A cold email is an unsolicited message you send to someone you don’t know as a way to generate sales leads. It is used as a tool to reach out to prospects and bring them into your sales process. Writing an effective cold email means creating a personal connection, briefly stating your purpose, and moving your reader to take a specific action, such as agreeing to attend a product demo.
Did you know? According to Copper, a whopping 89% of sales and marketing professionals say email is their primary channel for generating leads.
Here are six best practices for engaging prospective customers with cold emails and moving them into your sales pipeline.
1. Research Your Recipient
Before you start to write a cold email, take time to research your recipient so you can make a personal connection. Using tools such as LinkedIn, Google search, or even paid services like FullContact or Spokeo, you can learn more about the owner of an email address to better tailor your message to your prospect.
The purpose of learning more about your recipient is to find a way to make a cold email a little less cold or impersonal by learning more about who they are and what matters to them. By educating yourself about their company, their role, and their industry, you can better understand how to address their challenges and make your cold email more relevant to their current circumstances.
Using a lead generation service such as UpLead can ensure the contact information you have is up to date and likely to get to a real person. In addition, you can download verified email addresses directly to your customer relationship management (CRM) software, making it easy to find quality leads. Visit UpLead for more information and to sign up for a seven-day free trial.
2. Craft an Engaging Subject Line
Most of the people you will be cold emailing are busy and get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day. You don’t have much time to catch their attention long enough to get them to open your email, which means your subject line is probably the most important part of the entire email. After all, if your prospect never opens the email, it doesn’t matter how amazing the rest of your message is.
Did you know? Research by Convince and Convert found that over a third of email recipients choose to open a message based on the subject line alone.
Whenever possible, this means using a recipient’s name in the subject line. For example, instead of saying “We’re introducing a brand-new janitorial service,” a more effective subject line might say “Hi Mark, let’s talk about your mess.” This example also catches the recipient off-guard since they’ll wonder what you mean by their “mess.”
Here are a few quick tips for crafting an engaging subject line:
- Use the recipient’s name: People are more likely to open an email that looks like it came from a real person, and using his or her name in the subject line gives it a personal touch.
- Use a unique and unexpected hook: Don’t be boring or generic in your subject line. Instead, use a phrase that is unexpected. In the example I used above, instead of talking about a cleaning service, talk about “your mess.”
- Use time to create a sense of urgency: Subject lines that reference a limited time or an imminent deadline are more likely to capture attention. For example, “Hi Maria, this deal ends tomorrow” creates a sense of urgency and is more likely to get a response.
- Ask a question: Another strong subject line hook is to ask a question. If you’re trying to gain an appointment, you might say, “Hi Dave, do I have the right contact?” This creates curiosity and the recipient will want to know more about your intentions.
The reality is that you’re sending these emails to someone you’ve never met, and the subject line is often your best chance to get your prospect to connect with your message.
3. Quickly Make a Personal Connection
People are more likely to do business with someone they trust, and while it’s hard to create trust in a cold email, you can at least give your best effort to make a personal connection. Start by using the recipient’s name and make sure it’s spelled correctly. In addition, reference how you came across their name, or any mutual connection you might share. People are more willing to engage with people they know from within their industry, social circle, or professional network.
Another way to make a connection is to refer to a specific news story or event. Mention that you saw the coverage and wanted to say congratulations. If done correctly, this makes you more relatable and helps break the ice in a positive way. You want to give them a reason to keep reading, and demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to learn about them, or that you have a mutual connection, can often make all the difference in getting a reply.
A personalized email, citing a specific event, could start like this:
I know we haven’t had a chance to connect personally yet, but I was really excited to see that you’ve decided to take part in the Chamber of Commerce’s new small business educational program. I’ve really enjoyed the guest speakers they’ve brought in and found them really helpful. I’m sure you will too.
Using a CRM such as Pipedrive can help you make the personal greeting faster by making it easy to easily insert a contact’s name into an introduction email. By using email templates, you can automatically insert fields from your contact records. Sign up for a free trial today to get started.
4. Get to Your Point
Think about the massive amount of emails you get every day. As a sales leader, you made a decision about whether it’s important within a few seconds. After that, if it isn’t relevant to you or your business, it ends up in the trash. The same is true for your prospects. Don’t waste their time. Instead, be brief and to the point and let them know why you’re writing.
A great way to do this in sales management is by relating one of the biggest challenges you think they face. Based on your research ahead of time as well as your understanding of other customers in the same industry or market, you can highlight one pain point and a solution you offer. This shows you are both interested in your prospect’s needs as well as educated about their business and industry, which builds trust.
Once you show that you understand their challenges, transition to one specific way you can help them. People are far more likely to respond when they feel like their needs are understood and that you have their best interest in mind. Avoid giving a list of features, or trying too hard to “sell.” Instead, focus on the specific benefits you offer to the prospect and how you can best address their needs. You can learn more with our guide on how to create a sales pitch.
Here’s an example of how you could transition from a personalized introduction:
5. Create a Call to Action
The goal of your introduction email is to get a response, usually in the form of gaining an appointment. Every cold email should include a clear action step you want the person to take, and to reduce confusion and increase the chances of your reader responding, you should only offer one “next step.”
An effective call to action should do two things. The first is to assume the person is interested. If they aren’t, they’ll simply ignore it, but if they are, you want to make the next steps clear and come across with confidence. The second is to ask your question in a way that whichever answer they choose is essentially a “yes.”
Here’s what I mean. It’s tempting to close a cold email with something like “Would you have time next week to meet and talk about this?” While polite, this is a passive call to action, and assumes that the person is as likely to not have any time, in which case you’ve lost the chance to move them forward in your sales process.
