Selling Signals

Top 25 Cold Email Tips for Sales Prospecting Success

Check out our curated list of cold email tips from expert salespeople and veteran business professionals so you can convert more cold leads.

Cold emailing is one of the most effective, most scalable, and simplest methods for generating new leads for your business. For these reasons, it’s a popular sales prospecting technique. However, this means other salespeople are filling up your prospects’ inboxes with messages of their own, so you must stand out from the competition. We’ve compiled the best advice on how to do that after speaking with cold emailing experts.

  • Tips for Cold Email Preparation: Learn what to do before you start writing your emails so you can reach the right leads with a compelling message. Read more below.
  • Tips for Writing a Cold Email: Get expert advice on how to structure your email, as well as what information to prioritize in your message. Read more below.
  • Tips for Perfecting Your Tone: Beyond the mechanics of the email, understand how to come across as confident, helpful, and human. Read more below.
  • Tips for Cold Email Follow-up and Improvement: Read how top-notch cold emailers get responses to their emails while learning from and improving their strategy. Read more below.

Tips for Cold Email Preparation

Before you draft your cold emails, it’s important to find the right leads and their contact information; research the leads; and make a plan to send, track, and improve your emails. Check out these expert tips for cold email prep:

1. Find Emails the Right Way

Find your leads' emails manually or with a trusted service. Chief digital marketing executive Caio Bersot told us why his team avoids using bots to find email addresses for them:

“I know many people use bots to generate email addresses, which is totally wrong. We used numerous popular tools but the results were very poor. We found out 30% emails scraped by bots were invalid,  90% emails were generic and 5% had incorrect first names. So we moved to the full manual process, from collecting emails to adding leads into the CRM. Our cold mail conversion rates have increased by 70% since last year.”

— Caio Bersot, Chief Digital Marketing Executive, Rank-it.ca

If you don’t have time to source all of your email addresses manually, be sure to hire a trustworthy company, such as a quality email finder service or lead generation company, to help you find them.

2. Dedicate an Address to Cold Emailing

Once you find the email addresses you plan to use, verify each one. If you’re still worried about bounce rates or being kicked to spam, however, consider creating a secondary email domain to send cold emails. Marketing agency owner Megan Brown told us how best to do this:

“Cold emailing is still a good way to increase your leads. Never use your own email address or domain for cold emails, or you risk getting flagged and not being able to communicate with your clients because you are getting sent to their spam folder. Use a different email address, and make sure that you warm it up by sending and receiving a few emails. Signing up for newsletters is a good way to get consistent inbound emails.”

— Megan Brown, Owner, MB Marketing LLC

While verifying email addresses before contacting your leads is still a vital step of the process, using a separate email address for your cold emails could safeguard your domain’s integrity.

3. Identify a Single Goal

Figure out what exactly you want it to accomplish, then keep that goal in mind. It can be any of the examples COO Mia Green gave us, or another goal that better fits your business:

“A perfect and effective cold email should have ONE specific mission. Before you sit down to craft it, you should be clear on what you intend to accomplish from it. Some examples of goals include promoting a new product, boosting social media presence, gaining traffic to a landing page, or driving sales, to mention a few. The [email] should push that single goal from top to bottom as including diverse info might confuse or annoy the reader.”

— Mia Green, Chief Operating Officer, FindThisBest

Getting clear on what you’re hoping to achieve through your cold emails will help you focus on that goal as you write it, and will therefore boost your success rate.

Ken Olling

4. Find the Decision Maker

In B2B sales, send your cold email to the employee whose responsibilities, goals, and concerns line up with your solution. Rather than blasting out your message to C-suite executives in hopes they’ll pass it down, email the person who best matches your ICP. Chairman Ken Olling supports this advice:

“A widespread belief is that in order to win business, you must first reach out to the big boss or final decision maker. While this may be true in some cases, it isn't true in the vast majority. Individuals in companies are in charge of many aspects of the firm. You'll obtain better results if you contact the head of the department that oversees your line of business.”

— Ken Olling, Co-Founder & Chairman, MELD

When you aren’t sure who the decision maker is, reaching out to more than one person in the company — as long as they have the appropriate job title — can increase the chances of landing on the decision maker, and it also has the potential to create buzz around your offer.

