What’s the difference between the sales email no one opens and responds to and the one that generates dozens of new customers?Is it the subject line? The length? The way the copy is written? Or the ideas contained in the content?
The answer is a combination of all of the above.
How (Not) to Send a Cold Email for Sales
If you have a targeted lead list and your response rate is less than 10% with personalized emails, your emails could use some work. Once upon a time, a B2B company came to me for help with their emails. They offered an incredible service for the SaaS space, but weren’t very successful with their sales emails. Their response rates were below 2%.
After about a month of working together, I created a single sales email template that got them more than 16 new customers. But before I reveal the template, let’s dig into what was wrong with their previous approach by touching on some of the reasons why emails fail.
1. Too Many Ideas
You might have an amazing product, but if you highlight too many value props in your emails, you’ll confuse readers. After all, a common sales adage goes, “A confused mind says no.”
With this in mind, stick to one idea in your email. All of the copy you write should support that one idea, whether you’re piquing their interest, adding value, making a persuasive claim, or providing proof to support your claims.
Here’s what to watch out for and cut if you can:
- Multiple themes in the email
- Claims irrelevant to your main point
- More than one call to action
2. Too Long
Generally speaking, your buyers don’t want to read a mini ebook in an email if they don’t already know who you are. You first have to provide value and establish trust before you can earn their attention.
With that in mind, structure your cold sales email in a way that clearly and concisely communicates the following:
- The value you add
- The offer you’re making
- The proof that supports it
- The action you want the prospect to take
If your emails are running too long, here’s what to watch out for:
- Muddying details and irrelevant information
- Boasting or making claims that aren’t ground in fact
- Asking the prospect to do too many things (“A confused mind says no.”)
There’s not a hard word or character count that makes for a successful sales email. Email copy should be as long as it needs to be to achieve your desired outcome. With this in mind, sales email length can vary according to what your buyers’ preferences are, what their intent is, and how much engagement you can get out of your copy.
Long-form sales emails do have their place. For example, Close.com states that they use a long-form sales email because their subscriber engagement rate is high enough to warrant one.
However, in many “cold” emailing situations, you may not have that high level of engagement to justify it.
3. Too Self-Centered
Just like in real life, too much “me me me” can be grating. Don’t let your email talk way too much about why you’re awesome, especially if you’re reaching out cold. Instead of talking about yourself, the focus should be on helping the prospect overcome a pain or problem.
What to watch out for:
- A lack of language around your prospect’s pains
- Copy that focuses on features rather than benefits
4. Too Fancy
Overly fancy email templates can make your emails seem impersonal and spammy — even with customization. No one thinks they’re getting a personal email if it’s too pretty.
What to watch out for:
- More time being spent on visual collateral rather than copy
- Generic language that reads as though it could apply to anyone
- A lack of segmentation in the email list
5. Too Soft
Sending a sales outreach email can abe nerve-wracking. You might be concerned with what the person on the other end thinks of you. At the same time, don’t fall into the trap of not being assertive enough.
If a prospect doesn’t know you, then they know they’re probably being sold to. Soft language just beats around the bush and undercuts your message.
Watch out for these email phrases to avoid:
- “You don’t know me, but…”
- “Whenever you have a second…”
- “I know your time is valuable, but…”
- “Would it make sense for us to chat?”
- “Sorry to bother you…”
Instead, use phrases that clearly convey value, get to the point, and call the prospect directly to action.
If they’re not interested, they wouldn’t do it anyway. Softer language wouldn’t change that fact.
6. Too Robotic
It’s a mistake not to include a human element to your emails. Cold, rigid emails that do nothing but harp on generic marketing points is a surefire way to turn prospects off.
Watch out for language like:
- “To whom it may concern”
- “Thanks in advance”
- “I guarantee that this product will…”
Instead, rely on what you know about your buyer persona and create personalized messaging that asks them questions and speaks directly to their pains.
7. Too Many Special Characters
Avoid typing like this!!! It can be seen as spammy and unprofessional!!!
A well-placed emoji or exclamation mark can add a little flavor to copy, but the caveat there is “well-placed.”
Avoid too many special characters such as:
- Exclamation points
It’s best to have as straight-forward a flow as you can. Be sparse with emojis, bolding, and italics as well.
8. Too Many Spelling and Punctuation Mistakes
Speaking of spammy, messages with too many grammar or spelling mistakes is a good way to look sloppy. At worst, it erodes trust and calls into question your authority and professionalism.
- Read your email aloud before sending
- Run it through a spell checker
- Ask a colleague to proofread
We’ve gone through the bad, and now it’s time for the good. Below, you’ll find a new and improved template that our clients used to turn their email game around (plus a number of additional templates for inspiration).
A New Cold Email Template
Hello [Prospect Name],
I have an idea that I can explain in 10 minutes that can get [company] its next 100 best customers.
I recently used this idea to help our client [SaaS company/competitor] almost triple their monthly run rate.
[First name], let’s schedule a quick 10-minute call so I can share the idea with you. When works best for you?
The results of this email spoke for themselves:
- 57% open rate
- 21% response rate
- Outcome: 16 new customers
So why did this sales email template work when the previous ones failed? Here are a few reasons:
1. Exciting subject line
The subject line is your gatekeeper, so 50% of email work should be spent crafting and testing different subject lines. You want to create an exciting but credible (not spammy or sales-y) subject that intrigues recipients.
