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How to Write Cold Emails That Get Sales

Paid ads. Lead magnets. Social ads. Phone calls. Conferences. Giveaways. Events. Guest blogging. Organic traffic via search engine optimization. There are plenty of ways to generate leads and make sales in the modern world. Heck, even traditional promotion on radio, television, and billboards still has its place. Each has its pros and cons depending on […]

Paid ads. Lead magnets. Social ads. Phone calls. Conferences. Giveaways. Events. Guest blogging. Organic traffic via search engine optimization. There are plenty of ways to generate leads and make sales in the modern world. Heck, even traditional promotion on radio, television, and billboards still has its place.

Each has its pros and cons depending on your goals, niche, target, and location. But if I had to choose just one at the expense of all others, it’d be cold email. It wouldn’t even be close.

The others are all good to varying degrees, but email remains for me the one channel to rule them all. Why?

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Consumers like to receive promotional emails: 86% at least monthly, 61% at least weekly, and a whopping 15% daily.

That’s why.

However, it’s equal parts art and science to write a cold email that a stranger is going to open, read, and take the requested action on. You want to convert. Close. Get the sale.

Let’s make it happen.

Subject Lines

To be blunt, if your subject line is weak, everything else doesn’t matter. Subject lines are absolutely, positively crucial to your email success.

Legendary adman David Ogilvy said that your headline (i.e. subject line) is 80 cents out of your dollar. Spend it wisely. 47% of people decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone.

If it’s not opened, does your email even exist at all?

Nope. So get it opened.

Personalize it. Subject lines with the recipient’s name, company name, or some other personal tidbit get up to 50% higher open rates.

Keep it short. Aim for 3-8 words at the most.

Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity: flash sale, limited-time offer, X number remaining, countdowns, and so on can nudge people into taking action (like opening, clicking, and converting).

Ask a question. Offer a concrete benefit. Pique their curiosity. Be clear, not clever. Lead with a benefit, logic, or “threat.”

Generate at least 3 subject lines for every email. A/B test them (you might be surprised by what you find out). Experiment and optimize to find what works best for your audience.

Email Copy

Getting your email opened is easily half the battle, but a sky-high open rate doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t get to them to take action. That’s where your email copy takes over.

Skip the lengthy intro. Are you going to read a long email from Mr. So-and-So that rambles on and on about him and his company? No. Frankly, no one cares. You need to keep the message crazy short, to the point, and about them. The most effective emails fall between 50 and 125 words in total.

Briefly highlight your value proposition and polish the first line, as many email providers and mobile apps display it in addition to the subject line.

Get fancy with a little psychological savvy. The more you understand human behavior, the better you can craft a message that makes people take action. A good jumping-off point is Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion (reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity).

Avoid vagueness, ambiguity, assumptions, and self-indulgence. Keep it casual and – believe it or not – at a third-grade reading level for maximum impact.

Experiment with some tried-and-true sales and marketing acronyms like the 4Ps or AIDA.

And test, test, test.

Leave the aggressive sales tactics and pitches at home. In fact, it’s worthwhile to treat your initial email as a “creating the relationship” opportunity rather than a “making a sale” attempt. You’re aiming for a response above all else.

Which leads us to …

Cold Doesn’t Mean Cold

Personalize, personalize, personalize – where appropriate, of course. And don’t be creepy. Thoughtful, relevant personalization within the email itself delivers better open and click-through rates, an increase in sales, and more, as seen below:

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We live in the Big Data era. You can find out something about everyone, so ‘cold’ email should never really be cold. The data available for the taking also means we’re living in the personalization golden age.

Head on over to the business websites, or the social media profiles (especially LinkedIn for professionals) of individuals and brands. They’re a treasure trove of information.

Use a tool like Voila Norbert to automatically collect relevant names and details for your prospecting efforts. The more you know, the better you can customize your email message for specific segments.

If you’re using a cold email solution like Mailshake, you can’t necessarily personalize at the individual level if you’re sending out dozens or hundreds of emails. But segmentation allows you to personalize at scale via powerful integrations and merge fields within your segment templates.

