How to Write a Cold Email That Actually Works in 3 Steps

Learn how to write a cold email that actually gets a positive lead response with this detailed article, including templates and examples.

Cold emails are a time-efficient way for salespeople to make initial contact with potential prospects. While there are many ways to go wrong, a proper cold email can make customer acquisition quicker, easier, and more extensive. The main issue is, it seems like few know how to write an effective cold email. As a result, the world is cursed with bloated “Promotions” mailboxes full of emails that don't work. If your cold emails aren’t landing, let’s find out why.

Standard Cold Email Format

Effective cold emails that get positive responses typically follow a standard format. While it's important to personalize your own cold email, you can use this format as a guide to ensure your cold emails are getting positive responses. Before writing your cold email, make sure that you adhere to the following:

  • Subject line: Tease your pitch with something unique and eye-catching, and ultimately, try to make it personal.
  • Email intro: Introduce yourself, then give a quick hook that relates to your subject line and elaborates on a problem your lead is facing.
  • Email pitch: Deliver a quick elevator pitch, explaining how your product or service solves the problem you introduced.
  • Call-to-action: End with clear a call-to-action that suggests realistic next steps, then sign-off while keeping the email short.

With the above in mind, lets take a look at how to write an effective cold email in three steps. Then, check out our cold email template as well as examples of verified cold emails that have actually received positive lead engagement.

How to Write a Cold Email in 3 Steps

The goal of a cold email is writing one your prospects will actually want to read. This is a comprehensive process, but once you get it down, it becomes simple. First, grab their attention, then deliver your pitch and end the email before they get tired of reading. To help, let's discuss the writing process step-by-step to ensure your cold emails actually convert.

1. Use Eye-Catching "From" & "Subject" Lines

The most common reason why cold emails don't convert is simple: They aren’t being read. People can receive upwards of a hundred emails a day, and with platforms like social media competing for our attention, it's hard to stand out above the noise. To ensure your cold emails are actually getting opened among a sea of other messages, make sure you have effective "From" and "Subject" lines.

Set the Best “From” Line

The “From” line is where your cold email recipient will see who sent the email. This is your first chance to make an impression with your name and/or title. B2B salespeople may want to emphasize their company name rather than their personal details, but B2C folk might want to make things more personal. To customize, go to the settings of your email client and alter the “Your Name/Name” section. Here are a few options for your “From” line:

The “Name Only” Option (Trey LaRocca)

This one is great for B2C salespeople who want to develop a personal relationship with a consumer. This isn’t to say B2C professionals are the only ones with this goal, but it does avoid the issue of your email going straight into the trash when the reader sees a company name and assumes it's just another promotion.

The “Name and Title” (Trey LaRocca, Account Manager)

The purpose of this approach is to display a prominent or impressive title, or at least one your lead would be interested in connecting with. This works well for your medium-to-high ticket B2C and B2B salespeople who want to communicate that they aren’t just another person on the sales floor.

The “Name and Company” (Trey from SellingSignals)

If you’re struggling to pick a “From” line for your sales situation, use this one. Easily the most versatile in the group, the “Name and Company” communicates all the vital information you may be worried about leaving out. This is definitely my pick for the majority of B2B sales situations.

Create an Eye-Catching Subject Line

The subject line is the most important part of catching your prospect's attention and getting them to open your cold email. Nothing will send your email to the junk folder faster than some “ALL CAPS SUPER SALE PROMO” subject line. These are unprofessional and obnoxious, and also attract the wrong types of buyers. To ensure you pique the right kind of interest, use your subject line to tease your pitch while keeping it personal and casual.

Tease Your Pitch

Your subject line should directly relate to the content of your cold email. A well-made subject line for the wrong subject matter will get leads to open your email, but quickly pass it over. You want to ensure that your subject line interests them with your pitch without giving it all away. So, hint at your pitch, leave them wanting more. Keep it to nine words or less so your prospects can read the entire thing in their inbox.

Make it Personal

You want to make sure the email sounds like it was tailored to the prospect you’re reaching out to. You don’t need to make every cold email subject unique, and having a pre-made template can speed things up, but make sure you include some details that make it feel uniquely written for your customer.

Use Casual Language

The best way to connect with your lead is to ensure your subject line sounds like a person. It shouldn’t sound like the title of an academic study on your product. On the other hand, it shouldn’t remind your customer of a billboard ad either. Write the way you’d speak face-to-face: professional yet conversational.

Good Subject Line Examples​:

  • Does your car still excite you? 
  • {{First Name}}, I’ve got a better way to X
  • What could a boost in X do for {{Company}}?

