7 Steps for Writing a Cold Email That'll Actually Get a Response

Now that the combination of voicemail and call screening has made cold calling next to impossible, most companies are relying more heavily on email marketing (a.k.a., “selling by email”) to get new customers.

So, here are seven of my best pointers for writing a successful sales email:

1. Remember That Less Is Always More

Contrary to popular belief, providing unrequested information or pointers isn’t adding value—it’s an imposition on the recipient’s time and mental energy.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, marketing emails should be one to three sentences, with no fluff, biz-blab, jargon, or “for more information, see…”

Remember: We live in a world of information overload; don’t make it worse for your potential customers.

2. Keep the Subject Short and Meaningful

Statistically, emails are most likely to be opened if the subject line consists of one or two words. To achieve the best open rates, a subject should be meaningful to the recipient.

Wrong Subject Lines

  • Business opportunities in quality advertising resale perks
  • Have you registered for the annual Grand Pooh-Bah networking convention?

Right Subject Lines

  • Tampa Entrepreneurs (if both you and the customer are located there)
  • IBM’s Strategy (if IBM is the recipient’s chief competitor)
  • John Colleague (if that’s the name of somebody who referred you to the recipient)

Related: 5 Keys to an Email That Gets Opened Every Time

3. Front-Load the First Sentence

In many cases, all that the recipient sees in addition to the subject is the first part of the first sentence in the body of the email. Don’t waste that valuable space with fake concern or platitudes. Instead, have a first sentence that means something to the person.

Wrong First Sentences

  • “I hope you are well and enjoying the good weather.”
  • “In today’s busy working world everyone is looking to increase profits.”

Right First Sentences

  • “Joe Colleague suggested I contact you about…” (if you don’t use the referral source in the subject line)
  • “Since you’ve just merged with ZYX corp, you’re probably wondering…” (if your product is something that’s particularly useful after a merger has taken place.)
  • “Our analysis of IBM strategy for 2017 says that their product line…”

4. Don’t Overdo it on the Name Dropping

Since it’s pretty easy to grab personal names and company names out of files, email marketers often pepper them throughout the text of the email.

This is supposed to make it seem as if your email is personal, but the actual effect is the exact opposite. It flags the email as delete-bait spam.

Only use a recipient’s name in the salutation at the beginning of the email and don’t use the company name at all. Because, guess what? Recipients already know who they work for.

Wrong Use of Name

“I’m sure that you, Joe, want the best value for your money at XYZ Corporation and, Joe, that’s important to me, too.”

Right Use of Name

“Joe, I may have some special insight into the problem…”

Related: 4 Lessons Every Salesperson Can Learn From Olympic Rowers

5. Be Persistent

Rather than a single email, send a series of subsequent emails, each spaced a few days after the previous email. Append the original email to the subsequent emails like so:

Subject: Re: Tampa Entrepreneurs

“Joe, did you get a chance to think about this?”

Subject: Tampa Entrepreneurs

“Joe, I’ve got new demographics about Tampa startups…”

You’ll be surprised how many recipients will respond to follow-ups. Often, the response rate is much higher than the response rate to the original email.

6. Only Include One Call to Action

Giving a recipient more than one call-to-action reduces rather than increases your response rate.

First, it comes off like you’re desperate. Second, by giving the recipient choices, you’re forcing them to think about how to respond rather than simply responding.

Wrong Call to Action

“Please call me at 555-1212 to set up an appointment or you can email me at [email protected] Check out our website www.salesguymailplaice.com and read our white paper…”

Related: 5 Interesting Lessons From 150 Cold Calls Per Day

7. Make it Easy to Respond

Most marketing emails have calls-to-action that are way too ambitious. Most of the time the marketing email requests a call back or a meeting, either in person or on the telephone.

Here’s the thing: Unless your email was written by Obi-Wan Kenobi, using his Jedi mind tricks, you’re probably not going to convince the recipient to put aside a half-hour to hear your sales pitch.

Rather than asking for a time commitment, ask for the easiest thing possible: a simple reply to your email to begin a conversation.

Then, after you’re in a back-and-forth conversation, bring up the idea of a meeting to discuss the opportunity further.

Right Call to Action

  • “If this intrigues you, I can explain further.”
  • “Are you the right person to talk with about this? If not, who is?”

This article was originally published on Inc. It has been republished here with permission

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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