You can segment based on location, demographics (like gender or job title), market or industry, company size, past purchases (if any) or behavior, psychographics, and so on. You could even further segment your segments to drill down to as personal a level as possible.

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Consumers expect at least some level of personalization in modern marketing. If you can’t or don’t provide it, they’ll move on to someone who will. It’s that simple.

Segmented email campaigns deliver better results across the board:

The takeaway? Personalize and segment. They want it. You need it.

Follow up

Follow up, follow up, follow up. And then follow up again. Starting to see a pattern?

The importance of the follow-up email can not be stressed enough here.

Here’s the reality of the email game: 70% of unanswered email chains stop after the first message, while 50% of sales happen after the fifth touchpoint.

So here’s the secret to email success: follow up. Studies have shown that subsequent emails after the first one continue to generate good-to-great response rates. One showed an 18% response rate to the first message, 12% to the third, and 27% to the sixth.

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Another saw 30% to the first, 13% to the fifth, and 7% to the tenth.

But don’t just resend the same message. An effective follow-up needs to up the value, add context, and adjust the call-to-action as necessary.

The follow-up email is at least as important as the initial one. Keep. Sending.

Test, Monitor, and Tweak

If you’re not tracking important metrics and optimizing for conversions, you might as well stop altogether. Luckily, any email solution worth its salt makes this ridiculously easy to do.

You should be tracking open rates (aim for 15-30%), response rates (shoot for 10-30%), and/or click-through rates (5%+) at a minimum. Go for the high end. Never be satisfied with hitting that bottom rung.

As a quick rule of thumb, a high open but low response rate means you’ve got a strong subject line but weak copy.

High response rate but low open? Great copy, weak subject line.

The open rate for October 2018 across all industries was 15.75%, while the click-through rate was 7.63%. For marketing and advertising specifically, it was 12.50% and 8.45%, respectively. Falling short of those benchmarks? Fix it. Yesterday.

As the saying goes, that which gets measured, gets managed. So measure the metrics that matter.

A Few Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Beyond the best practices listed above, there are a few other things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your cold email outreach:

Email is the past, present, and future of digital sales and marketing. It’s affordable, powerful, far-reaching, and enormously effective. And anyone can become a master with a little patience and practice.

Keep your cold emails casual, compact, and concise. Personalize and segment as much as your target allows. Test your subject line. Test your copy. Follow-up.

And watch your sales soar.

What’s your recipe for cold email success? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below:

3 Common Messaging Mistakes Made By B2B Companies, and How To Avoid Them

  In my travels as a growth marketing consultant, one the most common utterances I hear from B2B CEOs or Founders is “we need some help with our positioning” or “we need to tighten up our messaging.” The nuance between positioning and messaging aside, the common underlying agita is a feeling that the company is […]

In my travels as a growth marketing consultant, one the most common utterances I hear from B2B CEOs or Founders is “we need some help with our positioning” or “we need to tighten up our messaging.”

The nuance between positioning and messaging aside, the common underlying agita is a feeling that the company is not speaking to potential customers in the most compelling way possible.

There’s a feeling that there’s a disconnect between what’s being said, and the message that would resonate most strongly with potential customers. Or there’s just no consistency in the story that’s being told at all.

As I pondered this, I realized that I’ve never heard this request from a company that’s already doing well. Companies that are already scaling may want to go faster, may want more leads, may want to source bigger deals, or may want to experiment with pricing.

But it’s the companies who are under performing who tend to identify messaging as an area that needs some TLC. And it makes sense – if your messaging isn’t speaking to the pains and desires of your potential customer base, you can do everything else right and still really struggle to achieve your growth goals.

As I studied the companies that self-identified as needing help with their messaging, three patterns began to emerge.

This post will identify some of the common pitfalls B2B companies fall into with their messaging – if you read this and realize your company is guilty of one of these, it may be time to reevaluate the messaging you’re bringing to market.

Let’s dive in.


Self-identifying as #1

Identifying as Number 1

Everybody and every company wants to be “#1.”

