How to Write a Cold Email That Actually Works in 9 Steps

Read our article on how to write a cold email for the step-by-step process of crafting, sending, and following up on effective cold emails.

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Cold emails are introductory messages that salespeople send to cold leads to pitch a product or service and inspire an action — typically scheduling a sales call. To write one, salespeople research their lead and write an email that focuses on 1–2 relevant pain points and how their solution can resolve the issue. Knowing how to quickly and effectively craft a personalized cold email will help you generate more leads for your business.

Cold Email Format & Free Template

We created a free cold email template to help you efficiently write a cold email with the ideal structure. You can download it along with 12 niche-specific examples below. The template includes effective verbiage that you can tweak as well as blanks you can fill in to tailor each email to your specific needs. The template also contains the vital format of any cold email:

  • From and Subject Lines: Grab your cold lead's attention with an informative from line and an engaging subject line.
  • Introduction: Briefly introduce yourself and your company, including a bit about why you're emailing, before moving into your pitch.
  • Quick Pitch: Deliver a quick elevator pitch and effectively communicate your unique selling proposition (USP) so the lead will be interested in learning more.
  • Call-to-Action and Signature: End the email with a specific and clear call-to-action (CTA) proposing next steps, and sign off with your name, information, and headshot.

For detailed steps on the format of a cold email and how to fill out your template, check out our article on the best cold email template and format. Below, we’ll break down each step of writing a cold email, from preparation to follow-up. Follow them to fill out your template or to create a cold email from scratch. Regardless, try to keep your cold email to under 200 words. If you go over that limit, your email should be highly personalized to the recipient.

How to Write a Cold Email in 9 Steps

Here, we’ll show you the step-by-step process for writing a cold email that’s personalized, engaging, succinct, and therefore effective at getting replies from cold leads. The preparatory work involves getting the lead’s email address and researching them. Then you’ll write an email that creates desire and action. Finally, you’ll follow up and track the results.  

Here are the nine steps for writing a cold email that works: 

how to write a cold email steps

Now, let’s dive into the comprehensive descriptions of each step. After reading, you’ll walk away feeling confident that you have the power at your fingertips to get positive replies from some of the busiest decision makers out there.

1. Find Lead Email Addresses

You can find your leads’ email addresses in a variety of ways. The most cost-effective options are email finder tools or manual research, and the most expensive but efficient option is paying a lead generation company to find leads and their information for you. The time you save and data accuracy is often worth the cost. 

Here are the main ways salespeople find leads’ email addresses: 

  • Social Media: Check each lead’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other social pages, and use the advanced search tool each one offers (for example, LinkedIn Sales Navigator).
  • Company Website: Message the general email address listed on their company website, or try to find the lead’s email address on the “about,” “team,” or “contact us” pages.
  • Email Finder Service: Use a service that finds email addresses from the lead’s website or gives you access to a searchable database.
  • Lead Generation Company: Task a lead generator with finding qualified leads for you and collecting their contact information so you can reach out to them directly.

Try out each of these methods, and choose one or a few to use simultaneously according to your business and resources. To avoid sending your well-crafted cold email into the ether, it’s worthwhile to create a verification process using an email verification tool. Doing this credibility check and research before even crafting the email improves your efficiency in a sometimes daunting task.


Additional Reading:

To learn more about the various methods to identify your leads’ emails, read our article on how to find email addresses. There, you’ll find the steps involved in each method to ensure you get the most out of your efforts.

2. Research Your Lead

Conduct online research of your lead’s social profiles, company website, and personal website to learn about them. Also consider doing a reverse email lookup. Overall, this shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Just a little research can make a huge difference in the level of personalization of your cold email, which will make the email more interesting to the lead. 

