Blog Post Sales Prospecting

How to Write Powerful Cold Emails That Actually Get Replies

Everyone writes cold emails, but who’s actually good at it? Most of us get less than a 3% response. Here are 8 proven techniques to make cold email work.

Everyone writes cold sales emails, but who’s actually good at it? How many salespeople manage to get a decent open rate from an actual cold email especially now that its an all virtual selling environment? A decent response rate? The average is a 3% open rate and the click-through rate is even worse. Yikes!

Fortunately, there are proven techniques to make cold email work for you! Now as you know, I’m not a fan of cold calling or cold emailing at all and generally this should be used as a last resort by a seller. But both the cold call and the cold email are in fact an arrow in your quiver and may have to be used when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Before we check out 8 cold emails best practices, I did in fact want to provide you with two resources in case you’d love to move to the phone itself vs. email.  The first is a fantastic resource with one of my guests Joe Pici on the Modern Selling Podcast and here he provides several cold calling scripts to help you convert conversations into meetings.  The second is also a podcast I hosted with David Walter where he delivers 3 cold calling tips to help you convert more buyers into opportunities via that first call.

Alright now let’s check out 8 Cold Email best practices!

8 Cold Email Best Practices to Create More Responses through Prospecting

[clickToTweet tweet=”Learn 8 #ColdEmail best practices to create more #Sales Responses w/ @M_3Jr #SocialSelling #Sales” quote=”Learn 8 #ColdEmail best practices to create more #Sales Responses w/ @M_3Jr #SocialSelling #Sales”]

1. Keep it short

Your cold email must be concise and to the point. Your prospect or modern buyer doesn’t know you and is busy.

Be smart—don’t waste their time with a foot-long page of information. You’ll have plenty of time to discuss details down the road. For now, it’s all about getting attention and creating curiosity.

If you met this person in real life, you’d introduce yourself, they’d ask you what you do, and you (hopefully) wouldn’t spend 8 minutes telling them about yourself.  Think about how long your cold email is.  Go ahead—time yourself on how long it takes you to read it!  So, what’s the key?  Get to the point and exchange digital business cards (aka connect on LinkedIn). Use the same approach in your cold email as you would in person: get to the point and be natural.

2. Optimize your subject line

Your subject line makes the difference between an opened email and one that goes directly in the trash bin

[clickToTweet tweet=”Ur Subject Line mks a difference between an opened email vs. not! How? via @M_3Jr #SocialSelling #Sales” quote=”Your Subject Line makes a difference between an opened email vs. not! How? via @M_3Jr #SocialSelling #Sales”]

According to Convince and Convert, 35% of email recipients open emails solely based on the subject line.

a) Avoid SPAM trigger words

With your first goal being to make it into your recipient’s mailbox, you need to know how to stay out of their SPAM folder.

For that reason, has put together an extensive list of words to avoid in your email subject line. While some should be banned, for most it’s all about context. Time to get creative!

[clickToTweet tweet=”Words 2 avoid in UR #ColdEmail subject lines to avoid spam trap R? @M_3Jr uses the @prospectio list!” quote=”Words to avoid in your #ColdEmail subject lines to avoid spam trap are? @M_3Jr uses the @prospectio list!”]

b) Keep it short

A subject line longer than 45 characters may not fully appear in your recipient’s inbox.

According to Litmus, the sweet spot is between 4 and 15 characters, which tends to produce an average open rate of 15.2%. 28 to 39 characters seems to be a good formula as well, with a 12.2% open rate.

Also, keep in mind that around 40% of emails are first opened on mobile devices, where screen space is even more scarce.

c) Personalize it

Your recipient will most likely be a human being. And like all human beings, the thing they’re passionate about is…* drum roll *… themselves! If you know that person’s name—which you should, because you’d never buy email lists—why not use it?

Do you know their location? Can you make it relevant? Go ahead! But be careful not to make it creepy. Saying you saw him/her and their family in Mexico on Facebook will get you deleted pronto!

You could even throw away the merge tags altogether and simply focus on their challenges and pain points to grab their attention.

d) Lay out the reason why you’re writing

Tell them what’s inside, especially if they don’t know you. You wouldn’t email them if you didn’t have a good reason, so make it clear why they should be interested!

3. Grab your prospect’s attention

According to Litmus , the average attention span when it comes to reading an email is 11 seconds. And 43% of readers won’t get past the first 8 seconds.

Despite this, many salespeople continue sending emails in which they start by introducing themselves and their company—which the prospect has never heard of and doesn’t care about—as well as what it does. That’s at least 5 to 6 seconds. Wasted.

Since your prospect doesn’t know you—and again, really doesn’t care—you must start by grabbing their attention: reference something they did, or mention content they published, or immediately address their challenges. Maybe you know they were at an event? Mention it! (Again, don’t be creepy!)

Keep in mind that every sentence you write must compel them to read the next one, and then the next one, and so on.

