How to Write a Cold Email: 5 Essential Tips

How to Write a Cold Email: 5 Essential Tips

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Last updated on February 28th, 2023 at 05:54 pm

Knowing how to write a cold email is a fundamental skill for sales reps.

In fact, Statista projects a continual growth of email users reaching 4.5 billion by 2025.

Where there’s email, there’s business.

It’s still a competitive inbox though.

With more email communication comes a greater chance for yours to be lost among the crowd.

You may like your chances with an average email open rate hovering around 30% for all industries, but consider that number drops to 20% for Consulting Services (think advertising, marketing) and just 19% for Technology Services.

For B2B salespeople in SaaS, this means you’ll have to fight for every second of attention.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you sharpen up your cold emailing game.

Below, we’ll run through the following 5 main tips to craft better cold emails for new SDR recruits and AE veterans alike.

1. Do your research

To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to qualify your prospects and make sure they’re the best person to contact.

Even minor personalization at an industry scale helps. How?

First, identify how your product or solution will best fit with this particular company.

Next, ask yourself: am I speaking to the right person?

This second step bears an explanation.

Top decision-makers and those who sign the checks are important, no doubt. If you can catch the big CMO or VP fish, by all means, go for it.

By simply recognizing who (by title or department) will be using your product, you gain a significant chance of generating interest.

Finding the ideal prospect is a task in and of itself. LinkedIn is an invaluable tool that can help you uncover who it is you need to invest your time into via Search, Sales Navigator, or a good old-fashioned referral.

Once they’ve been identified, it’s time to get to know them.

There are several ways to go about this:

  • Monitor any buying behavior or signals through their LinkedIn profile
  • Take a look at any of their interests via the content they share or create on other social media outlets
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn and interact with what they post by liking, commenting, or sharing
  • Perform a quick Google search to read up on any news surrounding their company or career

Not everyone leaves the same digital footprint. Some prospects are more private than others.

Regardless, going the extra mile by including their name in the subject line or something relevant to their interests in the first few sentences can create the impression you need to get their attention.

2. Provide social proof

The mental heuristic known as social proof is popular in marketing for a reason.

Quickly defined, social proof is when your brain is persuaded by something based on how others respond to it.

For example, in the sales world, this would be a customer success story or testimonial. Buyers are more likely to gravitate toward a product with good reviews or a business with many customers.

This seems obvious, but assuring a prospect it’s safe to buy your product – “it’s what others are doing” – is a critical element to the sale.

After all, we’re creatures led by behavioral expectations that are difficult to ignore.

And we don’t like taking too many risks.

When it comes to cold email, the first touch should ideally focus on the prospect, at least in the first few lines. That said, you’ll need to build some credibility eventually.

To do this, mention some companies you’re already working with that are relevant to the prospect. Either a competitor or a logo with strong brand value will do.

However, nothing provides better social proof for your product than an internal champion. This is the final part of the sales qualification MEDDIC, where someone within your target company creates your reputation for you.

It’s a bit of sales voodoo, but finding a referral from the inside – and especially one who can be an advocate for the solution you offer – is a surefire way to build strong social proof and brand authority.

3. Offer value

Sales professionals have a reputation for sending unsolicited greetings via email or phone.

For years, traditional sales was strictly a numbers game.

You’d create a template, build a list of contacts, and fire off thousands of emails with a prayer that a handful respond positively.

With the amount of email traffic out there filling up inboxes of already busy executives, cold email outreach has had to evolve. In addition to personalizing your outreach, you have to offer value to a prospect.

Long gone are the days of extracting value from prospects by simply asking for their time or energy. The first touch should aim to build a relationship, and a great way to start that relationship is to give.

Try offering any of the following:

  • A link to your company’s blog that demonstrates knowledge or expertise in the industry
  • An ebook, whitepaper, or report that illustrates how your product resolves customer’s problems
  • A trending article directly related to the industry your prospect may find interesting
  • An invitation to a webinar with like-minded industry experts
  • A live demo of your product

Leading by giving establishes a good first impression and further sets you apart from the typical cold email crowd that jumps straight to asking for a call. I

t also falls under the persuasion principle of reciprocity where positive social action is exchanged for another positive social action, for the benefit of both.

Give and you shall receive.