During research, look for the following pieces of information: 

  • Pain Point the Lead Likely Has: This will be your hook. Figure out what problems the lead likely has based on their role, company, and more. The issue should of course also be one that your business solves. 
  • Lead’s Company Details: If you’re researching a B2B lead, learn about their company’s size, recent events, news, and mission. Check review sites to find issues their customers are having with their product or service. 
  • Lead’s Job Responsibilities: For B2B leads, figure out what they do on a daily basis. What are their top priorities? How can you help them? 
  • Lead’s Interests and Hobbies: Learn about what the lead enjoys so that you can write introductory small talk that grabs their attention and shows this email is for them. 

Of the above, the most crucial element is a relevant pain point to include in your email copy. This is a probable issue according to their role, company details, and other information. When you actually start writing the email, you should mention this relevant problem in your subject line to get their attention, and you should also reiterate it at the beginning of your pitch section.

3. Begin With a Template

A cold email template is a prewritten cold email that contains blank fields you’ll fill in to tailor the message to your business and the lead. About 75% of the email prose will already be written, but, just like the blanks, you can edit the writing to make it better fit your situation. Templates can speed up the drafting process and give you guidance on what to include in your cold email. 

Here’s the typical outline of a cold email (and hence a cold email template): 

  • From Line: The name your lead will see in their inbox before clicking into the email.
  • Subject Line: This is where you write the reason a lead should open your email. 
  • Introduction: Here you introduce yourself and your business, while also making any appropriate research-based small talk regarding a commonality you two share. 
  • Pitch: This should mention a relevant pain point, your solution to it, and the benefits the lead will receive if they buy your solution. 
  • Call-to-Action: Here you’ll ask them to take a specific action with you during a time frame or on certain dates/times.  
  • Signature: This is where you’ll include your sign-off and, below it, your contact information, title, and any other portfolios, case studies, or web pages they should check out to learn more. 

When you use a template, you can be sure to include all necessary components. You’ll also be able to write your cold email more quickly since most of the verbiage will remain the same, and you can simply personalize it for each new lead you contact.


Additional Reading:

For a free generic cold email template plus situation-specific templates for B2B, B2C, certain industries, or other scenarios, check out our article on cold email templates and how to use them.

4. Use an Attractive “From” Line

The from line is the first thing the recipient sees, so make it count. Your from line dictates how your name appears in the recipient’s inbox before they click on the email. Its default setting is usually your full name, but we recommend changing it to something more personable, like “{First Name} from {Company Name}.” This makes you seem more human. 

You could also use the following from lines: 

  • {First Name}, the {Industry or Product} Expert: This one is a bit more playful and does best in B2C sales, but it can also work in a professional setting if your clients are generally laid back. 
  • {First Name} @ {Company Name}: This from line is simple and comes off as personable while still giving the lead context about the company. 
  • {First Name}, Your {Service} Pro: A B2C service business like auto repair or sales training might use this from line. 

As for length, keep it to a maximum of nine words or 50 characters. You don’t want it to be cut off. Also, always include at least your first name to avoid confusion. You can change your from line in the account settings of your email provider. Here’s an article detailing how to change your from line in Outlook, and here’s one for changing the from line in Gmail

Here’s an example of the from line from our template:

how to write a cold email - cold email from line template example
Cold email from line template example

5. Craft a Catchy Subject Line

Now that your recipient knows you’re not a robo-spammer, grab their attention with your subject line. A good subject line is personalized and short (no more than 10 words or 60 characters) and teases the content of the email. Most importantly, it convinces the lead that the email is meant specifically for them. Do this by including their name, pain point, company name, or another relevant piece of info.

A good starting point would be to try these three subject lines: 

  • {Lead’s First Name}, Tired of {Pain Point}?: Mentioning the pain point the lead is likely to have is a great way to grab their attention.  
  • Idea for {Topic the Lead Cares About}: Come across as a valuable asset. The topic could be their team, their goals, or a business process they might want to improve.  
  • Want to Improve {Important Metric} by {Number}%?: Giving the lead a quantitative improvement can help get them excited about the potential value of your solution. 