Pro Tip:

Posing a question is a great for an engaging subject line. This approach creates natural interest while also forcing you to use casual language and tease your pitch. When using this technique, take care that you don’t just ask if they want your product. Instead, create intrigue so they open.

2. Introduce Yourself & Deliver Your Pitch

Now that your lead's opened your cold email, don't waste their time. You have around 30 seconds after they start reading to introduce yourself and deliver your pitch in a way that gets positive engagement. To do so, deliver your pitch in a way that's easy to understand your value proposition, and also relates to your subject line.

Start With a Proper Greeting

There isn’t too much to go over here, but it’s good to start with a greeting that'll land with your prospect. For B2C sales, I like to go the casual route. Something like “Hey/Hi (First Name)!” is acceptable and projects enthusiasm. For B2B sales, it's probably safer to keep it more professional, such as “Dear (First and Name),” If you don't have the name of the person you're emailing, you can always use: “Good morning/afternoon/evening."

Hook Them With Your Introduction

A good introduction takes the interest generated with your subject line and connects it to your pitch. However, it's easy to throw the conversation off by diving right into business. Because of that, a big part of writing an effective cold email is learning how to write an introduction that keeps your prospect interested but ultimately gets down to business. You can accomplish this with a conversation intro that's short but engaging and flows right into your sales pitch.

Again, Talk Like a Person

The introduction is an extension of your subject line. As such, it's a great opportunity to get your reader comfortable with some conversational language. Once you get into your pitch, things are going to get business-y whether you like it or not, so use these few sentences to ease your customer in by making a quick but meaningful personal connection.

Use it to Connect Your Subject & Pitch

The primary function of the intro is to take a subject line (where they have confirmed interest by clicking the email) and translate it into your pitch. So, did you ask if their current vehicle excites them? Continue to explain what a car should make them feel like. Did you tell them you have a better way to perform one of their business’s functions? Elaborate on what the consequences are of a delayed process.

Example of a Good Email Intro

“I’m Trey, your local car guy, and I know that driving the same old car can get pretty mundane. It can be a little frustrating dealing with old car problems, or feeling like you just can’t have fun behind the wheel. It could even be that your car doesn’t feel very safe to have fun in. I think I can help.”

Pro Tip:

Use humor and flattery, but sparingly. Everybody loves to laugh, but this isn’t a comedy show. Use these tools to maintain interest, but don’t make them the centerpiece of a section that should have a greater purpose.

Deliver a Quick & Effective Pitch

As I said before, you don’t have much time here. Your introduction will serve as a tool to buy you some precious seconds, and you don’t want any to go to waste. So, we need to develop a great, succinct pitch that achieves three primary goals: addresses an issue, demonstrates value, and keeps it simple.

Address a Key Issue

In your intro, start by mentioning a few things your prospect might be missing or struggling with, and then position your product or service as the solution to their problem. This makes your first two sections a sort of 1-2 punch combo that naturally flows from interest to excitement.

Discuss Benefits in a Material Way

Don’t explain the value of your product or service; demonstrate how it might benefit the life of your prospect. Will their sales process become 20% faster? Will they expand into markets they didn’t previously have access to? You don’t need to explain the exact function of your offering. Instead, be clear about how their life will change as a result.

Keep it Simple & Short

Some sales situations require extra info up-front, but this is not the case 95% of the time. Don’t give your whole product line, don’t write out a commercial, just give them a couple of significant details that will intrigue them. If you bore them with too much info, they are going to close the email. They probably have a busy life, and the reasons to stop reading far outweigh those to continue. Don’t give them more by going full ShamWow Guy in your pitch.

Example of a Good Pitch

“At Acura, we have the most competitive features and specs of any luxury car manufacturer, and it's my job to make sure it works with your budget. We want to meet you where you’re at, and get you excited about driving again. I want you to feel excitement when you hit that gas pedal, knowing that you have a 5-star safety rating to keep you and your loved ones in good shape. Wouldn't you like to get into a car that's not only safe, but one you want to show off to your friends?“

Pro Tip:

The pitch is where it becomes easiest to turn into a sales robot. You’re going to be tempted to throw around fancy-sounding industry jargon. Now is not the time for that. Be human, be relatable, and be relaxed.

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

Now that you’ve converted interest to excitement, it's time to turn that excitement into positive engagement. This is achieved by ending your pitch with a call-to-action (CTA). This CTA can be anything from a suggestion to meet in-person or jump on a call, as well as fill out an application on your customer portal. Ultimately, end with a suggestion for clear next steps, and make sure it's stated in a single sentence.

Example of a Good Call-to-Action

“The best call-to-actions make a specific suggestion, rather than leaving it all in the prospect's court. For example, suggesting to meet on the phone and then proposing a few times that work for you is a proactive way to keep the prospect engaged. Something such as, "Why don't we jump on the phone and discuss further. What's the best time for you?"

