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Sales

Cold Emails – The Complete Guide

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Cold emailing may feel like an outdated concept, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just as fruitful as ever. Our team continuously uses cold emails to land new clients, create new relationships, and generate cold leads (to name a few). Want to know how we do it? Throughout the rest of this post, you’ll learn why we love cold emails, our top tips for fast wins today, and long-term strategies you can use throughout the next year.

Why Cold Emailing Is So Important

When done well, cold emailing is a powerful lead generation and client prospecting tool.

Unlike spam emails with dubious motives, cold emailing offers potential clients and customers something valuable without asking for anything but a click or reply in return. A well-crafted email can drive a lead or potential customer to your sales pipeline, increasing the chances of converting them into a sale.

Or it can lead to a direct conversation around what you can do for them, resulting in a new client.

Cold emails work because they reach people where they are—their inboxes. According to an Adobe report, the average person spends about 3.1 hours sending and checking emails every day.

Cold emailing is also relatively easy and scalable as you grow. There are dozens of tools out there designed to help you send personalized emails, increase efficiency with email templates, queue and schedule emails, integrate with software and apps, and more.

Automation helps cast a wide net, allowing you to leverage proven email templates to boost your sales pipeline. After all, sales and marketing are a numbers game with an effective strategy behind the scenes.

But, does cold emailing actually work?

Yes, but it takes some determination.

Ambition, which is a software company that produces solutions for a wide array of sales and marketing needs, decided to study how it used email for prospecting. The company ran a six-week cold email campaign, targeting 578 prospects.

The campaign specifically targeted VPs of Sales and VPs of Sales Operations at organizations that would benefit from Ambition’s software.

The initial response was disheartening. The campaign received six responses from the initial 578 emails. However, the results changed dramatically when the marketing team developed a series of follow-ups at eight different touchpoints.

By the end of the six-week campaign, Ambition had improved the cold email response rate by 12 times, creating 73 new leads for the software vendor. Ambition credits the campaign’s success to persistence.

Quick Tips to Improve Your Cold Emailing Results Today

While the true benefit of cold emailing comes from sending a high volume of emails with the understanding that most people won’t reply or will say no, we’ve discovered several ways to instantly improve your cold emailing strategy with software, email structure, and follow-ups.

One of the most immediate ways to increase efficiency and save time is outreach automation.

Prospect.io is an excellent sales automation platform for cold outreach. But it’s also more than that. It helps you and your team stay organized throughout the entire outreach process from drafting your first email to following up, automating tasks, and analyzing the results.

The software has plenty of powerful features to help with every aspect of your email prospecting. One immediate benefit is the ability to centralize detailed contact information, including the prospect’s name, company, phone number, email, industry, and job title.

With everyone in one place, you never have to guess where to go to find what you need.

It can also help you keep track of emails, filter prospects, and extract email addresses from domain names. You can even use it to track tasks to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

At the end of the day, Prospect.io is all about helping you centralize information, automate repetitive tasks, track prospects through the pipeline, and figure out what works so you can repeat a successful process time and time again.

It also integrates with dozens of CRMs, including HubSpot, Pipedrive, Zoho, and Salesforce, to help supercharge your outreach efforts. Additional Prospect.io features include:

  • Email automation
  • Drip campaigns
  • Import/export
  • Email tracking
  • Automatic follow-ups
  • Email sequences
  • Email templates and variables
  • Reporting (activity, open, click, reply, conversion, and bounce rates)
  • Performance reports

Aside from automation, here are our tried and true tips for quick wins you can achieve in the 24 hours.

Create a New Domain

The jury is still out on whether your business domain or a dedicated outreach domain is the way to go. The thing about cold emailing is that it is easy to get wrong. This guide is dedicated to helping you optimize your email outreach, but mistakes happen.

If your business domain gets blacklisted, that means that any emails you send out from your account get sent straight to spam. It may be worth investing in a dedicated outreach domain to cover you against any eventuality.

Consider going with .io or .net extensions. The former is expensive, meaning that not many spammers choose this option. You will be less likely to end up in a spam folder with a .io extension. Alternatively, the .net extension is a more affordable option. It has a great deliverability rate and isn’t subject to scrutiny at the time of creation.