The subject line example from our template follows the structure of the first bullet point above:

how to write a cold email - cold email subject line template example
Cold email subject line template example

Like the example above, posing a question is a great way to make an engaging subject line. This approach creates natural interest while also forcing you to use casual language and tease your pitch. However, the best way to find the right subject line is to A/B test different ones and measure their open rates so you know which resonates with your target audience. In step nine, we’ll have more on tracking results and optimizing the components of your email.


Additional Reading:

For more information on crafting an engaging subject line that actually gets opened, check out our article on the top cold email subject line examples and tips from top experts. There, you'll also find a standard framework to follow when crafting and testing your cold email subject lines.

6. Give Intros & Your Elevator Pitch

Your introduction and pitch should make up about 75% of your cold email’s body — anywhere from 125–200 words. However, the more personalized these two components, the longer you can make it. People have longer attention spans when reading about themselves. Let’s look at how to write your introduction first and then your pitch.

To write your intro, begin with a proper greeting. Stick with “Hi/Hey/Good evening, {First Name},” and shy away from anything too formal. Next, state your name, company name, and the reason you’re reaching out. Also, make it clear that this email is meant for them. The best way to do that is to include something about the lead in the first sentence, like a recent promotion or a hobby you share. If that’s too hard to find, their company name or job title will do.

After you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time to make your elevator pitch following these five steps: 

  • Write the Probable Pain Point: To engage the lead instantly, start with the probable pain point you extrapolated from your research.
  • Explain a Negative Consequence of the Pain Point: Then agitate the pain by stating a negative consequence of that pain point. For example, a consequence of bad lead data is wasted time that could’ve been spent on better leads. 
  • List Another Common Pain Point: In case the first was a misfire, add another pain point that’s common for your customers. Consult your ideal customer profile for this. 
  • Briefly Describe Your Product/Service: Name your solution and briefly explain how it works in one line or less. 
  • Name Two Salient Benefits: Start talking about benefits, which should create desire in the lead. Make sure the benefits align with their probable goals. A sales manager might want to easily hit their team revenue targets.

Below is an example of the introduction and pitch from our cold email template:

how to write a cold email - cold email introduction and pitch template example
Cold email introduction and pitch template example

7. Finish With a Call-to-Action & Signature

Finally, write your call-to-action (CTA) and sign the email. Here, you’re asking the lead to take specific next steps with you, then ending with a respectful sign-off and giving all the ways to reach you. Let’s look at each of these separately, starting with your CTA.

When writing your CTA, keep in mind that the typical goal of a cold email is to land a 5–10 minute discovery phone call during which you’ll learn more about the lead to see if they’re a good fit and tell them a bit more about your solution. An example of a CTA could be “Are you free for a five-minute phone call on Monday at 2 or 3pm to learn more?” 

Here are some tips for writing your call-to-action:

  • Make the Request Easy to Comply With: Tools like Calendly allow recipients to access your calendar and pick a time slot. This reduces friction for accepting the meeting. 
  • Give Time/Date Recommendations: If you don’t use an email scheduler app, give them a time constraint for the meeting. Best practice is to list three dates and times they can choose from. 
  • Ask a Direct Question: Ask them if they're open to a web demo or learning more over a phone call. Your CTA should be clear about the action you want them to take with you. 
  • Give the Option to Call You: Including your phone number and saying “call me anytime this week” is a great way to show your dedication to the deal. 

Your signature includes your sign-off (e.g., sincerely, all the best, thanks) and your contact information under it. At a minimum, include your email address, job title, phone number, and company name in your signature so the lead can easily reach you. If you’d like to go above and beyond, consider linking out to testimonials, case studies, or portfolio pages to build credibility. 

Here’s the example of a CTA and signature from our cold email template:

how to write a cold email - cold email CTA and signature template example
Cold email CTA and signature template example

8. Follow Up 2–3 Times

Sometimes, leads don’t respond the first time just because they put it aside for later or forgot. So follow up until you get a reply or have sent three emails. This increases your odds of getting a response. Best practice is to wait 3–4 days between each email so that you don’t bother the lead. This persistence shows confidence in yourself, your business, and your product or service. 

