Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

Ask GH

Getting started is always the hardest part, including writing a cold email to someone who doesn't know you or your product. What's the best first sentence or introduction you've seen or received from a cold sales email?

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 2 years ago #

    "[InsertName] suggested I get in touch with you about some potential challenges you may be having with [InsertProblem]..." The important part is the reference. It's even better if the reference makes the introduction. In my opinion everything else is spam.

    What's starting to get worn out is the "Are you still the person who handles [activity]?" I get this form email almost every day. A couple years ago it may have worked, but by now everyone has read the same book and is using the same email.

    • LS

      Logan Stoneman

      over 2 years ago #

      Wouldn't you consider the reference to qualify the "cold email" as now a "warm lead/email"? If someone doesn't know their contact at all, yet they actually can deliver value to the contact - how does one communicate it quickly without, as you said, become 'spam'?

      There are a ton of examples on the web, but yes, most are already picked over and reiterated over and over.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 2 years ago #

        You're probably right that it's a warm lead. Maybe I am suggesting that "cold email" is always spam. Generally I'm just not a fan of it. It's too easy to abuse since there is no cost to it.

        Warm referral leads take more work, but I think they are much more effective. For example, my first job out of college was cold call selling adverting in Eastern Europe with no base salary. While cold calling worked, it was difficult. Eventually I discovered that reference selling worked a lot better than cold call selling and figured out a way to do it in bulk. Here's how it worked. I primarily focused my sales efforts on technology companies. I found that I could invest a lot of time selling a big hardware brand, and then ask them for a list of their resellers. They would give me a list of 50+ resellers. I then asked if it was OK if I contacted them on behalf of the big brand to potentially coordinate some advertising. Next step was to mass fax the resellers (this was before email was popular) a letter in Hungarian explaining that "Big Brand" shared their name with me and thought it might be a good idea to coordinate some direct response advertising for the reseller with the big brand's campaign. I shared the dates, size and content of the big brand's ads along with other details and a process for getting started. Within hours of sending the automated fax, I generally had several orders.

        Your category may be different, but I think we creativity and a bit of work you can probably figure out something better than pure cold emailing. If you are going to cold email, invest a lot of time personalizing it so the person knows it's not just spam. @morgan 's comment has a really good example of this.

        • YK

          yael kochman

          over 2 years ago #

          There is no cost to cold emails? What about the amount of time it takes to manually send dozens of well-thought emails, to get those email addresses, tweak the subject line again and again.
          There is a cost for everything we do. I don't think cold emails don't have a cost. I think cold emails are not cost effective.

          • SE

            Sean Ellis

            over 2 years ago #

            I meant the bulk cold emails that are untargeted and not customized for each recipient.

            • DS

              Daria Shualy

              over 2 years ago #

              There's an additional cost, and that's branding and positioning. When you send bulk cold emails you are risking burning leads that are annoyed with your lack of thought and originality, who otherwise might convert.

        • AS

          Adam Szabo

          over 2 years ago #

          Best cold emails I have received (without a referral) are the ones that look like emails I get from my friends. No formatting, lower case subject, short text starting with something like "Hey Adam". When there's a lot of formatting and the first sentence is "We are a x company giving y solutions...", I'm not even reading further.

          I think it's also essential to do some REAL work before you send the email. Like when a company selling SEO services contacted me with a short list of problems my site had. They gave me actual info about my site for free and offered to tell me more if I subscribe. Sounds allright.

          BTW I'm from Hungary @sean it's nice to see one of my role models was working here (even remotely) :)

        • LM

          Lincoln Murphy

          over 2 years ago #

          I've actually been doing some co-outreach (think co-marketing but for direct 1:1 email outreach) lately... super-awesome and effective.

          • IO

            Isi Ojeabulu

            over 2 years ago #

            @lincolnmurphy could you share more on that?

            • LM

              Lincoln Murphy

              over 2 years ago #

              Sure @isioj ... it's a simple 10-step process:

              1. Find a company you do not compete with and who's customers fit your Ideal Customer Profile and your customers fit their ICP. More on that here: https://growthhackers.com/ideal-customer-profile-framework/
              2 - 7. Do what it takes to become friends with people at that company; get them to know, like, and trust you, etc.
              8. Both parties identify some customers that would be perfect for the other company
              9. Someone from each company reaches out to their customers to introduce the other company in a way that's all about how that other company could help the customer (remember, WIIFT), CC'ing the other company rep on the email, etc.
              10. Profit.