Sean OBrien

5. Research Your Leads

The first thing on someone’s mind when opening a cold email is “Is this email meant specifically for me or has it been sent out indiscriminately to the world?” To show the lead that you wrote the email for their eyes only, research them before emailing, like CMO Sean O’Brien:

“Cold prospecting emails are easy to write once you have done the necessary research to customize the email. For example, if you are targeting a certain client, you want to first research that client so you can prepare an intelligent and eye popping email. Find out things like who their competitors are, what they are currently using and who to specifically send the email to at the company.”

— Sean O’Brien, Chief Marketing Officer, Modloft

Read the lead’s profile on their company's “team” page. Scan their LinkedIn or social media profiles to figure out what they spend their days doing (e.g., managing a team, making big picture plans, living in the details). Then spin your value proposition or pain point statement to fit their specific situation.

Paige Arnof Fenn

6. Email Leads in the Morning

When you send your cold email matters. A rule of thumb is to send the email an hour before your average leads arrive at work. This heightens the chances that they’ll see and read it. Check out CEO Paige Arnof-Fenn’s support for this rule:

“The worst time to make a cold call to prospects in any region is 8–10 a.m. when everyone is rushing to work and preparing for the day but the worst time to call is the best time to email. Once employees are at work, the first hour is generally spent checking emails and organizing the day. During this hour, your email has a higher chance of visibility. Sending an email during their transit period places your email on top, among the first they see as they open their inbox.”

— Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls

So, if you know your leads start working at a certain time, send your cold email to each of them an hour beforehand. If you send it too early or too late, it might get buried by the other emails in their inbox. Sometimes just getting in front of the prospect at the right time is half the battle for their attention.

Tips for Writing a Cold Email

After you’ve completed the preparation that will help your emails be successful, it’s time to start writing them. Follow these experienced sellers’ advice for drafting powerful emails that will inspire leads to respond:

7. Personalize Each Email

Leads want to work with businesses that know who they are, what they do, and what they struggle with so they can put their trust into a product or service. Content manager Nicolas Holand told us how he personalizes the emails he sends:

“Avoid sounding like a template. The more personalized, the better. Templates can be very useful especially as it is time-saving; however, if you want your cold email to stand out and not be disregarded, put some effort into how not to make it sound like a template. [Make] your email sound more genuine so you'll get higher chances of getting a response. Start by tweaking your language so it will sound more real.”

— Nicolas Holand, Content Manager, GooseSmurfs

As Nicolas stated, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a cold email template, as it can help you remember the key components to include and save you time if you have many cold emails to send. Just make sure to personalize each email enough to make the template feel like an email written specifically for the recipient.

Petra Odak - Better Proposals

8. Avoid Burying the Lede

Be straightforward with what you’re offering and what you want your prospect to do if they’re interested in learning more about it. By no means be cryptic; people don’t like sales reps to waste their time. CMO Petra Odak explained how to avoid getting on the lead’s bad side:

“People hate it when you waste their time. Don’t try and build interest over a series of emails — state what you want in the first email and be clear about your offer. That way, your prospect can immediately tell if they want to dedicate time to you or not. Also, if you’re half-way through a sequence, it’s a good idea to send a proposal rather than a typical email. When you use proposal software, you’ll be able to see whether the prospect opened the email, how much they read and where they spend the most time. These bits of information can help you greatly in making the sale.”

— Petra Odak, Chief Marketing Officer, Better Proposals

If a lead is a perfect fit, sending an unsolicited proposal can be a great way to stand out. Send them a one-page proposal so you don’t have to spend too much time writing and designing it. This will capture the leads who want clear, upfront info to make a decision about stepping into a new sales cycle.

9. Include All Key Components

As you structure your email, remember to include all the elements that make up an effective cold email. VP of revenue growth and enablement Kyle Coleman drafted a list:

“There are 5 key elements to writing an effective cold email that's 50-100 words:

  • A short subject line, 1-3 words, that relates to the email body and leaves enough room for preview text to be seen before opening the email.
  • The first line of the email should be personalized or have resonance with the recipient. Show them that this email is for them.
  • Bring up a challenge they face or are likely to face based on the first line in your email.
  • Offer up your solution to that challenge.
  • End with an interest-based call-to-action, not an ask for time.”

— Kyle Coleman, Vice President of Revenue Growth and Enablement, Clari

After you write your email, quickly scan it to ensure you’ve included all necessary details. For more on how exactly to draft the components, read our article on writing a cold email.

