and ask.
- Waffle: Keep things short and sweet. People have short attention spans. Busy people have practically none. Long-winded emails are likely to be trashed pronto – make sure you get to that all-important call to action as efficiently as possible.
- Be pushy: Coming on too strong from the outset is a common pitfall. Obviously, you have an agenda, but don’t make it appear obviously so. Being pushy can be a turn-off, as one senior executive puts it: “I can recall writing back to one recommending they give up, as they only succeeded in annoying me with their sheer arrogance.”
- Just list: A common mistake is reeling off your experience and the features of a product or service. That’s great, but to aid cut-through explain how it can solve the prospect’s problems. Even worse is no explanation of your wares at all, says one brand director: “It’s even cruder than the pre-LinkedIn days when a cold caller would announce their company name, and then ask who you were and could we meet.”
Improve sales team performance by following a process
Establishing a clear cold emailing testing process is also key to improving sales team performance, management and optimization. So too is having intuitive software to manage workflow when sending cold emails and utilizing open and click tracking.
Daniel Galvin, Director of Sales at Pipedrive, suggests a more scientific approach than simply “trying subject lines until something works better and sharing with everyone.” Instead, his advice is:
- Have someone – maybe the marketing team – create versions of emails and include the subject line, body, and call to action.
- Provide context as to why sales needs to adopt these emails – they’re there to help them get more deals. Their commitment is essential to get data and improve performance.
- Ensure everyone has a tracking tool – one that tracks if an email gets opened, what links were clicked, and traces the call to action.
- Depending on the size of your team, set a clear statistical goal and test until you reach that statistical significance.
- Analyze if the results are better, worse or the same as before.
- Try again with the next option – be exhaustive and intentional.
- Getting buy-in from the sales team will allow you to see what is effective, compared to what you think is effective because you have many more data points.
Hopefully, this article will provide you with more insight into every salesperson’s dilemma: should you cold call or cold email? Whichever preference you have, remember this: you do not have to say everything within your initial approach. Once your foot is in the door, that will be your next step.
Pipedrive’s Advanced and Professional plans include a range of cold email templates which will increase the number of emails you send while maintaining that personal touch. Sign up here for a free trial.