Although popular, new .com domains are subjected to a minor spam list for one month from creation.  

Should you decide to stick with your existing domain, it’s worth creating a separate outreach email on a sub-domain. This way, you can segment your traffic and ensure your main domain remains intact in case of any problems.

For example, if your primary domain is rick@domain.com, a suitable sub-domain would be rick@outreach.domain.com.

Personalize Your Emails

Email templates and automation are godsends for prospecting, but they can also be your Achilles’ heel. People are already hostile to spam, and you don’t want to appear in this light. Personalized emails can improve your click-through rates by up to 14-percent and boost conversion rates by up to 10-percent.

Research your prospects to find a few areas where you share common ground. This could be where they went to school, mutual connections, their current city, or work history. The idea here is to create a human connection with your prospects.

Include a bit of what you found in your email, such as congratulating your prospect on winning an award.

Also, be sure to customize your subject line to make it relevant to your prospect. Where possible, include the prospect’s name throughout your email.

It may not always be possible to create highly customized emails if you send out hundreds of emails a week. In this case, merely mentioning the company name or referencing their industry may be enough to create the connection you are looking for.

Learn How to Craft Effective Emails

It’s important to be realistic. It will take some time before you can consistently craft cold emails that get responses. However, you can get a good running start by being mindful about how you prepare your emails.

The “From” Line

Start with the “from” line. This field indicates to the prospect whom the email is from. Just this line can make the difference between the target opening your email and deleting it.

Here, you want to build trust and authority. Depending on your target group and your message’s context, there are a couple of ways you could go. Your name + your title is a reliable approach. Alternatively, use your first (and/or last) name + your company name. Just be sure to adapt this field to the tone and style of your email. For example, first name + company name is more informal while full name + title may be more formal.

Subject Line

Next is composing an engaging subject line. This isn’t the time to make your pitch just yet. Instead, keep it clear and concise, giving an overview of what the email is about. Think about the benefit you’re offering your prospects, such as free resources, discounted services, a chance to connect, or a solution to a problem they are facing.

Examples of effective subject lines include:

  • Request to connect
  • Want to scale up X at [Prospect’s Company]
  • I have a great idea to improve your X
  • [FIRST_NAME], there is a better way to do X
  • Essential resources to help with [Challenge]
  • Quick question regarding [Project]

Try to keep your subject line below ten words and 60 characters. This ensures your target can read the entire subject line even on a mobile device.

Where possible, include your prospect’s name in the subject line. This shows that you have gone to some trouble to find out who you are talking to and that this isn’t just another automated email.

Lastly, try not to sound too sales-y. Instead, focus on the value you are proposing to your prospect.

Introduction

Remember when we talked about personalizing your email. Now is an excellent time to create a connection with your prospect. Don’t talk about yourself or your company. Instead, talk about the prospect. Some examples may include:

  • I just read your paper [Paper title] at [Publication], and I love [specific notes of what you loved about the paper]
  • I was speaking with [Mutual connection] about [Relevant topic]
  • Congrats on [Achievement]!

Body

Get straight to the point in your email’s body. People will only spend a few seconds going through your email. Include the general purpose of the email in the first few sentences. The prospect is more likely to read on if they are interested.

Consider creating a bullet point list of what you have to offer, and tailor this list to the prospect. This strategy makes your email more scannable. Don’t be afraid to include proof of your claims, such as the results of similar services you offered another client.

For example:

  • Competitor X increased their sales by 40% with [product/solution]. I can show you how to achieve the same results.
  • I noticed you are currently using [X system]. I’d love to talk to you about how [Y solution] can get you better results.

Be specific about the benefits you are offering. It might be that the completion is doing something they are not or why they should change something about their company or process. The difference between cold emailing and spam is the value proposition, so be sure to offer value in your email.

Call to Action

End your email with a clear call to action. Think about what you want the prospect to do at the end of your email. This may be replying to your email, subscribing to your newsletter, clicking through to your website, etc. Keep the call to action short and precise. You don’t want to come off as pushy.

Also, keep the CTA simple. Scheduling a 30-minute call may sound great to you. But not many professionals have the time or inclination to call a stranger for 30 minutes. The idea behind your first email is to create a connection, not to make a sale. A quick ask, such as subscribing to your email list or newsletter, may get you better results.