10. Follow the AIDA Model

When in doubt, follow a specific model to structure your cold email. Outbound manager Yulia Zubova told us how she and her team spark attention, interest, desire, and action in the leads they cold email:

“We recommend building your cold email based on the AIDA copywriting model that presupposes four elements: attention, interest, desire, action. First, catch the prospect’s attention with a hooking opening sentence. Then, appeal to their interest by highlighting their pain points. After that, stimulate desire for your product or service by sharing how it helped others, providing social proof, etc. Finally, end your cold email by asking the prospect for a specific action (e.g., watch your demo, agree on a sales meeting).”

— Yulia Zubova, Outbound Manager, Snov.io

When you write an email in this way, put yourself in the mind of the recipient and ask yourself whether it would inspire the four elements of the AIDA model for you.

Sherry Morgan

11. Mention the Lead's Pain Points Early

The best way to motivate your ideal customer to respond to your email is to mention frustrations they suffer from early on in the email. People want solutions to their problems, and if they suspect you have it, they’ll speak with you. Here’s what founder Sherry Morgan said about stating pain points:

“Hit a pain point and be relevant. For most salespeople, this is what converts to sales most. This is because hitting pain points will make prospects feel like they are valued, they are seen, and they are heard. This then results in getting their interest into your business because they feel like they have someone or something to lean on just by how you hit a pain point you didn't realize would take effect to begin with.”

— Sherry Morgan, Founder, Petsolino

List no more than three pain points. The more you learn about a lead from your research, the more likely you are to pick a frustration that they actually have. And if you strike a sore spot they’ve long hoped to remove, chances of a meeting are high.

12. Inspire the Lead to Solve the Pain Points

Once you state a lead’s probable pain points in your cold email, explain the cost of letting those pain points go unchecked, as CEO Michael Hammelburger said:

“Provide stakes. If clients don’t solve the issue with your solution, what exactly are they losing? You don’t need to say it in visible terms, but trying to allude to the risks factors of your sales pitch can help you secure a straightaway buy-in.”

— Michael Hammelburger, CEO, Sales Therapy

Sometimes, your lead will be suffering from pain points but won’t see the urgency to remedy them. This presents you with an opportunity: help them understand why they should fix them, and they’ll be more likely to let you help them do so.

13. Ask If They’re Interested in Learning More

Most people won't be ready to hop on a five-minute call after receiving a cold email that named a pain point and an offer. They want to do some research on their own first. Try asking the prospect if they’re interested in learning more using marketing communications manager Alex Ellison's advice:

"There are a number of different calls-to-action (CTAs) you can use at the end of your email to promote follow-up from the prospect. However, many of today’s buyers are wary of the hard ask for a meeting. They know how sales pipelines work and unless they're really interested, they don’t want to jump into the funnel right away. In these cases, it's often useful to ask if they're interested in something other than a meeting, like a webinar recording or another piece of collateral, to keep them warm and informed while they think about whether or not to take that meeting."

— Alex Ellison, Marketing Communications Manager, demandDrive

After they state interest, send them the information they requested, and follow up with them in a few days to see if they’d like to have a call.

Matthew Stormoen

14. Use a Meeting Scheduling Tool

Make it easy for leads to schedule a meeting with you. With meeting scheduling software, you can include a link in your cold email that people can click to schedule a meeting with you. One such tool is Calendly, which CEO Matthew Stormoen recommended:

“I find that including a Calendly link in my email signature has increased our number of meetings and demonstrations with potential clients; via my Calendly, leads can conveniently schedule a meeting with me without much back and forth.”

— Matthew Stormoen, Co-Founder & CEO, Mobibi, Inc

Anything you can do to reduce the friction that comes with complying with your call-to-action will increase your positive cold email outcomes. People have a lot going on and that extra effort of manually finding a time that works for both of you might dissuade them from even trying.

15. Mention Your Lead’s Goals in the Subject Line

A subject line that grabs hold of the prospect’s attention increases the odds that they open and read the email. To do this, the subject line should make it clear that this email is relevant to the specific prospect. Head of growth Nikita Agarwal provided tips and examples to create a great subject line:

“The subject line should look natural. Like a friend or colleague sent it. If you use Title Case, it's a dead giveaway that it's a promotional email. Use sentence case and keep the subject simple. We use the following subject lines: ‘Strategy to get more users,’ ‘Translations for global expansion,’ ‘Grow globally with localization.’ ”

— Nikita Agarwal, Head of Growth, Milestone Localization

Nikita’s example subject lines are relevant to her cold email recipients and their pain points and goals. When possible, structure your subject line in this way to tell the recipient what they can expect to get from the email.