That’s OK, but you’re not Nelly.

Think of it this way – selling almost any product is a lot like dating. People buy products from people they like on a personal level, just as they date people they genuinely like on personal level.

Most people are attracted to others who are self aware, and who can speak to their strengths and weaknesses honestly and comfortably. If a guy/gal approached you in a bar and the first thing they said was “I’m the #1 person you should consider dating,” you’d be a little off-put, wouldn’t you?

I find this message to be problematic for a few reasons.

First off, I would argue that the companies that are undeniably #1 in their market don’t often make this proclamation.

They don’t need to, because everyone already knows it.

Salesforce doesn’t tout itself as the #1 CRM on the planet – they don’t need to, as everyone is aware of their market position. That message would be nothing but wasted breath, a missed opportunity for them.

The second problem with this messaging direction is that often it’s either simply not true, or it’s such a vague proclamation that there’s no clear understanding of what makes them #1.

What’s the metric or source of data that you’re leaning on when making that statement? And is that the same metric or source of data that your competitors are relying on when making a similar declaration?

Ultimately this more often than not confuses potential customers and erodes their confidence in your business.

The good news is that the intention behind the “#1” message is most often a good one – what these businesses are after is credibility.

They are trying to increase consumer confidence.

It’s very similar to the notion that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” Companies believe that by saying they’re #1, consumers will feel a level of comfort knowing that they are buying the best.

To solve this problem, ask yourself, “Are my potential customers really trying to buy #1?”

Chances are, probably not – they’re not trying to buy your product simply because it’s the best, they’re trying to buy some unique aspect or characteristic of your product that makes it the best.

What specific attributes of the market leading solution in your industry do buyers care about? The more specific you can be, the better. In the age of buyer empowerment, credibility absolutely does matter – probably more than ever before. Look for other ways to highlight your company’s credibility through social proof, user reviews, testimonials, or any other means that’s more specific and more human than simply declaring your business to be #1.

And if you feel like your company really is #1, take it one step further – what are you #1 in? What makes you #1?

Maybe you have the most customers. Maybe you have the most revenue. Maybe your product is the most reliable on the market by some concrete measure.

Call those items out specifically and more times that not your message will resonate more deeply with your prospective customers.


Self-Identifying as “Next Generation” or “Transformative”

Identifying as Next Generation

How many times have you heard of a new product that represents the “next generation” of a product that you’re already using? How many times have you heard about a product that’s going to “transform” your industry?

Probably quite a few.

Now take a step back – when you’ve heard these sentiments, how many times has the “next generation” product really been that drastically different from what you’re using today?

Better yet, how frequently have you seen your industry “transformed?” Messaging in this direction is often exhausted and almost always results in a product falling short of the expectations that have been set.

Simply put, you can do better.

There are two trends that are common when I’ve seen messaging in this direction.

The first one is that the company guilty of this messaging is a technology company.

Think about that for a moment… this both makes sense, yet makes no sense at all.

Technology companies are interested in using applied science, their own knowledge, and technical means to build something new and better for a practical purpose. They are inherently trying to build the next generation of something that already exists; or they are trying to build something completely new to transform the way a practical task has historically been accomplished.

All of which is to say being “next generation” or “transformative” is part of their DNA – taking the time to state this outright represents once again wasted breath.

The second trend is that once again messaging in this direction comes from a well-intentioned place.

Entrepreneurs and business owners are usually excited about their products – they have to be if they are to have any chance of being successful. With that excitement comes a natural bias towards their own products, and a heightened sense of the differences between their product and other similar products.

With that bias and level of excitement, the differences between products appear larger than they actually are, most often well beyond what are perceived to be meaningful or truly significant differences to the business’ end customers.

Next thing you know, you’re bringing to market a product that you’re calling “next generation” or “transformative.”

The solution to this issue is once a gut check, as well as a higher degree of specificity.

Markets are sometimes transformed, no doubt – but if you’re an entrepreneur, ask yourself “how many times have I heard that? And how many times has it actually come true?”

