Posted on Jul 7, 2017

How to Write a Killer Cold Email to Your Sales Prospects

Think cold emails can’t crack the door open with high-end sales prospects? Think again.

Twenty-five-year-old The Zebra founder Adam Lyons wrote Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban a cold email about his startup. He guessed the billionaire’s email and wrote a short cold email with the subject line, “Wanna disrupt the insurance industry?” The tactic worked, and Lyons successful secured Cuban as an investor in his industry-disrupting startup.

Lyon’s experience wasn’t necessarily a fluke, either. WayUp founder Liz Wessel regularly tells her staff to cold email their idols and industry experts to track down the advice and answers they need. Wessel herself used the tactic to cold email venture capitalist Roelof Botha for advice on whether she should take a job at Google or with a venture capital fund. He told her to go with Google, and the job gave her the experience and confidence she needed to launch what is now the largest online marketplace for college students to land jobs and internships.

That’s the good news about cold email. The bad news is that even though it’s easy to do, it’s not a slam dunk. Writing an email to a sales prospect you’ve never met might work once in a while, but isn’t an effective way to close the deal. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to write a killer cold email to your sales prospects that gets results.

Figure Out What Your Prospect Needs

Your cold email strategy kicks off by researching the sales prospects you want to contact, and figuring out exactly what they need. Take a look at their social media and LinkedIn profiles to get a sense of their personality, what type of work they do, and the interests they share. You can also check to see if they’re part of an industry LinkedIn group and build a rapport there.

But don’t go for the obvious points that everyone else probably does, too. For example, stand out by steering clear of referencing the same tired statistics and case studies about social media if you’re trying to nail a sale with a Facebook ads company. Instead, really get to know the prospect’s pain points inside and out, and learn more about their industry.

In this case, a Facebook ads company may struggle with educating their audience on the need to nurture a campaign for several weeks or months. Their audience may not understand the importance of figuring out the ideal target market and maximizing ROI. Now you can approach your sales prospect armed with information on how to overcome these pain points. Using their own language and business context can help show the value of your own copywriting or consulting services.

Warm Them Up on Social Media

Get on a sales prospect’s radar before you ever hit their inbox with a cold email. Seek them out on social media or LinkedIn Pulse, and start engaging in some personal conversation. Offer some insights on an article they posted, ask a question or respond to theirs with careful thought.

Once you’ve established a warm connection, private message them and ask if it’s okay if you shoot over a quick email that will just take a few minutes of their time. Let them know they can get back to you at their convenience, and don’t pressure them by asking for a firm ‘yes’ or immediate read. When your cold email pops up in their inbox, they’ll already be expecting it and won’t view you as a complete stranger.

Choose a Surprising Subject Line

Your subject line is like a first handshake with a sales prospect that makes a lasting impression. Choose a compelling and surprising subject line customized to your prospect’s needs. Focus on something that targets their pain points or a service they need without sounding spammy. For example, “How to convince customers to double their campaign length” would probably capture a prospect’s attention and earn their click.

However, not every subject line is created equal. Start A/B testing all of your subject headings to see what converts best, whether that’s a response or a ‘yes’ to send over a proposal. Don’t be afraid to experiment and be bold with your subject headings and test those results.

Customize Every Cold Email

It’s tempting to send out mass cold emails to everyone in the industry you’re targeting. You might see sporadic success, but it’s not an efficient way to cold email and is unpredictable at best. Instead, you can give your results a big boost by focusing on customizing every email that you send out.

Tailor each correspondence to the person you’re talking to, from their name all the way down to details about how your service can help their business. This is where the previous step comes in handy: the more you’ve researched and fully understand the needs of your audience, the more personal your cold email will appear. Your sales prospects will see your email as more credible than the mass emails asking for their business.

Get to the Point Quickly

Time is money for everyone, and your sales prospects are busy professionals. Show them you respect their time by keeping your emails short and sweet. Your sales prospects don’t want to spend a lot of time weeding through correspondence and proposals, or worse, trying to guess what you want after reading a vague email. Get right to the point and ask them if you can send over more information.

For example, a proposal-generating service targeting B2B companies could send over some information about how they can help a prospect’s business with references to successful case studies. From there, offer them a free trial to test out the service or an exploration call to discuss next steps.

Use Some Social Proof

It doesn’t hurt to drop a little social proof into your cold emails. Mention the name of a mutual friend or colleague, or the name of a competitor you’ve worked with. You can also name drop industry conferences you’ve attended to give your business a credibility boost.

It also doesn’t hurt to ask a colleague to introduce you to a sales prospect through LinkedIn or via a group email first to break the ice. The idea is to show – not just tell – your sales prospect that you’re a pro with all the right industry connections.

Talk to Them Like a Human Being

Think about the last time you got a terrible sales email and what it sounded like. There’s nothing worse than receiving a stiff and impersonal email that approaches each sales prospect like they’re a robot. Talk to them in a conversational manner like you would to a friendly acquaintance. Read your cold email back to yourself to make sure you’ve nailed the tone you’re looking for.

Some business owners fall into the trap of misunderstanding the etiquette of targeting industry leaders and influencers. Asking the CEO of a Fortune 500 company for a meeting and a big favor won’t get you very far. Instead, send them a brief and to-the-point email asking for a little information or advice. This tactic worked for Birchbox founder Katia Beauchamp. With no experience in technology or beauty, Beauchamp cold emailed every beauty company she could find to ask for advice and warm up her leads – and she ultimately got her company funded and on its way to multi-million dollar success.

Don’t Go for the Big Ask Right Away

Cold email is really a relationship-building tool that opens doors to new opportunities. Cold emails aren’t necessarily the place to attach a business proposal and ask for a retainer to get started. You could end up scaring away your prospects instead of nurturing them into a sale. Instead, ask for something small, like some feedback, a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to a free trial or proposal, or a quick phone call.


It takes more than one or two emails to convert a lead into a sale. According to research compiled by HubSpot, 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up. But 80% of sales actually require five follow-ups. HubSpot said it best: “In other words, 44% of salespeople aren’t putting in 1/5 of the effort needed to close the deal.

Make time to check in the following week, and then try again after a week or two and drop in added value to your email. For example, include a link to a relevant blog post or news item that would directly pertain to the prospect’s business. This tactic shifts focus from you asking them for something to you offering them something helpful, and it shows them you’re interested in growing a relationship.

Cold emails are a powerful tool you can use to connect with sales prospects, but they need to be executed properly in order to show results. Take the time to test your results and continuously monitor which tactics work best. Before long, you may have more leads and converting customers than you can handle.


What are your favorite ways to write a killer cold email to your sales prospects? Let us know by leaving a comment below:


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