16. Write a Strong CTA

While a strong subject line can inspire leads to open your email, a strong call-to-action can inspire them to respond to it. Sales head David Morgan expanded on the importance of a great CTA:

“[A] strong call to action at the end of the email not only generates interest and desire in the client regarding your client but also reinforces the feeling of taking an action right away. . . . Therefore, a good, catchy CTA is as important as a clickbait subject line, as it increases the chances of the customer actually replying back. A strong subject line will draw the buyer in to read your email, whereas a strong call to action will compel him to buy your product!”

— David Morgan, Sales Head, Snorkel Mart

Make your CTA clear, simple, and actionable, and more of your leads will likely respond positively to your cold emails.

Jennifer Harder

17. Create a Trust-Evoking Email Signature

When people receive cold emails, they want to ensure that the sender is legitimate. To increase your credibility, create an email signature that tells the recipient who you are and how to reach you, as CEO Jennifer Harder suggested:

“The majority of prospects regard your signature as an indication of trustworthiness. Your signature should not detract from the material, but it should demonstrate that you are a genuine individual who can be trusted. Remember, this is the recipient's first email from you, so make sure their ‘Spidey senses’ aren't triggered. Signatures should be brief and include the following information: name in full, title of job or profession, phone number, address of a website or other online profile (e.g., LinkedIn), photo of yourself (preferred) or the logo of your company (decent).”

— Jennifer Harder, Founder & CEO, Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers

Updating your email signature is easy. If you use Gmail, follow these instructions for changing your signature. If you use Microsoft Outlook, follow these instructions. To learn how for another email provider, google “how to change my email signature for {Provider’s Name}.”

Tips for Perfecting Your Tone

Before you hit “send” on your emails, read these tips to make sure you’ve found the appropriate tone that portrays confidence and trustworthiness to your leads and makes them feel as if you have their best interest at heart:

18. Start With a Compliment

When you personalize your email, don’t be afraid to start with a little flattery that shows your lead you’re intentionally emailing them and warms them up a bit. Founder Robert Gate elaborated on how to do this:

“Always make sure to establish relevance to give them a reason to keep reading. At all costs, never highlight that you’re a stranger. First lines like ‘You don’t know me, but…’ or ‘We've never met, but…’ are a big no and will surely get you ignored. Instead, talk about them. First lines like ‘I’m in awe of the work you’ve done…’ or ‘I’ve never learned a lot from just a single piece of content, but with yours, I was totally blown away…’ are surefire ones. After all, who doesn’t like to be complimented?”

— Robert Gate, Founder & Chief Editor, Archery Topic

When you can motivate your lead to let their guard down when they start reading your email, they’ll be more likely to absorb the rest of your message.

Richard Latimer

19. Write Conversationally

When drafting a cold email, write how you talk while maintaining a respectful tone, and mirror how they write on their social profiles or website. CEO Richard Latimer backed up this advice:

“You must speak their language if you want your prospects to take your emails seriously. Pay close attention to the words used in the online profiles of your prospects. In their About section or role descriptions, do they use highly technical or industry terms? We can learn about your prospects' preferred tone and words by observing how they communicate.”

— Richard Latimer, CEO, Veritas Buyers

There’s no need to be sophisticated in your writing when prospecting for new business with cold emails. Big words and complex sentences can be difficult to read and comprehend.

20. Use Humor to Humanize Yourself

Consider throwing a couple professional jokes into your emails to differentiate yourself from other sellers, as digital marketing strategist Joseph Bushnell said: 

“Using humour can be a very smart tactic for cold email outreach. It can help you stand out from the myriad of spammy emails they’re getting and it can bring down the reader’s defences where they might otherwise be very guarded.”

— Joseph Bushnell, Digital Marketing Strategist, josephbushnell.com

Many of your leads will appreciate this humor not just in the moment, but in thinking about what it would be like to work with you. People don’t necessarily want all business all the time. In sales, the human-to-human connection is often a deciding factor in who your leads choose to work with.

