5 Tips to Writing More Effective Cold Emails

Many of the best things that have happened to me in the last 2 years started with a cold email. Specifically, landing a great job, doing a landmark deal, and starting a relationship with a mentor all originated from cold outreach.

Realization: The ability to write an effective cold email literally has the power to change your life.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from sending 1,000s of cold emails that can increase your response rate:

Tease Them in the First Sentence

The best bloggers on the internet preach the importance of writing a compelling first sentence. Why? Because that sentence will determine whether people actually stick around to read the rest.

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In very much the same way, you’re competing for someone’s attention in the cold email game. High level people that receive 100s of emails a day might only skim the first sentence or two before deciding whether to respond. This is why writing a compelling first sentence is so crucial.

A lot of Business development folks use the first sentence to talk about themselves.

Hi I’m Scott and I do business development at X company.

I don’t find self declarations particularly intriguing.

I like to utilize the first sentence to highlight a problem that I can help them with. If their response is contingent upon the perception that you can help them, it’s probably a good idea to make that apparent early, no? Something as simple as:

Hi Susie,

I noticed that your site currently doesn’t have X…

If X is important, you’ll likely pique their interest enough to at least read the rest of the email.

Demonstrate That It’s a Unique Email

No one likes to feel like they’re receiving an email that’s been carpet-bombed to 500 people. It’s impersonal and doesn’t engender the feeling that you’re genuinely interested in helping them.

I like to demonstrate to someone I’m emailing that my message is unique in 2 ways:

Hyperlinking – I always try to hyperlink within my copy to something from their site that’s relevant to our conversation. Ideally, the hyperlink alludes to the problem I’m trying to help them with. If I was emailing someone about a social media marketing solution, I could use this strategy in the following way:

Hi X,

I noticed that you have been putting a lot of emphasis on building a twitter presence.

News – Another way to demonstrate that your message is unique is by mentioning a recent, relevant news item. Finding ammunition is as simple as checking the corporate twitter. Using a sales intelligence application like InsideView can also help you find notable news that’s relevant to your business.

Hi Susie,

I just saw the article on the recent series B. That’s amazing.

I wanted to touch base because I noticed…

Use A Direct Subject Line

Again, with email you’re competing in the overcrowded attention economy. In this environment, people are prone to opt for the path of least resistance. You want to optimize on this by removing all friction from responding.


If people can’t immediately figure out why you’re emailing them, they’re less likely to respond; don’t make them work for it. I’ve found that writing a very direct subject line that addresses exactly why you’re emailing them has the highest response rate. In addition, this positions you as a straight shooter, which is the type of person with whom people want to do business.

Keep It Short

Getting a Bill Shakespeare novel in my inbox makes me want to cry. Why? Because I know that reading, interpreting, and responding to it is going to be work. When someone doesn’t know you, they feel less compelled to do this work, so they’ll forego it by deleting or ignoring your message.

I always try to keep cold emails no longer than 4 sentences. In fact, I think 3 is ideal. Everyone can read 3 sentences.

“But..but..I have a incredibly complex product that 4 sentences cannot possibly encapsulate.”

The goal of the initial email is to start a conversation, not tell your life story. Condense your copy as much as possible in such a way that’s conducive to eliciting a response. Once you’ve started a conversation, shift the conversation to a setting where someone is more open to hearing the long version, such as a phone call or meeting.

Follow Up

One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to follow up. Many people resign after they’ve sent an initial email. “Well, at least I tried.” That’s BS.

If someone doesn’t respond to you, you shouldn’t assume it’s because they’re not interested. Half the time they forgot about it or your email got lost in their inbox. This is why it’s so important to make sure you follow up to a cold email even when you haven’t gotten a response. I aim to respond to unanswered initial cold emails 3-7 days after the first one. I wrote a post on exactly how to follow up to an unaswered email here.

Sending a follow up also is indicative that something is important to you. This contributes to the sentiment that this is a unique interaction vs. 1 of 500 which again, improves responsiveness.

These are a few tips that have helped me successfully break and enter into the c-suite to accomplish my goals. What strategies have worked for you?

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