How to Write an Effective Cold Outreach Email


So you want to write an effective cold sales outreach e-mail. How do you ensure it even gets opened, let alone read?

Fortunately, we’ve done the research and have compiled the best practices for generating the highest success rates in your cold e-mail campaign.

Here we go.


The Basics.

Now there are a few basic principles you’ll want to keep in mind whenever deciding to send a cold e-mail, particularly for sales.

It is always going to be tempting to make a complete pitch. You want to clearly outline the benefits of your product or service, understandably, but deals do not get done over e-mail. The best rule of thumb in this regard, is to use the first e-mail to sell a first meeting. This is especially true when e-mailing high-level executives — generally the higher level the person, the less text they’ll read.

You typically want to keep this first e-mail to a maximum of five sentences. Yes, you read that right. 5 sentences.

Also don’t underestimate the value of using bullet points. They’re:

  • easier to read, and;
  • help write high impact statements

Finally, remember to sound like a human. It’s natural to want to come across as professional and business-minded, but you’re not writing a newsletter, you’re trying to start a conversation with someone. Contractions, first names, and mildly poor grammar are acceptable, and depending on the recipient’s age and industry, even emoticons can work! 🙂 << (See? Now you know I’m happy.)

Now on to the nitty-gritty…

The Subject Line.



Arguably the most important part of your e-mail, the subject line is typically where the e-mail recipient decides to delete or read on.

So how do you write the perfect subject line?

For starters, it’s best to keep this statistic in mind:

So you need to grab the reader’s interest and convince them that your e-mail isn’t spam, all within a maximum of seven words. Entitling it “This isn’t spam” will unfortunately also wind you up in the Spam folder, as noted in this valuable list of spam trigger words from Hubspot.

This is certainly a challenge, so we’ve put together a little list of customizable subject lines for you to try:

1. “Question about [recipient’s product or service]”

Not only does this intrigue the recipient to open the e-mail, it identifies that you’ve actually done some research into them. People enjoy talking about themselves, so there’s a good chance you’ll receive an answer. This then opens the conversational door for further contact!

2. “[Mutual connection] recommended I get in touch”

Few things are more powerful than referrals. If you share an acquaintance with your e-mail recipient, be sure to put that person’s name in your subject line.

3. “XX tips/ideas for [recipient’s interests]”

People love lists. Our highest-performing blog articles are lists (i.e. Our Top 5 Sites for Totally Free Stock Photos or 8 Ways to Improve Your Work/Life Balance, etc.). This will probably even be your favourite part of this article! (Okay now we’re reaching.)

4. “[Prospect’s company] + [your company]”

This one comes to you courtesy of Nick Persico. The mention of  prospect’s company grabs their eye, while the unique structure inspires an open.


No, we didn’t forget the subject line here. After analysis of over six million emails, Sidekick found that messages where the subject line was left blank were opened 8% more often than those with subject lines! Sometimes you just need to let someone’s curiosity get the better of them.


Fortunately, you don’t need to get it 100% right on the first (or second or third) try. This is where A/B testing is extremely beneficial. More on that in the Measure Performance section later on.

For a very detailed guide on perfecting your subject line, we recommend reading Hubspot’s The Anatomy of a 5-Star Subject Line.

The Content.


You need to put yourself in the shoes of the individual you’re pitching. They’re human, too, and don’t want to be bombarded with requests for favours or people asking for money. Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”.


This is why you’ll want to ensure that you clearly define your value proposition in the very first sentence. Forget the introduction, as Justin McGill at LeadFuze so eloquently states:

“Don’t dedicate any of your message to introducing yourself or your company. They don’t know you and they don’t care. If they want to learn more, they’ll see your name in your signature and they’ll look into it.

Understand that many of the people you email will see their email on their phone or glance at their preview pane. If you start talking about yourself and who you’re with, you’re going to be easily ignored.”


This is a great place to remind you to put all of your contact info in your signature. Your website, phone number, any pertinent social media accounts — this is the spot for it.

Don’t include hyperlinks to your website or other things for the recipient to “check out”. They typically won’t at this point, and it wastes valuable content real estate. If they want to know more about you or your business, well fortunately you’ve provided plenty of resource links in your signature! How about that!

Your follow ups are the best places to include samples of your work, but more on that shortly.

Benefits > Features.

You don’t want to use this initial contact as the place to explain the features of whatever it is you’re selling, either. That’s a quick way to the delete folder, and is better saved for a telephone or in-person meeting, anyway — the prospective customer needs to hear your enthusiasm in order to get enthused themselves!

