3 cold outreach best practices that help build great relationships with your prospects

Discover what cold outreach really is and learn best practices for engaging your customers so you can transform them into warm leads in this guide.
Vector image showing the cold outreach process that works
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Every sales rep knows cold outreach is one of the most popular and effective ways to get a potential prospect’s attention and lay the groundwork for a great customer relationship. 

But fewer see success from it because it’s hard to convince prospects you’re not just another sleazy salesperson with pushy sales tactics up your sleeve. 

Aside from that, it’s hard to stand out in a flood of emails and connection requests. That means that if you want to earn a response from your prospect, you’re going to have to put some real effort into your cold outreach strategy.

If that sounds overwhelming, we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what cold outreach is and share some best practices and tools to make it easier.

What is cold outreach?

Cold outreach is when salespeople reach out to potential prospects who aren’t yet aware of the product or service they’re selling. 

Usually, prospects don’t know who you are, what your product does, or why they should be interested in it. And before you ask, no, cold outreach isn’t spam, and it most certainly isn’t dead like some people would have you believe.

When done right, cold outreach helps you tackle one of the most prominent problems sellers face today: engaging your ideal prospects, drawing them into a meaningful sales conversation, and accelerating time to revenue.

Some of the most common and effective methods for doing cold outreach include cold calling your prospects and sending them cold emails or DMs on platforms they frequent, like LinkedIn. 

No matter which method you use to communicate with your prospects, it’s always good to keep best practices in mind so you can pique the prospect’s interest and boost your chances of getting a reply.

Cold outreach best practices

If you’ve ever done cold outreach, you know how frustrating it can be. Often, it goes like this: First, you create a prospect list. Then, you reach out to each one via cold email or cold call. 

But the only response you get from the other side is a read receipt or getting asked how you got their contact information. It’s easy to see why this would feel discouraging and demotivating,  even if you’ve got a great product and offer. 

That’s why we’ve outlined some cold outreach best practices to establish a great relationship with your prospect and convert them into warm leads.

1. Add a dash of personalization

Many sales reps hit prospects with a generic script or blast the same cold email to thousands of prospects to target as many leads as they can. And while this may be a way to cast a wide net, you won’t get quality leads using a spray-and-pray strategy.

“This spammy approach often alienates more potential consumers than it converts to customers,” says Alex Hisoka, Principal at Fresh and Only Marketing.

So, how do you ensure that you don’t come off as pushy or spammy to potential prospects?

The solution is to eschew volume and focus your cold outreach efforts on a smaller group of prospects by personalizing your cold emails and cold call scripts. 

“A little personalization goes a long way, and it can dramatically improve your email performance metrics, including your cold outreach. The key step is to obviously do away with the generic email template and craft your own message while leaving room for basic personalization,” says Alexa.

Crafting a cold email or DM doesn't have to be hard. All it takes is some basic research, a customized subject line, and a few tweaks that demonstrate the message’s relevance to the prospect. If you’re doing cold outreach via LinkedIn, the same goes for sending voice and video messages to prospects to differentiate yourself and add an extra dose of personalization. 

“LinkedIn voice messages are super under-utilized. Practice what you’re going to say, keep the message under 30 seconds, and you’re good to go,” says Krysten Conner, Enterprise AE at UserGems. 

Adding a personalized touch to cold calls follows a similar approach — research your prospects first so you can establish common ground with them. 

“Always do research before your calls. Take a look at the account, determine any of your current customers that may compete with them, and look for growth indicators (new hires), job postings, etc. Job postings are especially great as they can be used to determine what tech stack they're using, and what KPIs they're being measured on,” says Kenny Powell, Sr. ADR at UserGems.

2. Send surprise gifts

Your prospect wants to be seen as a valued contact instead of just another sales opportunity. That means you’ve got to create a positive experience before you can even engage with them. One way to do this is by sending a thoughtful, personalized gift to your prospect. This will help to:

  • Form an emotional connection between you 
  • Create a great first impression
  • Incentivize the prospect to have a conversation with you

To understand what we mean, check out this post by Will Alfred, LinkedIn Top Sales Voice 2021. The PLG team at HeadsUp, an AI-based conversion tool, gifted Will coffee from a brand he was eager to try. He was stoked by the gesture as it showed that the company made an effort to learn what he liked. 

Evoking a similar response from a prospect with your gift should be fairly easy, especially if you’ve done your research. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. You don’t want your prospect to feel like you’re trying to buy their loyalty.

Another great aspect of gifting is that you can create a sales cadence with cold emails and meetings to further your relationship with your prospect. Here’s an example of what the first email to your prospect could look like.

Gifting cold email sample

3. Establish yourself as a thought leader

Your prospects are qualifying you as much as you’re qualifying them. It’s only fair, given that there’s likely a wealth of information about you and your company online. The best way to show your prospect that you’re the right person for the job is to establish yourself as a thought leader in the space.

Kenny of UserGems gives two tips to establish expertise, build trust, and get more positive responses from your prospects:

  • “Be yourself, and talk about what you enjoy talking about. I greatly appreciate all content surrounding Psychology, so I will try and link content to an overarching psychological theme.”
  • “DON’T post just to get likes. If you enjoy what you're talking about on LinkedIn, then sooner or later, other people will be drawn to the authenticity of your posts and honest insight (from real experience) that you can share with the world.”