If you want to learn how to write a cold email that people will actually read, check out this video, where I explain the three elements of the perfect prospecting message, and provide a sample script you can use.

[clickToTweet tweet=”If UR writing a #ColdEmail @M_3Jr says @litmusapp reports readers hv an 8-sec attention span! #Sales” quote=”If you’re writing a #ColdEmail @M_3Jr says @litmusapp reports readers have an 8-sec attention span! #Sales”]

4. Lay out the reason why you’re reaching out

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably sent dozens of emails already, stating who you are and what you’re offering. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Weren’t they missing something?

Usually, WHO and WHAT are not enough; you must make it clear WHY you’re reaching out to them specifically.

It won’t take long for you to write two sentences about why you think they would be a good fit for your product, and it will make them feel valued. You’ll be showing them you put in time and effort in getting in touch with them.

It’s easy, and yet it brings immense value to your cold email.

5. Establish credibility

Existing or past customers are the best ambassadors for your business. When you get in touch with a prospect, don’t just mention a few satisfied customers; make sure those customers are actually relevant to your prospect (industry, company size, country, etc.…).

Feel free to drop names, because social proof asserts credibility!

6. Emphasize the benefits

Who likes to be shown features of a product they don’t know and have no reason to care about? Not a lot of people.

Keep in mind that your product and its features will only enter the stage as a solution to your prospect’s pain points and challenges. This is why you need to lead with how you solve your targeted buyer’s business problem, NOT the product’s features and benefits.

7. Use a clear call to action

The goal of every cold email is to get the prospect to take action to make the sales process move forward. So everything you write in the email must be directed toward that one and only purpose.

This implies 3 things:

  1. Only seek one action: don’t ask them to get on a call with you and to complete your survey and to download that piece of content you wrote. Focus.
  2. If it’s too early or not appropriate to ask for a meeting yet, you can include a call to action that directs the buyer to a helpful resource (e.g., downloadable ebook or video), solicit their opinion by asking simple questions they can respond to, invite them to an event (webinar or live event) or ask a question to validate their business pain(s).
  3. If you honestly believe that your solution can bring value to your prospect: make the ask and provide three 30-minute time slots two, three, and four weeks out. At two weeks out provide a 9 am slot, at three weeks = 1 pm, and four weeks = 4 pm.  Then record in your CRM how far out their schedule may be booked when they respond and select a time slot AND what time they prefer to meet!

[clickToTweet tweet=”When booking a #sales appt provide 3 30-min slots 2, 3, & 4 weeks out says @M_3Jr #DigitalSales” quote=”When booking a #sales appt. provide 3 30-min slots 2, 3, & 4 weeks out, says @M_3Jr #DigitalSales”]

At Vengreso we have developed a simple but powerful 3-step formula called the PVC Sales Methodology — which stands for: Personalization, Value and Call-to-action. Watch the video below to see how the PVC Sales Methodology works and pay special attention to the section about the Call-to-action (starting at 4:03).

8. Personalize

Templates are great, really.

But their purpose is to make your job easier, not do your job for you. Templates are intended to be personalized with info about your prospects and about their challenges.

Do your research and segment your prospects based on the intel you’ve gathered. If you manage to focus on their challenges enough, you might not even need to include the company name.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Templates used 4 #ColdEmails R Great but @M_3Jr says use #DigitalPersonalization #Sales #SocialSelling” quote=”Templates used for #ColdEmails are Great, but @M_3Jr says use #DigitalPersonalization #Sales #SocialSelling”]

Any Other Tricks to a Cold Email?

These are the most obvious ways I could think of to slay your sales process, but here are a couple more tips:

What are your tricks to run a successful email campaign?  Leave your comments below!

And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and our YouTube channel to stay up to date on sales, digital selling, sales messaging, sales prospecting tools and social selling best practices.

By Mario Martinez Jr.

Mario is the CEO and Founder of Vengreso. He spent 85 consecutive quarters in B2B Sales and Leadership. He is one of 20 sales influencers invited to appear in the documentary film “The Story of Sales” launched in 2018.  He was also named 2019’s Top 10 Sales Influencers by The Modern Sales Magazine, 2018’s Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professional and Selling Power Magazine’s 2018 Top Sales Training and Coaching Consultant.  Mario is the host of the popular The Modern Selling Podcast.

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11 replies on “How to Write Powerful Cold Emails That Actually Get Replies”

These are great tips to follow. I especially like your idea of building your own list. Before reaching out to market to prospects, at least for small businesses, it’s better to research each one and get to know them before attempting to build a relationship. That’s the best way to know if they are even a viable prospect for your services.

You’ve made really good points here, Mario. Writing an attention-grabbing and natural-sounding cold email is a real challenge these days. On top of that, spam filters can be a real pain in the neck for some businesses like finance or real estate. Spam filters are especially sensitive to many of such business-related words.

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