When I first wrote this article in 2011, there were 5 cold email strategies I recommended. All still apply, but there are nuances that have evolved. When you incorporate them into your prospecting emails, contacts are more likely to read your entire email. When they do that, your response rate increases.
I’ve updated this article to share those nuances with you now so you, too, can boost your cold email response rates.
The difference between cold emails and marketing emails
Before we dive into the 5 strategies to improve prospecting email results, let’s do some quick definitions so you know when to use them.
What is a cold email?
Cold emails are those salespeople use during their prospecting activities. They may accompany a cold call, follow-up on a LinkedIn connection, or be the initial outreach to a prospect or marketing qualified lead. They are sent from a salesperson to an individual. The goal is most frequently to secure a meeting.
What is a marketing email?
Marketing emails are the lead generation and nurturing emails created by your marketing team, reaching out to a larger email list. They are sent to the list, frequently in a batch, or as a result of a contact signing up for something on your website as a result of a marketing email campaign, SEO, social media, or a digital PPC ad. The initial goal is to create engagement. Ultimately the goal is to generate marketing qualified leads that get passed to sales for follow up.
How to choose the right email strategy
The strategies below all apply to prospecting cold emails. Marketing may write emails for sales to model using these strategies. Sales will use these strategies for their own emails.
If you’re unsure when to use sales prospecting emails versus marketing emails, here’s an article to guide you: When to Use Lead Generation Campaigns versus Sales Prospecting
Why Email Prospecting is Frustrating
Prospecting via email can be wildly rewarding, or incredibly frustrating.
Cold email content must:
- Fit contacts’ email personality style.
- Include a compelling reason to read it.
- Be laid out in a manner that draws prospects in.
Get it right, and your cold emails can deliver you fresh sales opportunities within days, and sometimes even minutes. Get it wrong and you risk wasting your time, or even worse, irritating potential clients.
So what makes the difference?
After years of experience, and hundreds of successes, we’ve found that it’s all in the approach.
In fact, we’ve coached clients through a number of simple steps that have helped them double or triple their prospecting email response rates virtually overnight. Here are the top 5 ways you can improve your cold email response rates.
5 Ways to Improve Cold Email Results
1. Keep it short.
To respond to your email, a prospect has to read it first. The shorter and less intimidating it looks, the more likely they are to do just that.
Keep the email word count under 99 words, ideally less than 30 words.
Prospects don’t have time to read lengthy emails. Even though you have a lot to share, hold off until you have started a conversation or scheduled a meeting. 30 words is hard to get to, but the shorter your email, the more likely a prospect with read it in its entirety.
Your goal with a cold email is simply to get an appointment. You aren’t delivering a sales presentation.
Limit your subject line to a few words.
We’ve come a long way with our mobile devices since 2011 and how we use them. On phones, subject lines are truncated at 4-5 words.
Take the extra time to shorten it up. If your subject line must be long, put the most important information in the first 4 words.
For cold emails, don’t write an entire sentence like you might do with people you know. Just stick to the topic and a reason to keep reading.
2. Be personal.
Are the emails you write to your friends, colleagues, and clients filled with links, attachments, bullet points, and fancy graphics? I’ll bet that more often they’re short, personal notes that mention a specific situation or problem.
Too many salespeople make it hard on themselves by trying excessively hard to put on their marketing caps, rather than simply writing to the prospect as a person.
Don’t be afraid to use short sentences, abbreviations, and less formal language. You don’t want your email to be sloppy, of course, but you don’t want it to look like a strict marketing message, either.
Model a chat, texting style
While we were all into texting by 2019, COVID taught everyone how to use chat at work (not just Zoom and video!). Now it’s the norm and it’s migrating into email as well.
In addition to short sentences, model a chat, texting style in your cold emails. Prospects are used to texting on their phones. They’re accustomed to chatting from their work PC.
They’ve learned how to skim thru chats.
The more you put into one paragraph, the more likely they are to read the first and last few words, but not the middle. Use single sentence paragraphs so they can’t skim. They won’t know which sentences they can skip because it won’t be obvious which ones are most important.
Reading a word here and there won’t make sense. So, they will read them all. To be sure they don’t miss something.
Model that format.
Stick to the 30 words and your email will be a quick read – all the way through.
3. Open with something compelling.
Drop the “I hope you’re having a good day” and “let me introduce myself” openings. You have to grab attention immediately if you want a prospect to read on.
Focus on the problem.
One of the best ways to draw prospects into your email is by mentioning a trigger event or problem they are likely facing right now that you can help them to resolve. Show them that you understand what they’re going through, and they’ll reward you with a reply to begin a conversation.
Limit yourself to 1-2 sentences about the problem so your email stays short.
If the problem isn’t getting a response, switch to a different trigger event. Use the Bloodhound Follow-up Strategy and don’t give up. It takes between 9 and 11 attempts using various strategies to get prospects to notice you and respond. Be prepared.
4. Show a result.
Naturally, you don’t want to just mention a problem to your prospects. Prospects like to know there is a solution and that they’ll get ROI. This is a basic tenet of prospecting. Results will grab their attention.
Use numbers combined with the problem.
Numbers get noticed in an email and carry credibility. Share possible improvements in their business you might be able to provide. If available, mention a return on investment that the client with a similar issue realized.
Because prospects’ attention span is short and emails must accommodate that, craft your email to work the results into your problem or trigger event sentence. You’ll have the opportunity to share more later when you talk, or after the email conversation begins.
5 . Ask them to take action right away… and make it easy for them to do it.
Limit yourself to one clear action you want your prospect to take. Make it one that only takes a few moments for them to follow up on.
Whether it’s hitting the “reply” button, accepting a meeting invitation, or confirming a time for a call, make it very clear what you are hoping to accomplish.
Suggest a specific time to meet.
A favorite approach of ours is to suggest one or two times for a brief phone meeting. Something like: “I would love to discuss my idea with you further on Friday the 12th at 1:30. By chance would that work for you?”
Suggesting specific times that your prospects can quickly check on their calendar makes it easy for them to respond and can do wonders for your response rate.
Leverage your email close.
Now go a step further to entice your prospect to meet by leveraging your close. Don’t settle for your standard “Best regards.” Continue your message. Here are some examples:
“Looking forward to our conversation.”
“I’ll share the slides during our call.”
“Hit reply to confirm.”
Because it is a close, keep it short. Use it as a call to action or a compelling final sentence.
Prospects don’t perceive your email signature close as part of the content, and this gives you more opportunity to get your message across.
Take Action And Increase Your Response Rate
If you haven’t gotten the results you want from email prospecting use these tips.
Start right now. They work.
A few adjustments to your cold emails could find your inbox filled with replies from potential new clients.
If you’re uncertain how to tackle cold emails or frustrated with trying to write effective prospecting emails, we can help. We will write prospecting emails for you, or teach you to write your own prospecting emails within two weeks.
Contact us and together we’ll determine the best approach for you to boost your email response rates.
This post was originally published in February, 2011 and updated in August, 2022.