For the best results, use a meeting scheduler like to reduce back-and-forth and find a time that works best for your lead.

Use an Attractive, Professional Signature

Your signature is the way you sign-off from an email, and often includes your name, title, as well as some media such as a logo or headshot. If your company has a standard signature, that one will probably do fine. If you're in charge of you or your company’s signature, there are a few things you want it to include:

  • Your name and title
  • Your company’s name (if applicable)
  • Your business phone number and email
  • Any other relevant contact information
  • A thumbnail-sized logo or professional picture of you

There are also a few things you don’t want to include, such as:

  • Unprofessional pictures, or pictures that include other people
  • Loud text colors (relax on the red/pink signatures, stick with blacks, greys, and blues)
  • Potentially offensive or off-putting quotes (I usually just avoid quotes altogether)

If you want an easy way out, you can leverage email signature software to help you create and manage a professional sign-off. Try using a tried-and-true email signature manager like Exclaimer or NEWOLDSTAMP to make a clean signature.

Example Cold Email Template

While it's always best to write your own cold email, sometimes using a template as a starting point can help. To ensure the cold email you create is most effective, check out our general example template below. Then, if you want more template options, check out our entire article on cold email templates, including examples for a variety of use-cases.

From: {Name} at {company}

Subject: {First Name}, I’ve got a better way to {X}

Hi {First Name},

I wanted to reach out because I think I can make your life a whole lot easier. I’m with {company name} and we are a {type of business} specializing in solving problems for {you/your business}.

With a short call, I think I could show you a few ways our {product} could help you out like it's helped so many of our existing customers. I’d like to invite you to be a part of it.

Would you be interested in jumping on the phone to discuss further? If so, you can schedule a time using my {Calendly link} here.

Looking forward to connecting!

{Name} with {Company}
{Job Title}
{Phone number}
{Email address}
{Mailing Address}

Top Cold Email Examples

If you want a little bit of inspiration, it's always nice to look over high-quality examples. It’s one thing to read how to write a cold email that gets positive engagement, it’s another to witness it in practice. So, below we've created a round-up of good cold emails of varying lengths.

Shorter-Form Cold Email Example

I love how this is short and to-the-point. Obviously, this email is for those dedicated to the “teaser” style. There really isn’t a whole lot of info, but just enough to pique the interest of the right person. I think that is excellent in the right context, and it still has all the necessary elements.

how to write a short cold email example

Longer-Form Cold Email Example

This email tries to pick at a common dissatisfaction. People get bored with their vehicles, and car buying is a very emotional experience. So, I picked at emotion; I want to pull her in with the emotions that I know get people to buy cars. I didn’t go over the spec sheet, I hit the points that I know I’m looking for in a car-buyer. I can go over the business side when she calls-- I’m focused on getting her interested, and that doesn’t include boring her with a list of features.

how to write a long cold email example

Essential Cold Email Software

Sometimes efficiency is the name of the game, and salespeople need to automate as much as they can. If you find yourself in this predicament, there are resources out there to get you a solid result from your cold emails without slowing down your sales floor. Here are a couple I think you should take a look at:

Email Marketing Software

Email marketing software lets you automate much of the cold email process, auto-scheduling cold emails based on rules that you create. You can even manage your cold email templates directly from the platform. Two top options are Mailchimp and Mailshake, which allow you to do anything from high-level automation to detailed lead segmentation for more targeted cold email messages.

CRM Software

Often, your existing CRM software can help you with cold email automation and lets you send prospect emails directly from your sales pipeline management tool. This creates efficiencies with the rest of your sales process. However, its ability for detailed email marketing such as list segmentation may be limited. For more information, check out our article on CRM software

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Long Should a Cold Email Be?

I can’t stress enough how little time you have with your average customer, and you don’t want to waste any. I would say that your intro should be no shorter than two sentences, no longer than four. The pitch should be two or three, and the call to action should be one. That’s three sections, totaling five to eight sentences.

When Should I Follow-Up?

I usually go for an attempt at contact once every other day for cold leads. So, if your only point of contact is email, then you should send another two business days after your first attempt. Once you’ve tried 3-5 times to no avail, you can cut that lead loose; your time is better spent on fresh eyes.

Bottom Line

Get their attention, use it well, and end it before they are tired of reading it. Remember this lead generation technique, and you’ll be able to put together a solid cold email. If you follow the steps and tips I laid out, and refer to your examples, you can do this. Learning how to write a cold email isn’t impossible, and with a little practice, you’ll be landing positive engagement in no time.

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