You want to use the limited amount of space you have to very clearly state the benefits of working with you, getting right to the point and focusing on their needs over yours.

For example, if your business specializes in digital signage software and you’re pitching to a restaurant owner, you might want to say:

“Digital (TV) menu boards are more cost-effective than traditional static signage, allowing you full customizability with no need to order new signs for simple menu changes.”

They aren’t going to care yet about your specific features, integrations, differentiators, etc. At this point they only want to know what’s in it for them.

Try to be single minded. This can be challenging, but if you’re trying to force more than one thought into a line, it will almost always be too long or confusing. Focus on your most compelling/relevant customer benefit and go with that.


Without any kind of personalization, your e-mail is not only guaranteed to be deleted, but may also fall into the spam trap. Of course there’s the likelihood that you don’t actually know the e-mail recipient personally — it’s a cold outreach after all.

In this case, you want to at least create the illusion of a personal association. You can achieve this by making a link to a recent press announcement made by the recipient, a common connection (personal or business) that you share, or aligning initiatives.

For example, in a recent e-mail to a prospective client, our salesperson identified with the recipient by noting that she had grown up in the area the prospect’s new business was located. This resulted in a return phone call from the prospect, who happily brought up the noted commonality.

Call to Action.

In order to prompt a response, you need to include a reasonable call to action. This should be in the form of a question, but not assuming you are yet worthy of your prospect’s time (i.e. don’t ask when they would be available for an in-person meeting). You can definitely indicate your interest in continuing the exchange, however, by asking how the recipient would prefer to be contacted (phone, e-mail, Skype, etc.).

Remember that this is the time to engage the recipient in conversation. If you’ve used the “Question about [recipient’s product or service]” subject line, this is a great place to ask the question.

It is also recommended to add a ‘PS’ to your e-mail, asking that if the recipient was the wrong person to contact, could they please let you know.

The Follow Up.

Did you know that 80% of sales require 5 follow ups?


Now want to hear something shocking?

44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up.

Well there’s your problem!

You want to follow up within 3 to 7 days, and continue following up at that rate until you reach five (or more). Yes, this definitely sounds like it could be irritating or “spammy” for your recipients, but remember “what’s in it for me?” — you need to add additional value to each e-mail. You could do a four part article or blog post series, which provides something useful (hopefully) for your prospect, and also lets them know to expect more. Perhaps they’ll even look forward to it.

When doing this, ensure you attach a PDF file as opposed to sending them a link. Make your PDF interactive so they have the choice of reviewing more of your materials on your web spaces.

Measure Performance.


Don’t keep using the same email message if it isn’t working. Duh.

You need to measure at least these four things to determine the success of an email marketing campaign:

1.Bounced/Delivered Rate – Shows how many of your emails are actually arriving in the intended recipient’s Inbox. A consistently high bounce rate could put you in danger of being treated as spam, so make sure you remove any recipients from your list that are bouncing back as invalid addresses.

2.Open Rate – Calculated by dividing the number of opened emails by the total number sent out (minus the number that bounced). It’s a great indicator of how well your subject line is working; however, the open rate does not tell the whole story – just because an e-mail was opened doesn’t make its content successful.

3.Response Rate – Calculated by dividing the number of responses by the total number of e-mails sent out (minus the number of bounces). This is a great indicator of how well your e-mail content is working.

4.Conversion Rate – Tells you plain and simply what proportion of the time you are succeeding with a sale/sign-up/other call to action from your emails. This is the ultimate indicator of success.

Provide yourself with a relevant amount of data to measure. Looking at these numbers when you’ve only sent 50 e-mails won’t give you measurable data. Ideally you’ll want to send at least 200 to 300 before you start making major adjustments.

Finally, here are some totally awesome resources to help you achieve e-mail sales greatness:

I Analyzed 147 Cold Sales Emails And 93.9% Of Them Sucked

What We Learned From Sending 1,000 Cold E-Mails

6 Ways to Get Me to Email You Back

The Essential Email Marketing Metrics You Should Be Tracking


19 Eye-Opening Subject Line Stats That Will Supercharge Your Email Open Rates

107 Mind-Blowing Sales Statistics That Will Help You Sell Smarter [SlideShare]

and lastly, some things not to do:

If You Do This, Your Emails Might Be Rude


We want to hear from you now!

Let us know in the comments what tactics have worked for your
e-mail marketing campaigns!

DalySocial |



2 thoughts on “How to Write an Effective Cold Outreach Email

  1. Pingback: Business Dos and Don’ts: 20 Tips for Facebook | The Daly Dish

  2. Pingback: Business Dos and Don’ts: 20 Tips for Twitter | The Daly Dish

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