6 Ways to Make the Most of a Cold Email

Earlier this month, Irene Sandler of Cognizant Technology wrote a LinkedIn Publish about a particularly frustrating experience where she was email prospected by a salesperson. It’s a great post and definitely worth a read.

Essentially, this salesperson sent Irene a very generic “we can help you/let’s jump on a call” email. He or she then proceeded to send a series of “reminders,” replying to the original email and creating a thread of communications.

A quick trip to my inbox (read: spam folder) turns up quite a few such threads:

  • RE: Does it make sense to discuss this, Matt?
  • RE: Appointment Inquiry
  • RE: Meeting Time?
  • RE: Connecting w/ Matt – [Company Name]

These type of messages are all too common. They’re also embarrassingly similar. The first superficially personalized email puts forward generic “opportunities” between your company and theirs. They’re always looking for a call this week. When the email is inevitably ignored, they return asking if you’ve “had time to review.” They’ll “circle back” two or three more times, dialing up the guilt trip with each message.

To be fair, cold email prospecting is sometimes a necessity. It’s one of the few grassroots ways to drum up interest without out much support. That said, it doesn’t have to follow the same off-putting methodology – and that’s where this post comes in.

As a frequent recipient of email prospecting messages, here are six things you can do to make your messages more effective.


1. Commit to Personalization or Cut It

As I mention, email prospecting threads tend to include superficial personalization. What I mean by that is personalization elements that are quick and easily automated – those that don’t really add much. For example, most messages will include my first name in the subject line and/or greeting. Messages might also make mention that I work in marketing or that their product is built for agencies.

These types of things, though technically applicable to me, are still relevant to thousands of other companies and millions of other people. They don’t make me feel like this message was crafted specifically for me, which, of course, is the purpose of personalization. Rather, superficial personalization calls attention to the fact that I’m a contact in your database, which overshadows any benefits of mentioning my name or company.

If you’re going to personalize a cold email, take the time to do it right. First, make sure you’re absolutely talking to the right person. Research their role in relation to your product. Then, specifically explain how your product can be useful to them. If available, be sure to mention any success stories or testimonials from similar companies.


2. Lose the “RE:”

In the world of email, “RE:” generally considered to mean “in reply to” (though, it actually comes from the Latin “in re,” which means something closer to “in the matter of”). Given the general understanding, it’s disingenuous to simulate a conversation by replying to your own emails.

The principle here is to reply to your own email to demonstrate you’ve reached out before and waited an appropriate time to respond. It also serves to keep your first email close by, without sending the same thing. The fact is, all those things can be accomplished without the use of “RE:.”

If you find it absolutely necessary to draw more attention to the fact that you’ve emailed before, use something like “Reminder:” or “Follow-Up:.”


3. Mix Channels

You’ve got data on this contact. You’ve spent time to identify them as a legitimate fit for your offering. You’re researching them to write a relevant, compelling message. So, why limit yourself to email?

Rather than pounding on a contact with a string of seven emails, try a different channel. Put a face or a voice to your cold emails. Reach out on social media. LinkedIn is the go-to here. If you have a phone number, you can mix in phone calls and voicemails in as well.


4. Tell Me Why You’re (Really) Here.

It takes about .03 seconds to spot a cold email trying to sell you something. If you’re cold emailing, you’re probably not just doing it for fun. Maybe you’re launching a new product. Maybe your company just made some big improvements. Maybe you’re just trying to hit your quota. Be honest about your purpose.

I know you’re emailing me to sell. Everybody else knows you’re emailing them to sell too. Beating around the bush isn’t going to do you any good. You’re here to talk about a product, so let’s hear it. We can appreciate you being candid.

I’ll take, “I’m in a crunch. I want to finish Q2 with a bang and maybe we could help each other out,” instead of, “We might be a good fit. Let’s take an introductory call to chat about opportunities for synergy.”


5. Give Me a Reason to Move Forward

Believe it or not, “Have a minute? Let’s Chat!” is not a compelling reason to agree to a phone call. I don’t want to pledge away 30+ minutes of my day for no reason. I don’t want a call to see if there’s an opportunity. If I’m going to agree to a phone call, I want to start the call knowing the offering is legitimately worth considering.

This goes hand and hand with doing your research and personalizing content. If you know what my company does and you’ve decided I’m a good fit for your offering, it should be pretty easy for you to tell me why you came to that conclusion.


6. Give Me a (Reasonable) Pathway Forward

The purpose of most cold emails is generally to secure as many calls as possible. Most of the emails are discarded, while a select few eventually lead to calls. The problem with this all or nothing approach is that it puts a heavy burden on the email. It’s up for the message content to introduce the sender, explain the company/offerings, and provide a compelling reason to add or switch to the given offering.

In effect, you’re asking a single email to take a person from total stranger to engaged prospect. It’s no small task – and it’s not something that’s going to be accomplished with any sort of regularity. Even after a well-written and targeted email, most recipients are going to want to do some research of their own before agreeing to a call.

Providing appropriate supporting links and documents can satisfy the need for independent research, lowering the burden on the email. Additionally, you can lower the bar for entry by asking for something other than a call. Asking for a content download, a webinar registration, or even a trial sign-up can be preferable alternatives to an immediate call.



Let us know you think:

  • Are you a cold email sender or recipient?
  • What’s the worst email prospecting message you’ve received?
  • Do you have any tips to add?



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