              • DS

                Daria Shualy

                over 2 years ago #

                We actually did that with PipeDrive, and it back-lashed, mucg to our surprise. However we followed-up by doing cross-promotion posts on our blogs with mutual special offers, and that has generated a long tail of study signups with very high conversion to paying ever since.

              • LM

                Lincoln Murphy

                over 2 years ago #

                I couldn't reply directly to your comment @daria so I had to reply to mine (threading limit reached)... can you share what (you think) went wrong for there to be a backlash in your co-outreach?

              • IO

                Isi Ojeabulu

                over 2 years ago #

                Makes total sense. I can imagine the ROI on this is high. Thanks @lincolnmurphy

              • DM

                Dan Medcraft

                over 2 years ago #

                wows, the ROI on that method must be through the roof!!

              • DS

                Daria Shualy

                about 2 years ago #

                So answering here and belatedly (I keep not getting my GH notifications)
                The cross marketing email was sent to all our users, which at the time were not our newsletter subscribers but our active users on dapulse.com
                And I don't know why (though I have a few assumptions, actually qualitative research on this might be they way to test them) users were very annoyed. It seemed like they thought we were somehow profiting from this...

                On the blog, on the other hand, users were very happy with it, and it became a SEO asset too.

    • HW

      Hannah Wright

      over 2 years ago #

      Yep. Those "Are you still the person who handles ___?" emails make me cringe.

  • NS

    New Svasti-Xuto

    over 2 years ago #

    Not related to cold emails. But I think its worth sharing

    My personal favorite is from Dean Jackson "9 Words Email". It is powerful for converting previous leads that became inactive somewhere along the funnel.

    Its a simple but yet powerful email and goes something like this:

    Subject: [Name]
    Content: Are you still looking for [solution] ?

    E.g.

    Subject: Logan
    Content: Are you still looking for techniques to get more email opened?

    And that is the end of the email. It does not have to be exactly 9 words but the idea is that is has to be super simple (excuse my bad example)

    What you do think Logan?

    • JJ

      Jeremy Jarvis

      over 2 years ago #

      That would get binned faster than a "thanks for following" DM on twitter :)

    • LS

      Logan Stoneman

      over 2 years ago #

      Although i appreciate the quick approach to any task, in my industry [education] I can't afford to mass email a generic template. Each must be crafted to suit their specific needs and situations to even get a response. There are not enough potential clients to take a risk in 'hoping' they will respond.

    • LM

      Lincoln Murphy

      over 2 years ago #

      This is such a killer framework for follow-up and/or reactivation emails.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 2 years ago #

    This doesn't exactly answer your question, but this post from @noahkagan on cold email is one of my favorites:

    http://okdork.com/2013/04/18/cold_email/

  • TD

    Tiffany Dasilva

    over 2 years ago #

    Flattery gets you everywhere. ;)
    Having someone who noticed something about me and had a question about what I did, or answered a question I had on here or on twitter with their product has always worked wonders.

    • JB

      Jason Bedunah

      over 2 years ago #

      Yeah, when I was a VP of Marketing that is about the only thing that would get through to me... not the flattery part :-) but already knowing something about one of my posts/comments/tweets and tying it into some initial information usually got me to click.

  • SM

    Stuart McKeown

    over 2 years ago #

    I used to send a lot more cold emails than I do now. I usually had the best success pointing out how the receipent was doing something poorly and how we could help do it better (sometimes complete with a working example). I'd end up putting 30mins into an email sometimes.

    They work, but it's a lot of work to do it right. Which is why you end up getting the types of people that use templates (like Sean references). If something smells like a template, I generally spam bin it - unless it's super relevant.

    So I try to put myself in that frame of mind, if I was getting this email - how would I respond.

    I also highly recommend email tracking tools like YesWare to help you with experimentation!

    • JM

      Jack Meredith

      over 2 years ago #

      Totally agree with your 2nd sentence. I've found having a visual cue helps get the point across. If I feel like its worth the time, I'll usually inspect elements on their site, add our widget, screenshot or record a gif, and add it into the email.

  • LM

    Lincoln Murphy

    over 2 years ago #

    I just got an email with the subject: "Problem with Downloads for - "How (and When) to Hire a Great VP of Customer Success".

    The opening line was: "I just received an invite for your webinar."

    So I opened it because, well, I thought there was a problem. And I kept reading because the opening lines continued that narrative.