If you’re honest with yourself it’s pretty rare that a product transforms a market, so take an honest, closer look at the transformative power of your product. Chances are your product is closer to “next generation” than “transformative,” so then ask yourself “what’s next generation about my product specifically?”

There is undoubtedly something specific that you are doing differently that you think offers your customers a better experience.

Call that out, as specifically as you can.

It may feel strange, and it may not feel “big enough” to be one of your leading messages… but chances are it probably is.

Specificity and honesty saves buyers time, builds credibility, and earns your business trust.

What’s more important than that when it comes to messaging that drives business results?


Serving Your Own Needs Rather Than Those of Your Potential Customers

Ignoring Your Customers

The last messaging mistake I commonly see is less specific but even more widespread than the two I’ve mentioned thus far – and best yet, it’s perhaps the easiest to rectify.

Simply stated, it’s messaging that serves the needs of the company and its employees but not the needs of the potential customer.

The easiest way to identify this issue is to read your company’s messaging and simply ask yourself, “Do I care about this, or does our potential customer?”

This mistake can take countless forms.

For sake of illustration, consider “An energetic, innovative CRM company that’s taking down Salesforce.”

While this is a bad hypothetical example, you’ve probably seen messaging somewhat like this before. In fact, this message has some positive feelings to it!

The problems here could be…

  • A) Who is looking for an “energetic” CRM?
  • B) Are buyers specifically looking for an “innovative” CRM? Probably not – most CRM buyers want something functional that serves their needs well.
  • C) Do buyers care about “taking down Salesforce?” Again, probably not.

Sticking with this example, all of these attributes likely DO serve the interest of the company and its employees.

Working in a fast paced, energetic, start-up environment is attractive to many potential employees. Likewise, working at an “innovative” company could help attract top level engineering talent.

And who doesn’t like a David versus Goliath scenario, where you’ve got a chance to take down or disrupt an industry leader? The message may very well be effective in helping the company with recruiting, as well as generating excitement and good will with existing employees of the business.

But if the message isn’t speaking to the pains and desires of the potential customer base, customer acquisition will suffer.




So much has changed in B2B marketing over the last 20, 10, even 5 years – sometimes it’s dizzying to consider.

But some marketing fundamentals are forever. Taking the time to carefully consider whether your business’s messaging serves the interests of your potential buyers is an exercise that will always pay dividends.

Watch out for the three pitfalls described above, and pressure test your existing messaging for self-serving bias as well as it’s level of specificity.

The Ultimate Guide to Convincing Your Boss to Send You to Growth Marketing Conference

So. You probably already know about Growth Marketing Conference. Nearly everybody in the industry does… It’s the leading event in the growth marketing space – featured in both Forbes and – and it’s not hard to see why. Growth Marketing Conference hosts world-class speakers – thought leaders from Neil Patel and Sean Ellis, to […]

So. You probably already know about Growth Marketing Conference.

Nearly everybody in the industry does…

It’s the leading event in the growth marketing space – featured in both Forbes and – and it’s not hard to see why.

Growth Marketing Conference hosts world-class speakers – thought leaders from Neil Patel and Sean Ellis, to Andrew Chen and Rand Fishkin – offers actionable, hands-on workshops taught by real-world practitioners, and showcases the latest growth marketing tools and technologies.

Growth Marketing Conference is our one-stop-shop for growth success.

And as we both know, growth matters in our industry.

Because if we’re not growing, our competitors are.

And we simply can’t afford that.

We have to be competitive. Now more than ever.

So, let make take the lead on this.

Send me to the Growth Marketing Conference so I can learn the strategies and tactics that really move the growth needle, and network with big brands like Oracle, Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

I can choose between:

  • Growth Marketing Conference B2B, June 28-29 in San Francisco
  • Growth Marketing Conference Global, December 6-7 in San Francisco

And if I register in the next 7 days, I’ll save $400 off my ticket!

Register Me for Growth Marketing Conference B2B (San Francisco)

Register Me for Growth Marketing Conference Global (San Francisco)

And when I get back to the office, I’ll give you growth numbers you can really be proud of!