The strategies we outlined above should help fix your cold outreach approach. But to get consistent results, you need to create a repeatable process.

How to do cold outreach

Conducting a cold outreach campaign isn’t as simple as drafting an email and hitting send or picking up the phone to make a cold call. You need to have a solid cold outreach process in place to successfully:

  • Establish contact with a prospect
  • Engage with them
  • And, nurture your connection

Here’s a cold outreach process you can use when planning out your strategy.

Process for doing cold outreach right

Step #1: Optimize your LinkedIn profile

Your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t just be limited to adding a profile photo and long blocks of text that highlight your achievements. 

It should give prospects clarity about how you can help them solve their pain points. For starters, you can use the headline description at the top of your profile page to talk about your role, as Mandy McEwen does.

Sample of optimized LinkedIn profile

Then, do a deep dive into how you help prospects solve their pain points in the about section. Here’s how Mandy has customized hers:

  • She opens with a brief introduction about what she does. Then, she bolsters her initial statement with a testimonial.
A description of a LinkedIn About section done well
  • After that, she jumps right into the problem and explains how she helps her prospects change their status quo.
A properly optimized LinkedIn About section
  • Lastly, she ends with a CTA.
Using a CTA right in the LinkedIn about section

You can follow a similar framework for your about section or tweak it to suit your role and persona. All in all, it should help the prospect learn more about you and the value you bring to the table and increase the chance of responding to you.

Step #2: Create an ideal customer profile (ICP)

Too many companies spread themselves thin by trying to target too many different companies in too many industries at once. As a result, they don’t speak the customer’s language and fail to generate consistent results. 

That’s why it’s important to create an ICP. An ICP or consumer profile is a description of who you want to sell to. It contains the following data to help you understand their pain points and craft cold outreach content that addresses their wants and needs.

  • Demographics: Characteristics like age, sex, job title, and income level, that help you understand your customer. 
  • Psychographics: Understanding why your prospects make purchasing decisions by studying their lifestyle, habits, interests, etc. 
  • Firmographics: Specifies the characteristics of the company your ICPs work at. This could be the industry they’re in, the number of people in their department, their location, organizational changes, etc. 
  • Technographics: Provides information on the technology stack your prospects use within their organizations. To get started, ask yourself if you integrate well with their existing technologies or replace them. 
  • Jobs to be done: Identifies which of your prospect's problems your product or service will solve. Ideally, this problem should be a pain point your product or service will relieve.

Once you’ve mapped out your ICP, get started with creating a high-quality prospect list using pipeline generation tools.

Step #3: Connect with the prospect

If you’ve already done your research, this step should be easy. All you have to do is find a path to your prospect before calling or emailing them. 

This could be anything from congratulating them on a new promotion, offering your thoughts about a recent article or post they wrote, or simply centering the conversation around the prospect themselves.

The idea is to simply show them that you genuinely care about them and the problems they’re experiencing. For instance, check out this introductory message that Jan, a salesperson, sent to Kyle Coleman, SVP of Marketing, Clari.

Cold email sample that connects with prospects

Kyle explains why this message from Jan got a response from him:

"The playful flattery isn't why I responded. This is:

  • Great research, a nice tie-in to the value prop, good call to action.
  • Short, easy-to-read sentences with plain language.
  • Plenty of white space to make it easy on the eye."

“Jan, the sender, did an impressive “show me you know me” by highlighting specific things about my company, the pain points I was facing, and weaving in details about me personally. That made me interested in his company’s solution.”

Kyle adds, "And if the email doesn’t make much sense, that’s because it was only meant for Kyle. “It wasn’t written for you. It was written for me. That’s what personalization and effective cold emailing is all about."

While this process may seem time-consuming, you don’t have to tackle it all manually. There are plenty of tools that will do the heavy lifting for you.

Best cold outreach tools

The manual processes involved in cold outreach can take a toll on sales reps, preventing them from focusing on building customer relationships. Thankfully, there are many different ways for you to automate the more tedious aspects of cold outreach.

Start by taking a look at these tools:

  • UserGems Meeting Assistant: Meeting Assistant eliminates the risk of missing or outdated information in the CRM by automatically enriching new contacts from calendar invites and adding them to Salesforce under the right fields – all without any manual work.
  • Vidyard: Easily create personalized video messages for your prospects and improve response rates.
  • Orum: Call multiple numbers simultaneously and connect with live customers instead of going to voicemail.
  • Gong: Transcribe your cold calls so you can analyze them for areas of improvement later. 
  • Alyce: Choose from a wide variety of personalized gifts that'll help you drive conversions and increase customer loyalty.

Making the most of cold outreach

Cold outreach is extremely effective if done right. Unfortunately, a lot of reps miss out on positive results because they don’t know how to stand out in a competitive landscape. 

But by focusing on personalization, making genuine connections, and setting yourself up as an authority, you’ll turn your cold leads into warm leads — significantly boosting your chances of success. 

UserGems helps with this by tracking customer job changes so you can reach out to past customers to see if your product can help solve the challenges in their current company.

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