    The next line was "I registered and noticed that you use GoToWebinar."

    And then I saw that it was from a competitor of GoToWebinar trying to sell us on his solution, specifically that GTW requires a downloads and theirs doesn't and we're missing out, blah blah blah.

    While I applaud the tactic of joining mailing lists and waiting for an opportunity to strike like this, it didn't work as expected (I assume).

    It made me mad. I thought something was wrong and wanted to help, only to realize nothing was wrong. Not a good way to start a relationship.

    Now you could justify the "problem with downloads" part by saying "I mean there's a problem with downloads in general, not a problem with YOUR downloads..." but the damage - I believe - would already be done.

    Maybe it works really well, I don't know. I doubt it. Hopefully he's testing different versions and he'll see that this one doesn't work so well. I doubt it.

    As anyone who's been around me or worked with me knows, I'm all about being provocative when necessary. But you have to be careful not to take your COLD prospect - who doesn't already know, like, and trust you - on too wild of an emotional roller coaster.

    Save that for later in the relationship.

    • JG

      Jim Gray

      over 2 years ago #

      People really don't like feeling tricked or cheated. It's wired into our psychology at a very primitive level. It's a land mine that will very quickly flip people to negative sentiment, even if they might have otherwise been receptive.

      Sometimes people like being surprised, but it's difficult to do this without making people feel tricked or cheated, so be careful.

  • LM

    Lincoln Murphy

    over 2 years ago #

    It's kind of funny... We all get "cold emails" from people we don't know everyday.

    The ones we open and reply to we don't consider "cold emails" ... they're just emails from people. They might even be from people trying to sell us something, but even some of those aren't "cold."

    It's the sales emails or the intro/meeting request emails from people we don't know (who clearly don't know us) that seem canned, clearly lacking research, or otherwise seemed "cold" that we refer to as well, "cold emails."

    And of course, the horrible emails that are obviously just canned or templates - or look more like phishing scams - with zero research, we categorize as SPAM.

    But the trick/gimmick/hack that gets us to open and interact with an email is that those emails aren't about the person emailing us or their product; they're are about us.

    We're selfish. We're curious. If you figure out the right mix to take advantage of those two things... you're golden.

    So a couple of rules (and then 7 more in the link below this list):
    1. Just write an email (the one that works make into a template; don't try to create a template at first)
    2. Make sure it's all about WIIFT (What's In It For Them)
    https://growthhackers.com/7-sanity-checks-before-sending-that-cold-email/

    I'll add that there are actually three "opening lines" in an email and they all are super-important and they build on each other.

    1. Subject (the headline)
    2. Pre-Header / Preview of first sentence (the sub-headline)
    3. Full first sentence (opening line)

    I try to optimize for mobile devices - generally iPhones in my world - so I have a short subject + high-value pre-header to get them to open.

    To do that I front-load the opening sentence with the things they need to see to pique their curiosity in the preview window, but in a way that makes the first full sentence actually readable once they open the email.

    That said, some great ideas have already been floated and others can be found in these GH threads:

    https://growthhackers.com/how-to-write-an-email-that-will-never-be-ignored/
    https://growthhackers.com/5-cold-email-templates-that-will-generate-warm-leads-for-your-sales-team/
    https://growthhackers.com/questions/ask-gh-anyone-want-critique-my-cold-email/
    https://growthhackers.com/5x5-method-personalizing-relationships-at-scale/

    • LS

      Logan Stoneman

      over 2 years ago #

      100% agree on the 3 first sentences. It's hard to find the right combination for each person, especially in my industry.
      Quick questions for you @lincolnmurphy
      Toeing the line between showing why you're valuable to them and sounding 'spammy' is often the gray-est of areas. any advice on this?

      AND do you think it's better to start lower down on the decision tree to warm your leads/get introductions. Or pinpoint the decision maker directly with the email

      • LM

        Lincoln Murphy

        over 2 years ago #

        I get that you don't want to sound spammy @loganstoneman - I don't want you to sound spammy, either.

        All I can say is do what works for your customer and get out of your own way. Stop looking for reasons not to do this (if you are) and just take action. You may not like this approach, you may think it sounds "spammy" but if a reasonable person who's not you (always good to do a sanity check with someone else) doesn't think it sounds spammy (it shouldn't if you write it as if one person is telling another person about something that will help them... you don't have to channel your inner Billy Mays here) then it's fine.

