Professional woman on laptop flooded with emails
Professional woman on laptop flooded with emails

Email is a critical component of most sales and marketing strategies.

But over time, outbound sales activities, like cold email campaigns, have gone from being the norm to being perceived as ‘pushy’ or ‘spammy’. 

Yet, companies still task sales development reps with targeting cold leads through their inboxes.

Why? Because cold email prospecting works when it’s done right.


As an example, you can make up to $36 for every $1 spent on email marketing. 

Then, there’s the fact that eight out of ten prospects prefer communicating with sales reps via email because it lets buyers take control of communications in a non-intrusive (and asynchronous) way. 

With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why mastering cold email is a big deal for sales teams — and an essential tactic for scaling prospecting campaigns effectively. 

However, all those benefits go out the window if your cold emails miss the mark. That’s why it’s so important to get a strong start. 

Follow this guide to learn how to make the most of your cold email prospecting so you can generate more leads and hit your sales targets.

What are cold emails?

Let’s clear something up real quick.

Some people will try to tell you that all cold emails are spam.

✋ That’s a no from us. 

spam emails vs. cold emails

What makes an email ‘cold’ is that you use it to target so-called ‘cold’ leads — people who you haven’t interacted with before. In other words, a cold email is an unsolicited message to a potential customer who doesn’t know anything about you or your product. 

Where cold emails are targeted to a specific recipient, relevant to a prospect’s specific needs, and provide value to the reader, spam emails are the kind of messages that go straight to your junk folder. 

They’re usually generic — think copy/paste — messages that aren’t targeted or customized to a specific person, with a focus on the commercial benefit over the recipient’s. 

While not all cold emails are spam, some are. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your sales reps understand the difference and that you coach them on how to effectively execute cold outreach. Otherwise, their emails might not only be ignored but risk being flagged as spam.

Why you should be using cold emails in your outreach

Sales prospecting is a never-ending task. You keep doing it, and it keeps needing to be done. 

Does it get old? Sometimes.

Can it bring in new clients? Absolutely. 

But sometimes, sending out email after email can start to feel tedious, especially when it seems like the only responses your cold emails get are crickets. 

But when cold emails are done well, they work. Here’s why you should stick with cold outreach:

  • It's a nonintrusive way to reach out to busy prospects in different time zones. Since prospects can respond at their convenience, it can make them more receptive to your outreach.
  • Customized outreach makes prospects feel like you've done your research and truly understand their business challenges. This allows you to position your product as a solution that adds value to the prospect's business.
  • Cold emails are effective for pipeline generation. You can leverage data and automation tools to pitch to multiple companies that match your ideal customer profile but have never heard of your products at scale. This makes it easy to fuel your pipeline and reduce pipeline anxiety.

5 cold emailing best practices for better sales prospecting

1. Personalize your emails for better engagement

Personalization is making waves in the world of email. It’s a proven way to get better response rates.

But personalization is more than putting the recipient’s name in the subject line — people want to read things that are relevant to their specific interests and challenges. For example, if your prospect just changed jobs, you can congratulate them on the new role and show how your product can help them achieve their goals.

2. Segment your emails to make them relevant

Email list segmentation goes hand-in-hand with personalization. Segmentation enables you to divide prospects and customers into smaller groups based on interests, company size, industry, location, and even metrics like buying frequency. 

With the right tech stack, your sales team can target each segment with highly personalized cold emails at the right time of day and with the right message.

3. Leverage automation

There are tons of tools designed to help sales teams generate pipeline from cold emails.

For example, you can use data enrichment tools to get key information about your prospects that ensures your outreach is customized. 

UserGems can show you if a prospect has had a previous relationship with your company, like when they were working for a different employer. This means you can tap into that info to warm up your conversation.

Automation tools also streamline your B2B prospecting workflow, so you don’t have to rely on chance. For example, sending a first and second follow-up email boosts your chances of receiving a reply by 21% and 25%, respectively.  Yet, 70% of salespeople give up on a prospect after one email.

4. Aim to build relationships

Think of a cold email as a conversation starter. Your goal isn’t to sell on the spot but rather to start a meaningful conversation with your prospect.

An email that’s focused on your product instead of the prospect’s pain points, mission, and goals comes across as transactional. This ties back to the need to personalize your outreach by learning more about your prospect.

5. Keep it short and concise

When your prospect has finished reading your email, they should know who you are, why you’re contacting them, how your product can help them, and what they need to do next. 

But remember, keeping things short and sweet is a cold email strategy for good reason.

Your B2B prospects are busy, and they receive a lot of emails. Your chances of being ignored increase the longer your emails are. 

So how long should your sales email be exactly? Aim for between 50 to 125 words in total.

How to write cold emails that convert

But even with those best practices in mind, writing a cold email may not come naturally to you. Especially ones that encourage your prospects to take action. 

 There are three key elements that impact whether or not your cold emails will convert: 

  • The inbox
  • The message
  • And, the call to action (CTA)

Essentially, that means getting a prospect to open your email, read the body content, and respond. Although it’s not exactly a cakewalk, these tips will help you start on the right foot. 