4. Be brief and clear

You’re not here to waste your time nor your prospect’s.

Long, meandering emails detailing your company’s history of successes don’t last long in an inbox. Instead, keep it short and to the point.

This starts with the subject line.

The subject line is the first thing a prospect will see so it’s your first chance to generate interest, foster a little curiosity, and evoke a sense of urgency.

There are libraries of advice out there on what makes the perfect subject line, so experiment with what works for you, but we recommend:

  • Keeping it around 5 words, and no more than 50 characters where possible
  • Making it personal, include their name or that of their company
  • Avoiding any kind of spammy language to trick them into opening
  • Being honest and transparent
  • Keeping it informal

Often the first line of your email is as important as the subject line. An opening line is visible before a prospect even opens the email, giving them a preview of what they’re about to see.

Don’t forget mobile

In addition to compelling copy upfront, write for mobile. Over 60% of emails are read on mobile, so remember to be generous with white space, use bullet points where necessary, and keep the message concise.

Finally, when wrapping up an email don’t forget to be specific in your CTA. Have a clear purpose. You want to be clear about the action the recipient should take.

The end goal may be for them to buy your product, but you’ll first need to win their trust. The first step to doing that is taking the guesswork out of a CTA and not being pushy.

The idea is to start a conversation – at first in an email and then on a call.

For more on email length, check out our post on how long a cold email should be.

5. Use psychology

We’ve already covered how to use social proof and its importance in persuading risk-averse prospects. It is just one way psychology can be used to elicit a response from a prospect.

Let’s review some others, starting with one of the most universal emotions: humor.

Few things set a tone right like humor. Everybody likes to laugh.

That said, using humor in a cold email requires you to read the room a little. Ask yourself: is this the right time to be funny?

In the spirit of being informal, dropping a meme as a follow-up is a great way to break the pattern of strictly text emails and catch their attention.

In fact, using humor is an excellent example of pattern interrupt. Pattern interrupt is a psychological tool traditionally used by psychologists to break people out of familiar thinking habits and into a desired behavior.

In the world of sales, it’s the key to getting a positive response out of people conditioned to say no. A well-timed (and professional) pattern interrupt can effectively open your prospect up to a worthwhile, positive interaction.

With this in mind, use powerful words that evoke emotion. Ideally what words you use will make the prospect feel safe, or at the very least not negatively pressured to respond.

However, you still want to address their pain point and create a bit of urgency where the prospect is trying to overcome a challenge or resolve a problem.

You can follow up by offering an immediate reward in the form of a resource; either yourself should they need you to help them in the future or something more material like an invite to a demo or whitepaper for them to read on their own time.

Bonus tips

With these 5 tips, you should be more than prepared to write a cold email. As a bonus, let’s run through some final extra details that can really elevate your cold email above and beyond the inbox regulars.

First, to sign off each email with a good impression, don’t forget to include a professional signature at the bottom of your email.

Not only does this make you seem like a real human being – an incredibly valuable characteristic to any salesperson – but it can also build legitimacy for your company.

It should include your name, title, address, and especially a link to your company’s website. You can even get creative and leave a calendar link with a brief CTA to make starting a conversation even easier for the prospect.

The AIDA model

Second, consider the AIDA model. Commonly used in marketing, the AIDA model breaks down the 4 stages of a buyer journey a consumer makes before reaching a decision.

AIDA stands for:

Attention: Attracting the consumer and making them aware of your product.

Interest: Keeping the consumer’s attention and convincing them why they’ll want it by either assuaging their pain point or demonstrating social proof.

Desire: Stimulating a need for the product and building trust through engagement with the content you offer.

Action: Moving the consumer to take action through a CTA.

The AIDA model can be used as a loose framework to build your email around or simply one to keep in mind when qualifying your prospect.

One last extra tip is to avoid over-using templates wherever possible. Most prospects will recognize a template, and it’ll have the opposite effect of leaving them feeling like a number.

At the very least, be sure to personalize the template you use so it’s unique to the prospect and puts the focus on them and not what you’re selling.

These tips are the basis for any effective cold email outreach, but remember to regularly test what works best for you with honesty and empathy. The goal is to foster trust between you and a prospect by giving.

If you follow these tips you can expect response and click-through rates to rise, but even better you’ll see growth in more meaningful, long-term relationships.