        As for where to start, nothing works better than a CEO delegating to a VP. A Director or VP running it up the flagpole to the C-suite generally only works if there's already an initiative in place, and if that's the case you're likely to be one of several vendors they're already evaluating.

        Barring top-down delegation, I'd focus on horizontal introductions (both from internal AND external peers) if you can't go directly to the person you're trying to reach for whatever reason. Or, in fact, in addition to going directly to them you might reach out to their peers.

        That all said, don't be afraid to go directly to the person who you want to contact. You might do things to warm them up prior to reaching out via pre-targeting on social or IP-based retargeting, so you get your brand to be on their mind... but if you have something that will help them do their job better, achieve not only the desired outcome for the company but for them, too... just reach out. And if you have a little voice inside telling you not to do that... you may want to have a talk with that voice because it's keeping you from moving forward!

  • JM

    Jack Meredith

    over 2 years ago #

    Agree with a lot of the comments here. Most cold emails suck, warm referrals are great, and making it all about them is key.

    Scott Britton has a ton of posts on this subject: http://life-longlearner.com/?s=cold+email&submit=Search

    I think an underutilized tactic is the unanswered followup email. So many times, I've gotten positive responses from the 2nd or 3rd email. People are busy and inboxes get full. Don't let a non-response to your initial email deter you.

  • HW

    Hannah Wright

    over 2 years ago #

    An opening line addressing a relevant problem tends to grab my attention. Something straightforward and human.

    I remember at my previous startup, we were looking for interns and someone emailed me from a job board website. Wish I still had the original email, but the opening sentence went something like this:

    "Hey Hannah, I saw that you're looking for interns — how has the response been so far?"

    They had either been scoping out other job boards or saw on social media that we were searching, but they knew we were actively looking to solve this problem and sent a very relevant email. And they quickly addressed its relevance in the first portion of the email.

    In total, the email was once a few sentences and there was a sentence + call to action, making it tough to ignore.

  • VM

    Vladimir Mkrtumyan

    over 2 years ago #

    Hmmm, nothing memorable actually. That tells you a lot about how hard and effective it is. Once I got a woman to reply to me by intentionally spelling her first name wrong by a letter :D but bottom line no great luck. I "growthhacked" my cousin into a meeting with an angel investor by contacting him through a personal blog, no email subject line needed.

    A lot of the time if I do a cold call and people say "email me" I tell them the subject line and ask if they've received it on the phone so I know they've got it, but most of the time I know it's them telling me to buzz (or another 4 letter word) off.

    In fact if you want the exact email copy I wrote for my cousin to prompt a reply and the thinking behind it find me on twitter and I'll send it to you or give me an email address. Can you send personal messages here? I don't think so...

  • PJ

    Pawel Janiak

    over 2 years ago #

    Not sure about receiving, but with sending this format has been doing well (context, I created http://www.mybema.com which is a free and open source community platform and I'm reaching out to people that may want to use it for their companies):

    Hi {Person}

    I found your company via {referal person, their blog post, etc} and wanted to touch base helping you get more people interested in {their company or product}.

    {short pitch about how they are already using FAQs, testimonials, a blog and so on, and how converting those to an active community + knowledge base can scale up those benefits. 1 short sentence about benefits of active communities}

    {2 short sentences about mybema and how quality conversations will help their retention rates and how more fresh and relevant content on their own domain helps SEO}

    {one liner about hitting me up if interested}

    Thanks
    Pawel

  • JS

    james smith

    over 2 years ago #

    Anyone who opens with something that is relevant to me works well - I had a recruiter approach me and commented on something I'd written which gave him a much better chance of a courteous response than otherwise.

    There is no magic bullet.

    There are a few general approaches you can take and a few 'hacks' from guys like Bryan Kreuzberger and Aaron Ross.

    Ultimately, I'd argue that if the email is short - 3/5 sentences then the opening line isn't the most important - its what you say in those 3/5 sentences.

    Assuming you want to cold email, there are a few case studies I've found which go through successful cold email strategies - with impressive response rates.

    http://js-marketing.com/how-to-generate-leads-cold-email/

    • JJ

      Jeremy Jarvis

      over 2 years ago #

      I think James is spot on here. If you send very short emails, then the opening line is less of an issue.

  • JB

    Jason Bedunah

    over 2 years ago #

    One of my former jobs was VP of Marketing for an Inc fastest growing company. The absolute volume of cold emails I got was pretty amazing.