When writing your follow-up emails, follow this procedure in order: 

  • Remind the Lead of Your First Email: Briefly mention that you already emailed them so that they know you’re following up. 
  • Add More Value to the Conversation: This could be a customer success story, an article recommendation they might enjoy, or some more information about the product. 
  • State Your CTA Again: Repeat your ask to take the desired next step with you. This will usually be to schedule a call.

Now, if the lead never answers, make a note in your CRM and reach out again in a few months in case their situation changes. Also consider placing the lead into an email nurturing cadence where they’ll receive emails (likely from your marketing team) related to their location in the customer journey. Then, you can reach out again when they’re warmer or have even engaged with those emails.

9. Track & Improve Your Emails

In your CRM software, track metrics related to actions your recipients take when they receive your email. Use these metrics to guide you in your experimentation and A/B testing of the different components of your cold email. For example, send 200 emails that have the same body but use one subject line for 100 of the emails and another subject line for the other 100. Then you can compare which had the best open rates. 

Here are the sequential steps for tracking key metrics and improving your cold emails: 

  • Set Up Email Software: Choose an email-centric CRM and/or cold emailing software that allows you to track email metrics and run reports. 
  • Choose Metrics to Track: Common cold email metrics to track are conversion rate, reply rate, open rate, and click rate for any included links. 
  • Consult Your Metrics Daily: Check to see if your metrics are improving over time and run reports to dig down to the reason you’re seeing higher or lower rates. Perhaps you edited a template or emailed at a different time of day.
  • Regularly Tweak and Measure: Consistently run tests and try out new cold email strategies to increase your metrics. 

Different metrics matter for different tests. When testing a new subject line, you would look at its open rates to gauge its level of success. If testing a new pitch or CTA, you’d focus on the reply rates. Consistently attempting new messaging, tracking the results, and iterating is the best way to reach a cold email that works repeatedly.

To help you visualize these analytics, below is a shot of SmartReach’s cold email metrics:

Cold email metrics example
Cold email metrics example

Top 4 Cold Email Examples

Cold email examples are treasure troves of inspiration and strategies that you can test out in your own cold emails. Below you’ll find four examples we’ve created: B2B software solution, B2C service, B2C product, and B2B service follow-up. We’ll also dissect the emails and tell you what specifically works in each.

B2B SaaS Product

B2C Service

B2C Product

B2B Follow-up

B2B SaaS Product Cold Email Example

The seller in the email above is trying to build interest in a B2B SaaS product that helps improve lead qualification. The email begins by building rapport, mentioning something the seller and the lead have in common — a relationship to a place. It then jumps into a common pain point of people in the lead's position.

Next, the email mentions the solution to this pain point and shares a metric about the improvement the lead can expect to see. It ends by making a straightforward request to get some time on the calendar. This email closely adheres to our recommended outline and can be used as a good reference for those writing B2B product emails.

B2C Service Cold Email Example

The seller in this example is attempting to set up a consultation for their gutter cleaning service. The email does a great job of highlighting the reasons why gutter cleaning is so important as well as the pain points associated with actually cleaning it, thereby creating a need for their service. It also has a clear CTA offering two ways for the lead to comply.

Although the email’s structure slightly varies from our template, it still includes all the vital elements. Instead of building rapport and introducing the company, the introduction serves the purpose of explaining why it’s so crucial to clean out gutters. Let’s assume the recipient is a new homeowner — if so, this would be a good example of tailoring the email to the recipient’s awareness level.

B2C product cold email example

With B2C product cold emails, you run the risk of seeming spammy or inauthentic. This cold email example does a good job of coming across as genuine and credible by mentioning research they did on the lead and by including a link to their testimonials and scientific studies pages. The email also focuses on naming a problem the recipient likely has.

The email follows our recommended structure to a tee, including a catchy subject line, a personable introduction, a problem-oriented pitch, and a direct and straightforward CTA. Also, portraying the pain points in a bullet list is a nice touch that makes it scannable for the lead.