Stick to one call to action per email for the best result.

Signature

Finally, it’s time to sign off. Just like the “From” line, your signature helps build trust and authority. Be sure to include your contact information and title where relevant.

Follow-up Up with Prospects

The reality is that your business is never as crucial to prospects as it is to you. People are busy, and there is a high likelihood that even the best cold email won’t get you a response. Persistence is a critical component of successful outreach.

It takes up to five touches to get a prospect warmed up to your proposition. Ambition (our case study) decided on eight touches total, but the results improved after the fourth and fifth emails.

Follow-up doesn’t mean bombarding your prospects with requests for a response. Instead, offer additional value in your follow-up email. Be sure to reference your initial contact, but make the follow-up email unique rather than a rehashing of the first one.

And get the timing right. Tailor your follow-up email to your sales cycle. For example, a short sales cycle may require you to follow up after three days and then again after five days. The first follow-up might be after five days and the second after two weeks for longer sales cycles.

Overall, following up every three to five days is a good idea. Be sure to change up your CTA with every follow-up email. It might be that you are asking for too much.

Long-Term Strategies for Optimizing Your Cold Emailing Campaign

Once you get your email outreach rolling, you want to optimize it long-term. A successful campaign should change and evolve according to your results.

Build a High-Quality Email List

The days of buying email lists are long gone. If anything, buying your list is a short drive to the spam inbox. It is better to target 50 high-quality prospects interested in your business than throw out a thousand emails to random people hoping something will stick.

To this end, a buyer persona is an indispensable tool for figuring out who you should be contacting. A buyer persona is a fictional customer who best represents your target market. For business-to-business (B2B) prospecting, you want to include your target:

  • Age
  • Job title
  • Industry
  • Education
  • Salary
  • Challenges
  • Goals
  • Messaging strategy
  • How you help

You might want to follow the example of Ambition and target decision-makers as much as possible. Also, most CRMs support buyer personas. You get all the relevant fields, including title and industry. Since our recommended tool, Prospect.io, already integrates with your CRM, you can tie up this step seamlessly with the data you have already collected in your software.

Don’t have a CRM? Check out our post here for the seven best CRM software tools on the market.

Prospect.io lets you search email addresses and scraps email accounts attached to domains for you. Be sure to use the tool’s email verification feature. Every bounced email counts against your reputation as a sender.

Other strategies for creating a winning list include:

  • Asking your social followers to subscribe
  • Offering free high-quality resources (like ebooks, PDFs, or videos) in exchange for email addresses
  • Include opt-ins on your website or blog
  • Leverage business cards

Email marketing has some of the best ROI of any digital marketing method, so it’s worth spending the extra time and attention to create a high-quality email list.

Test and Measure Your Emails

Finally, it will take time to get everything right. The good news is you can see your response rates and conversion rates go up over time if you are serious about testing and measuring results.

Some of the metrics to look into include:

Bounce rate: The number of emails that aren’t successfully delivered. Watch out for hard bounce. This is where the addresses you are emailing don’t exist. Spam filters record your bounce rate, which can hurt your reputation. Also, a high bounce rate indicates a low-quality email list.

Open rate: This lets you know how many people open your emails. It is an excellent metric for tracking the success of your timing, subject line, and emails. High open rates let you know what you are doing right to replicate it to emails with lower open rates. Shoot for an open rate of between 15-25%.

Response rate: The number of prospects who reply to your emails. The response rate is a better metric of measuring your outreach success than the open rate. Common reasons for low response rates include poor body content and targeting the wrong audience.

Conversion rate: How many prospects signed up for your offering or purchased your product or service. This is the strongest indicator of your outreach success. If your prospects are opening your emails, responding to your requests, but your conversion rates remain low, you may want to look into your call to action.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

There is no such thing as a silver bullet in cold emailing. The results of an outreach campaign vary on a case-by-case basis. Be sure to experiment with different elements of your campaign. This may include tweaking your subject line, value proposition, timing, email template, personalization, and so on.

Also, change one element at a time. This approach helps you to keep accurate track of the impact of your changes.


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