Instead, ask something more direct, such as, “I’d love to talk more about how we can help. In fact, I’m available next Monday at 2 p.m., or anytime Tuesday morning. Which of those work better for you?” The question assumes they are on board and want to move forward—the only issue is which option is better. Whichever they choose, you got the appointment.
An effective call to action in a cold email might look like this:
Use a tool such as Calendly to take the hassle out of emailing back and forth to schedule a meeting time. Once you set up Calendly, it will connect to your calendar and show your availability, even giving you a personal link to share—making it even easier to connect with prospects.
6. Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
Saying thank you is highly underrated and is one of the most effective ways to make a good impression. You should always thank your prospect for taking the time to read your email. It is also a good practice to give the person the option of opting out of further contact. It may seem counterintuitive, but studies have shown that you are more likely to get a positive response when your message asks for permission to continue to follow up or allows them to opt-out.
For instance, you could close your cold email with an opt-out statement like this:
Pro tip: Always include your name, title, and where the contact can connect with you online. This is also known as your email signature, and is a great way to make it easy for your prospect to get more information about you and your business. This increases trust and credibility, which makes it more likely they will respond.
Cold Emailing Best Practices & Principles
In addition to the steps above, there are a few principles that are helpful if you plan to use cold emailing as a sales strategy. These principles actually apply to any introduction email you might send, but especially for one sent to a prospect you’ve never communicated with before.
Here are five principles for writing the perfect cold email:
Start With the End in Mind
Know what your purpose is for the email. Don’t confuse your reader by being vague about your intent, and don’t introduce too many options that might distract from your ultimate goal. Most of the time, this goal will be to schedule a phone or in-person appointment where you can start a relationship.
Take the Time to Be Personal
Don’t send generic emails that aren’t at all relevant to your recipient. Instead, do a little research and then take the time to write a personalized email that shows you understand his or her needs, and are genuinely interested in providing a solution that works.
Be Brief & to the Point
There’s nothing worse than receiving an email from a complete stranger who then writes 500 words assuming you’ll be interested in whatever they feel the need to contact you about. It’s amazing to me how many people do this who should know better. You probably get these emails all the time, and do the same thing the rest of us do—delete them.
It’s important to keep your email brief and to the point. I know this sounds obvious, but how many of us start out trying to draft a short email and end up with a long one? Don’t worry about trying to cover everything in the email. That’s what the appointment is for. As a guide, a cold email should never be more than 250 words. One trick you can use is to see if it fits on a smartphone screen. If they can read it without scrolling down, it’s short enough.
Describe How You Can Meet Their Needs
Messages should always restate his or her problem or question as you understand it, offer a potential solution or answer based on your understanding, and detail how your solution benefits that person. If your email will be targeted to newer clients or leads higher up in your sales pipeline, it is also a good idea to include mention of relevant customer testimonials or endorsements.
Don’t try to exaggerate your company’s capabilities, or try to be someone you aren’t. People will want to do business with you because they trust you to help them solve their problem. That trust is built over time, and is easily lost when a prospect feels as though you’re putting on a front, or making claims that you won’t be able to back up.
Don’t be afraid to be human, and don’t assume that your customer is looking for you to have all the answers. If you get a response from a prospect with a question you don’t have the answer for, be honest and let them know you’ll have to find out. People respect honesty and are attracted to authenticity. It’s OK to let a little of your personality come through, especially if you’re naturally funny or laid back.
Cold Email Example
Using the elements in this guide, you can create a compelling cold email that gets a response from your prospect and helps you generate more sales. To help you, I’ve provided a sample cold email to tie all of these steps and best practices together in a way that you can use as a model.
Subject: Hi Mark, I wanted to talk to you about your mess.
We haven’t had a chance to personally connect yet, but I saw the article yesterday in the Herald Gazette that Mark’s Pizza is opening its third location next month, and I wanted to reach out to congratulate you. At Oscar’s Professional Custodial, we love seeing local businesses thrive and grow, and we’re also big fans of good pizza (that’s you!).
I also wanted to see if we could help save you time and money with our at-night cleaning service that we designed just for restaurants. We’re pretty much experts on messes. We’ve been in business for over 20 years, and we’ve seen a lot of kitchens in our time—which means we know how much effort goes into keeping them in top shape.
In fact, most of our customers love that we’ve never had a single one fail a health inspection. They also love that they can go home at night knowing that their kitchen is in good hands.
I don’t know if this is an issue for you, but if it is, I would love to schedule a brief 10-minute call to learn more about how we can meet your needs. In fact, I’m free on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Which of these works best for you?
If this isn’t something that you are currently addressing, or you don’t believe we are a fit right now, I understand. I appreciate the time you took to read this message, and once again, congrats!
(Your #1 pizza fan)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is cold calling or cold emailing more effective?
While both are important tools for a salesperson, the best approach is actually a combination of both. Before you pick up the phone to call, send an email. That way, when you make the cold call, your prospect will at least be familiar with you and your company, even if they didn’t respond.
Is a cold email considered spam?
It isn’t spam to send a one-to-one personal email, even if you don’t know the person. Spam is when you send mass emails to people when you don’t have permission to do so. As long as your email isn’t misleading, is personal to one individual, and doesn’t contain generic blanket marketing statements, you shouldn’t worry about running into problems. To be on the safe side, it’s a good practice to offer your recipient the ability to opt out of further communications.
Learning how to write highly personalized cold emails to your potential customers is one of the most important sales skills to develop. It will help you generate more responses from prospects that result in appointments, which helps you move leads through your sales process.