Make your subject line compelling and informative to pique the recipient’s interest in the body of the email — and research the prospect so the subject line is personalized for them.
2. Enticing offer
Give your prospects a reason to respond, and a simple call-to-action. Who wouldn’t want to “almost triple their monthly run rate?” Mentioning your past success with another client they’ve heard of makes this offer seem more realistic and attainable. Include relevant numbers and statistics to make your offer even more exciting.
3. Personal feel
This sales email has the same basic format and tone of an email you’d send to your mom or best friend. When you’re too formal, you sound stiff and like a salesperson rather than a person-person.
In the example above, the salesperson’s “idea” makes the email less aggressive and aligns with where the recipient is at the beginning of their buyer’s journey. Before you hit the send button, do a final read-through of the email to make sure it has a natural and conversational tone.
4. Social proof
One of your biggest barriers to selling is risk. No one wants to be the first customer and work with a company without credibility or experience. Mentioning one of your customers and the results you delivered to them makes you less of a risk.
You can attach client case studies to provide your prospect with a detailed preview of your work. With a compelling example, the prospect will be more inclined to work with you.
Cold Sales Email Templates for B2B
Here are additional cold email templates that you can use to create emails your prospects will want to open.
1. B2B email template for finding the decision maker in the company
Hi [Prospect Name],
I am writing in hopes of finding the appropriate person who handles [DEPARTMENT I.E. MEDIA]? I also wrote to [PERSON X, PERSON Y, AND PERSON Z] in that pursuit. If it makes sense to talk, let me know how your calendar looks.
VoodooVox helps increase the revenues of Fortune 500 companies by marketing to Spanish-speakers. Each month we reach 25 million Spanish speakers with an audio message they must hear. We insert 30-second audio and SMS advertisements into phone calls made on calling cards. The benefit to users is they make their call free. The benefit for our clients is they can increase store revenue by providing text message coupons. Typical redemption is 3%. You can measure results online and with store sales. Advertisements can target specific ethnic groups and geographies. Some clients include Burger King, P&G and Chili’s.
If you are the appropriate person to speak with, what does your calendar look like? If not, who do you recommend I talk to?
This template is used by Bryan Kreuzberger, founder of Breakthrough Email, as a first touch email. He clearly states the purpose of the email and includes information about previous clients to demonstrate his credibility. The email is wrapped up with a call-to-action that outlines the next steps.
2. B2B email template to build rapport
Just left a quick message at the office for you. I chuckled a little bit when I got an automated email this morning from your predecessor, [NAME OF PREDECESSOR] who we worked with briefly, and before him, [OTHER FORMER COWORKER NAME], who we worked with as well …
First and foremost, congrats on coming into this new role! I’m sure you’ve got a lot going on – so this conversation might be timely or not. If you’re stressed, this is my go-to 🙂
My role here is working with businesses (in the area) on how they can effectively and efficiently drive more traffic to their website, increase conversions, and nurture leads into customers.
How has your first month kicked off so far?
– [Your Name]
Caroline Ostrander, a HubSpot Freemium Service Manager, and former Business Development Representative, used this template after researching the prospect and finding a rapport building opportunity. Not only was she able to relate to the prospect regarding the new job, but she also mentioned his co-worker’s names and referenced her other attempts to help their company.
3. B2B email template to establish value
Hi [Prospect Name],
I saw you recently downloaded a whitepaper about X. I’ve worked with similar companies in [Y field/industry] and I thought I’d reach out.
[Prospect’s Company] looks like a great fit for [Your Company] and I’d love to understand what your goals are for this year.
We often help companies like yours grow with:
- X solution/result
- Y solution/result
- Z solution/result
If you’d like to learn how [Your Company] can help you reach [X goals], feel free to book time on my calendar here: [Meeting Link]
What do you have to offer the prospect? This B2B email template allows you to engage with them and suggest some time to connect.
4. B2B email template to introduce yourself
Hi [Prospect Name],
I’d like to introduce myself as your resource here at [Your Company Name]. I work with businesses in the [software, healthcare, nonprofit, education, etc.] industry, and noticed you visited our website in the past.
This inspired me to spend a few minutes on [Prospect’s Company] website to learn more about how you’re approaching [X strategy for customer service, sales, marketing, etc.]. I noticed some areas of opportunity and decided to reach out to you directly.
[Your Company] is working with similar companies in your industry, such as [X Company Name], to help them accomplish [Y goals], and giving them the [Z tools/solutions] to succeed.
Do you have 15 minutes to discuss [Prospect’s Company] this week?
If so, you can book time directly onto my calendar here: [Meetings Link]
Looking forward to meeting,
Use this B2B email template to introduce yourself and your company to the prospect. Plus, it includes social proof with a customer example.
Crafting the perfect cold sales email can be tricky, but these tips and templates are a great place to start. Above all else, remember to keep it simple.
Editor’s note: This post contains an excerpt from the book The Predictable Revenue Guide to Tripling Your Sales, and is published here with permission.
Heather R. Morgan is the founder of SalesFolk, a B2B sales emailing consultancy. These are some of her best messaging tips, written in her own words.
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