1. The inbox: Aim to get your cold email opened

The first hurdle for a cold email (after making it into a person’s inbox) is whether or not the recipient will open it. The elements that determine your open rate are: 

  • The ‘from’ line
  • The subject line
  • And the send time 

What to put in the ‘from’ line of a cold email

The ‘from’ line in a cold email should reflect who you are and — in some cases — where you work. For example, [your name] from [your company]. This can alleviate suspicion and give your reader a positive first impression. 

It can also be helpful to loop in someone in a similar role from your company to make the message more relevant.

What to put in the subject line of a cold email

Next comes the subject line.

An ineffective subject line will be ignored or may even end up in the spam folder, so avoid sending mass emails, using all-caps, or click-bait titles. If you aren’t sure what to avoid, just take a look in your own spam folder for some examples. 

A good cold email subject line needs to compel the recipient to open the message. For example, consider using a question or hit on a prospect’s current concerns. 

If you’ve researched the prospect’s business goals for the year, your subject line could be something like “Let’s get you to [business goal]!”

When to send a cold email

Last, be mindful of when you send your cold email. 

According to a variety of studies, Fridays and weekends are the worst times to send cold emails. After all, who’s going to open — and respond to — a cold sales email during their time off?

Instead, you want to catch your recipient in the right frame of mind when they have a few minutes to open and read your message. Do your research to confirm their office hours and time zone, and consider using A/B testing to figure out the time that works best for your target audience.

2. The message: Personalize your outreach

Once your email is opened, you have about 12 seconds to keep the reader’s attention and get them to read through it. Whether or not they stay engaged depends on the opening line, the product pitch, and the email length. 

Step 1: Write a cold sales email intro

The opening line of a cold email is your chance to pull the reader in. To hook them and keep them engaged. A bad intro will have them clicking delete before they even finish reading the first sentence. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you write the best cold email intro: 

Make it relevant to your prospect. You need to know your target audience to craft an opening line relevant to your prospect. What’s their role? What are their pain points? This is easier if you have a good lead-generation process in place.  

Always personalize. Personalized cold email openers have a higher chance of getting the recipient to continue reading because it gives the impression the email was written just for them. 

For starters, instead of a generic “Hey” for salutation, use your prospect’s name — not a generic term (like friend or bud) or their job title.

Be personable. Bring some personality to your opening without making it about yourself or your company. While B2B sales target companies as a whole, individual decision-makers are the ones who read emails and ultimately pull the trigger. 

To start, cut out ‘I’, ‘We’, and ‘Us’. And don’t be afraid of allowing your relatable and authentic self to shine through in your cold email outreaches. 

For example, check the prospect’s LinkedIn or other social media platforms to see whether you have any common ground. Are you both sports fans? Did they recently get promoted? Have they posted about a recent event that you’re knowledgeable about?

This has the added benefit of letting your prospect know you’ve done your research and warms them up for a conversation

Step 2: Craft the perfect product pitch

Now that you know how to write an intro, the next thing is to add a compelling pitch that makes up the email body. 

Instead of telling the prospect how awesome your product is, focus on their problem and how you can help solve it — think value proposition over product features.

This is also a great place to provide social proof. A simple one-line summary from a case study about how a similar company has benefited from using your product is enough to get a prospect hooked. But, if you don’t have that, include an example of how your product has solved the same problem for others. 

Pro tip: avoid using links in your first email as it can affect email deliverability or scare off your prospects.

The CTA:  End your email with a clear call-to-action 

To write cold emails with great conversion rates, it’s essential to think about what action you want prospects to take at the end. For example, do you want them to book a demo? Claim a promotional offer? Or just respond to you?

If you aren’t clear about what steps the prospect should take next, chances are, they won’t do anything. 

But simply having a CTA isn’t enough. You need to make sure it’s: 

  • Clear, so the reader knows what to do
  • Unique — there should only be one CTA in your email, and it should always be at the end
  • Relevant to the rest of the content in the email

Master cold email prospecting with smarter data

Cold email remains a primary source of lead generation for a lot of B2B companies. As with many other sales processes, your success with cold emails will largely depend on:

  • Producing highly targeted and personalized email copies, including subject lines and clear calls to action. 
  • Finding out what works for your audience via experimenting and A/B testing. 
  • Following best practices for cold email prospecting to improve your conversion rates. 

Ultimately, research and testing are the keys to writing an effective cold email. As you gather more data about your prospects and email performance, SDRs get better at writing cold emails that convert to new leads.

You can also improve your B2B prospecting process with a pipeline generation tool like UserGems. 

We track job changes of your past customers, champions, and prospects and automatically surface them in your CRM so you can sell to them again. These leads are qualified, 3x likely to convert, and have a 12% shorter sales cycle.

Why UserGems

UserGems is a pipeline generation software that helps revenue teams generate and protect revenue efficiently. With UserGems, companies can track and automate outreach when their champions change their jobs, and capture the buying groups to find the warmest path into every account.

Companies like Mimecast, Greenhouse, and Medallia use UserGems to reach their revenue goals, quickly and efficiently. Book a demo.

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