Paul Ace

21. Position Yourself as a Problem Solver

How you position yourself to the lead early on matters. If you come across not as a salesperson, but as a peer with some unique ideas for solving their problems, they might want to hear you out. CEO Paul Ace shares how to get in the correct mindset when sending cold emails:

“The crucial part of a cold email is not to ‘sell.’ Instead, aim to position yourself at the same level as the person you are reaching out to and treat them like you already know them. Think about what help you can provide this person. Why should this person get on a call with you? What is in it for them? From experience, you're bound to close more sales calls this way.”

— Paul Ace, CEO, Amplify C-Com

In your email, name a few common issues of companies similar to the lead and explain how you solve them. You’ll seem like someone who genuinely believes they can fix the problem.

22. Portray Confidence

Leads want to work with salespeople who are confident about their business and its product or service, as well as their own ability to work well with the lead. Co-founder Chris Panteli explained this in detail:

“I think the main thing is to be authentic, write naturally and write with confidence. People can tell when you’re not confident. It might appeal to your higher brain which is trying to make sense of why you’re writing about their interests when you don’t sound very convincing when they can see that you’re somehow faking it. This is why it’s important to cold email with confidence. I think it helps to break it down into the few main benefits the reader will get, and be honest about how it will help them.”

— Chris Panteli, Co-Rounder, SaaSWins

Luckily, it’s often easier to sound confident in a cold email than on a cold call. Write out your cold email, then adjust it as necessary to portray the confidence in yourself that will entice your lead to put their trust in you.

23. Use Power Words

Ignite your inner motivational speaker to inspire your leads to take action. Founder Eric Ang explained how to use power words appropriately to get better results from your cold emails:

“Power words evoke an emotional reaction from your reader and will hold their attention if you’ve hit your mark. These power words should be solution-related and might include words like ‘overcome,’ ‘elevate,’ or even ‘stop.’ Power words are useful for subject lines or opening lines. However, don’t oversaturate the body of the email with them or you might end up sounding aggressive.”

— Eric Ang, Founder, One Search Pro

Power words are great to communicate your confidence in your product or service as well as empower your lead and get them excited to remedy their pain points with your help.

Tips for Cold Email Follow-up & Improvement

Once you've sent your cold email, your work is not done yet. The experts below told us how they follow up on unanswered emails and make adjustments to their messaging to get more responses to future emails.

24. A/B Test Your Emails

As you write and send emails, A/B test them so you know what's working and what's not. CEO Cody Miles told us how to do this:

“The biggest hurdle to cold emailing is starting the conversation; with the massive amount of emails we receive on a daily basis, it can be difficult even to get people to open them, much less follow through on a call to action. However, cold emailing does work, and works well, when it’s done right. The key is to A/B test your introductory emails, then pay attention to the cold emails you receive, and modify your A/B testing accordingly. It might take a little extra effort, but eventually, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what your target audience responds best to.”

— Cody Miles, Founder & CEO, Ashore

Cold emailing is largely a game of trial and error, so strategically try different types of emails, then track their results and tweak your messaging as necessary.

25. Allow Leads to Quickly Respond to Follow-Ups

Even if you write a strong cold email, busy leads might not respond if it's not easy or fast enough to do. If a lead doesn't answer your first email, help them respond to your follow-up email within a few seconds by trying business development manager Artur Prokopchyk’s suggestion: 

“The one cold emailing tip that always shows a good response rate is ‘letter with a choice.’ Might be sent as a second or the last [email] when an addressee received an email but didn't reply. It looks something like this:

Dear NAME,

Hello, I dropped you a message earlier and haven't heard back from you. My product/service might not be interesting for you, and that's ok. I just want to understand if this is really the case. Please reply simply by indicating the letter:

  • A. Please stop trying to contact me; I'm not interested in your services.
  • B. Please stop trying to contact me but keep me informed about your products.
  • C. We are interested in the product you offer, but have no time. Let's talk later.
  • D. We are interested and ready to discuss next steps.
  • E. Who are you and what do you do?

The text is customizable according to your business needs and situation.”

—  Artur Prokopchyk, Business Development Manager, Code Inspiration

While some of the leads you email won't respond because they're not interested, others might simply be strapped for time. Giving them permission to send you a single letter can help you understand their interest level and your next steps.

Bottom Line: Cold Email Tips

Remember that your cold email serves the purpose of opening up a conversation with a potential buyer during the lead generation stage. It’s not to talk about all the wonderful features of your product or service. The serious selling comes later in the process. Follow these tips, and focus on hooking the prospect and building trust and interest by writing an email that speaks directly to their needs, pain points, and objectives.

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