The Cold Email: Experts Reveal How to Get Noticed
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.
To get deeper under the skin of what gets people talking and what gets trashed, we’ve assembled an exclusive panel of buyers – from the biggest global players, midsize companies and startups – to reveal what they like and what they hate.
All our panelists agreed on one thing: their inboxes are horrific, with some receiving as many as 50 cold emails a week. As one senior brand director puts it: “Imagine a tide that is constantly incoming, without the benefit of it receding.” So already from the get-go, salespeople face an uphill struggle to get noticed.
The #1 gripe is the generic cold email. Our panel agreed, almost unanimously, that failure to personalize guarantees deletion. “If it’s clearly blanket + untargeted = lazy marketing, and I won’t get past the first sentence,” says a finance director. A close second is not doing homework, with one panelist deleting “anyone talking about a product or service without considering specific relevance to our business,” and another amazed at emailers “not understanding my role, given there’s information on LinkedIn.”
So how do you write the ideal cold email? Avoid the most common pitfalls by sticking to our panelists’ top 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 more crude than the pre-LinkedIn days when a cold caller would announce their company name, and then ask who you were and could we meet.”
Cold Email Templates
Our panel has come up with a few key pointers to help you achieve that coveted response, whether it’s a 10-minute call, face-to-face meeting or online demo. Be sure to customize these templates to suit your organization’s specific needs.
A cold email template to establish a business relationship
- Adapt yours so it’s short, direct, personal and demonstrates how you can add value.
Subject: Can we help you [business benefit]?
My name is [XX] and I am the [job title] of [XX]. We have helped companies like [XX] and [XX], achieve [a demonstrable business benefit].
We [explain succinctly what your business does, focusing on the benefits, not the features].
Can we get 10 minutes in your diary to look at whether this would be valuable to you?
A cold email template to secure a face-to-face meeting
- Demonstrate research on the prospect and customize this template accordingly.
- Show how you can offer something of value that the prospect would be interested in.
Subject: 30 minutes to discuss [market trend or business issue]
[XX] here from [XX].
I know that attention in [relevant industry] is rapidly turning to [trend/issue].
We’ve helped many businesses, such as [XX], deal with this issue in the past, so we would love to chat with you to see how we can increase [solve specific issue]. For example, on the [XX] account, we increased [XXX] for them by [statistic/percentage].
I’d love to tell you more about this if you’ve got time over the next week?
A cold email template to schedule a sales call
- Customize your email by making it relevant in the first sentence.
- Offer something unique, or at the very least, not generic.
- Suggest an easy next step.
Subject: Five minutes to help you improve [business issue]
I’m getting in touch with an idea I can explain in five minutes – it can help [XX] win [insert a measurable target].
This idea was recently used to help my client, [XX], [insert results achieved].
[First name], would it be possible to schedule a five-minute call, so I can share the idea with you? If so, when works for you?
A cold email template that includes a demo
- Explain concisely what your product/service is.
- Outline exactly what you have to offer and how it can help your prospect.
Subject: See for yourself how you can fix your [X] problem
I have worked with organizations like [XX] and [XX] who have had the same problem with [X]. With [describe product/service] they were able to solve it and [show a relevant statistic demonstrating an increase in production].
Here is an example of a project I produced for [XX]: [insert link].
Would you be interested in something similar?
I made a demo for you to show you what it could look like in less than two minutes: [link].
Is this something you would be interested in?
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.
Ready to upgrade your sales technology suite? Pipedrive’s Gold and Platinum plans include a range of cold emailing templates which will increase the number of emails you send, while maintaining that personal touch. Sign up here for a free trial.