    I use cold emails to build my consulting business, too. So I've been on both sides of the issue.

    I'll tell you my best opening line below but first... since we're on the subject of cold emails let me say this:

    The absolute most ineffective (and somewhat annoying) line in any part of the email was, "Can I have just 15 minutes of your time to find out your needs and if there's a fit with my product/service?" If I answered YES to a fraction of the ones I got I'd never get any work done.

    The best opening lines were ones that showed they KNEW something about me and had done a fair amount of homework. This showed me that there was a higher chance that what they wanted to discuss with me might interest me.

    Something like this:

    Hi Jason,

    I saw your comment/post/tweet about xyz.

    I've found that blah, blah... so you might consider this: link to more information

    Salesguy.

    Of course, if the Salesguy is smart he knows that I've opened it, knows whether not I clicked it, etc so his followup sequence can adapt.

    Jason

    P.S. I have a cold email case study somewhere on this site where I discuss the tools I use, etc.

  • JS

    james smith

    over 2 years ago #

    Results:
    57% open rate
    21% response rate
    End Outcome: 16 new customers

    Using:
    Subject: 10 x {Company’s} traction in 10 minutes

    I have an idea that i can explain in 10 minutes that can get [company] its next 100 best customers.

    I recently used this to help our client {!SaaS company/competitor} almost triple their monthly run rate.

    {name} lets schedule a quick 10 minute call so I can share the idea for you. When works best for you?

    http://salesfolk.com/cold-email-template-got-16-new-b2b-customers/

  • AH

    andrew hanelly

    over 2 years ago #

    Still waiting for it ...

  • DG

    Dave Gerhardt

    over 2 years ago #

    Might be a little gimmicky, but this one works for me.

    Their name + quick question (if you actually have a good question to ask)

    "Sean - quick question"

    Gets opens, and if the content is right, will get a response. You obviously need to provide real value in the email if you are taking that approach in the subject line.

    • MP

      Matthew Pavli

      over 2 years ago #

      Agree! Creates a helpful and informal tone and (if it's a relevant question) opens the dialogue nicely.

  • AT

    Allison Tetreault

    about 2 years ago #

    Cold sales emails should focus on the recipient, not your product or solution. The best cold sales emails I've seen have actually piqued my interest in a general topic rather than in something that a salesperson is trying to sell me.

    I wrote about this here - http://www.agsalesworks.com/Blog-Sales-Prospecting-Perspectives/bid/108515/Why-This-Cold-Sales-Email-Template-Works-So-Well.

    I recommend opening with news about the company (new acquisition) or even the contact (new position) you're prospecting to show that you've done your research or with content that may be of interest to them based on what they share on LinkedIn and Twitter. This will hopefully "warm up" that cold email.

  • EB

    Ed Burrows

    about 2 years ago #

    We have implemented the sales hackers methodology and tested really customized templates (albeit still using merge tags to insert info) which called out past projects they worked on etc but found that the reply rates were equal to when we simply provided their own company name in the first line. I think it depends on the industry and your target audience - our response rate on higher level marketing managers is much much lower than when emailing the end end users for our product.

  • LO

    Lauren Olerich

    about 2 years ago #

    Would love to hear suggestions on what works best for event based "cold" emails, specifically geo-based dinners/happy hours and large scale industry conferences. The target audience has likely heard of your company (via LinkedIn, word of mouth, being in the industry, etc) but instead of taking 15 mins to discuss x, y, z, you're asking them to RSVP for a small best practices get-together and/or spend money registering for an upcoming conference.

  • PM

    Patrick McKenzie

    about 2 years ago #

    "Reading between the lines of some of your recent blog posts, it seems like you're overwhelmed with the burden of doing sales for $YOUR_BUSINESS. I can fix this for you."

    They did not eventually get the gig, but as they were totally right, they darn sure got the phone call.

  • RO

    Ryan O'Hara

    almost 2 years ago #

    Reading a cold email should be as enjoyable as watching a high quality Super Bowl ad.

    Use attachments, link to things that show off that person's common interest, and speak to them like they are a your friend.

    Too many people reach out over a cold email and say

    "hey first name,

    I want to talk to you about me me me. I can help you fix problem XYZ using me."

    You have about 3 seconds to get them to like you. Your first email isn't going to sell them. It's going to make them decide if you are worth their time.

    Make the person have a unique experience over email with you and they'll be way more likely to want to talk to you.

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
25
25