B2B Service Follow-up Cold Email

The above email is an example of something a B2B service salesperson might send to follow up on their first cold email. It’s short and to the point and attempts to build confidence in the lead by sharing a case study with real numbers to back up claims about their value they likely made in the first cold email.

On another note, this follow-up email closely follows our recommended outline. It first reminds the reader of the first email you sent to give them context. It then goes on to add more to the conversation by sharing a customer success story about a company similar to the lead's. Lastly, it makes another clear call-to-action to try and schedule time on the phone.

These four examples show how to cater your cold email to specific scenarios while presenting a strong understanding of your lead’s pain points and potential solutions through a conversational tone. Consider using any of these examples as a template or inspiration when writing your own cold email along with our top tips below.

6 Cold Email Best Practices

Regardless of who’s receiving your email, they’ll be more likely to respond positively if you follow a few cold emailing best practices. The most successful salespeople typically personalize their cold emails for the lead who’ll be receiving it, along with AIDA, and an overall strong attention to detail. Below are the key tips for you to keep in mind:

Focus on the Lead, Not Your Company

Think in terms of what the lead wants. Write about how you’re going to help them. Limit the number of words you dedicate to talking about how awesome you or your company are. Leads don’t care.

Use the AIDA Approach

Your subject line should grab Attention. Your introduction should build Interest. Your pitch should evoke Desire. And your CTA should inspire Action. If they don’t, rework the email.

Proofread the Email Before Sending

Make sure your grammar is correct. Professionalism still matters. Also, read it out loud to check that it flows conversationally.

Email the Right Person

Send your email to a lead who fits your buyer persona. This increases the likelihood that your messaging resonates with them.

Send It at the Right Time

Most people go through their emails in the morning. Send your cold email early (8-10am). This helps you get on the top of your lead’s inbox.

Use Cold Email Software

These tools help send more personalized cold emails faster by providing analytics, templates, and lead information. We have created a complete buyer’s guide to the best cold email software for prospecting for you to check out.

If you’re looking for more some actionable advice explained by sales and business experts, check out our article on cold emailing tips. There you’ll learn how to prep for and write the email, perfect your tone, and follow up like a pro.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Should a Cold Email Be?

A cold email should be between 50–200 words in length. More succinct is better. Buyers are busy and lose attention easily. However, as a general rule, the more personalized your email, the longer the email can be. When a lead is reading about themselves, a pain point they hate, and a solution that seems perfect for them, they’ll read the whole thing even if it’s 350 words.

What Is the Best Day & Time to Send a Cold Email?

As a rule of thumb, you want your cold email to sit near the top of their inbox while they go through their emails. Most business professionals handle this task early in the morning, meaning the best time to send a cold email is typically between 8 and 10am. And the best days to send it are Monday through Thursday because by Friday many people have mentally checked out. 

However, the time and day that will get the best cold email results depend on your target audience. The only way to find the exact time and day that gets the most conversions is by tracking your email metrics in your CRM. Over time, after you or your company has sent thousands of cold emails, you’ll start to see trends.

Bottom Line: How to Write a Cold Email

A personalized, relevant, and interesting cold email is a great lead generation strategy to begin a sales conversation with a potential customer. To do so, research the lead, write an introduction, make a personalized pitch related to their pain points, and ask them to take next steps. With our process above you can confidently craft your own cold emails, but if you’re wanting a ready made template and tips check out our article with cold email templates for any scenario.

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Download the static file now or subscribe to our newsletter and receive an editable template with 12 examples. Plus, get personalized, AI-powered article suggestions for lead generation, nurturing, deal-closing, CRM software & more. Sent biweekly. Never spam.
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Get our FREE Cold Email Template
Get our editable template with 12 examples. Plus, get personalized, AI-powered article suggestions for lead generation, nurturing, deal-closing, CRM software & more. Sent biweekly. Never spam.
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Get our FREE Cold Email Template
Get our editable template with 12 examples. Plus, get personalized, AI-powered article suggestions for lead generation, nurturing, deal-closing, CRM software & more. Sent biweekly. Never spam.
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