A Sales Professional’s Guide to Successful Cold Email

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Reaching your prospects, getting a response, and closing the deal is harder than ever.

And no, it's not just a gut feeling.

This piece of HubSpot research shows the true extent of the problem:

HubSpot Prospecting

But why is this happening?

Because of information overload - the average person has to stomach 94 text messages, 126 emails, and 6,000-10,000 ads every single day...

No wonder leads are lightning-quick to ignore emails and click “delete” on anything that sounds suspicious.

Does this mean cold outreach is dead?

No, it simply means most salespeople and marketers are misusing communication technology, and consumers have caught on.

One look at email marketing's 44% ROI potential is enough to prove our point.

So the question beckons: “how can I up my cold email game?

And so does the answer: invest 25 minutes in this comprehensive guide and find out.

Need a preview of what you'll learn before we start? Good thinking:

  1. All the cold email basics
  2. The five major challenges preventing success
  3. How to write a cold email (including templates and best practice tips)
  4. The best cold email software

Now let's get moving; time is money.

What is a Cold Email?

Since we only met a couple of minutes ago, it's wise to take it slow and start with a definition of cold emails.

Maybe you already know about cold emails, but bear with us; we'll be quick, and a bit of repetition “never hurt nobody.”

A cold email has nothing to do with temperature. It's simply an “ice-breaking” email you send out to someone you don't know as a means to start a conversation.

People use them for sales (or remote sales), networking, recruiting, and link building.

But regardless of your cold email's purpose, you need to make sure there's a legit reason behind contacting the other person.

A.k.a. don't send an email about CRMs to a nuclear physicist that works in academia.

Because if you do, your cold email could be perceived as a spam email. And:

Spam email


The subject of spam email brings up a good question:

Is a Cold Email a Spam Email?

In a word, no.

A cold email is a legitimate way to communicate with a person who doesn't know you or your company yet, while a spam email is simply unwanted junk.

But unfortunately, there's a thin line between the two, and it's been confusing people since the beginning of time (well, ok, since Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in 1971).

A cold email can become a spam message if it ignores the legal requirements (i.e., the CAN-SPAM Act) and the best practices of proper cold outreach.

How can you tell the difference?

A cold email must:

  • Reflect the recipient's interests or occupation
  • State whether or not the email is an advert
  • Be personalized one-to-one communication
  • Include the sender's company name and business address
  • Give recipients an opt-out message/link and honor any such request
  • Be free from:
    • Deceptive subject lines
    • False or misleading header information
    • Misrepresentations

Follow these simple points, and your emails will never be spam mail.

So how do you put cold email to good use?

Typical Circumstances Where Cold Emails Are Used

Businesses send cold emails for a large variety of purposes, including:


Why It's Helpful

Find a referral

  • Sometimes, you're unsure who to contact, and a cold email is fantastic for finding the right person.

Connect with new prospects

  • An email is the easiest way to expand your client base and contact people who wouldn't otherwise knock on your door.

Build awareness

  • New companies and startups need a budget-friendly way to get their brands in front of the right audience.

Share thought leadership

  • What's the point of creating great content if no one reads it? Cold emails help you find readers and build solid links to your pieces.

Run an intro drip campaign

  • Turning a cold lead into a warm prospect takes time and multiple touchpoints - automated drip emails can help.

Ask for favors

  • A cold email is a less intrusive way than cold-calling to ask someone for a favor (i.e., writing a guest post, mentoring).

Cold emailing sounds easy, right?

All you need to do is ensure it's not spam and then send it for a valid reason, right?

Not quite.

These are just the basics, but you need to master this dark art to really succeed with cold emails.


Because thanks to those inconsiderate salespeople and marketers we mentioned in the introduction, each cold email faces a seriously steep mountain to climb.

So, let's break that mountain down into five bite-sized pieces.

The Five Significant Challenges Related to Cold Email

Cold Call Email

1. Low Open Rates

People are wary of emails from strangers.

They've been burnt too many times.

The stats confirm it - the average open rate for all emails is roughly 18-20% (depending on who you ask), and that includes all types of business emails: cold, warm, or boiling.

This means it's pretty common to see sub-10% open rates on a (bad) cold campaign.

Now get ready for another shocking statistic:

2. Low Response Rates

The average response rate for a cold email is a mere 1%.


That's right. It generally takes 100 cold emails for a single person to answer, and nothing guarantees their reply won't be a brutal “no, thanks.”

That's a lot of effort for barely any rewards. Dearie me.

3. Wrong Time, Wrong Person

Finding the right person to email is difficult enough, but knowing when to send them an email is even more challenging.

And we're not just talking about the choice of time and day here.

That's nowhere near as important as answering the following questions:

Do they already have a supplier? Are they potentially on the market for my services? Are they going through a busy period in which their to-do list looks like the Burj Khalifa?

Get it wrong, and you'll never get a reply (like 99% of cold emails).

4. Being Perceived as Pushy

Nobody likes a pushy salesman. Not even other pushy salespeople.

Most people will click “delete” or “unsubscribe” as soon as they pick up on the first sign of pushiness in a cold email.

Not worried because you're not a pushy person?

Think twice anyways because emails leave plenty of space for misunderstandings.

5. Being Seen as Low-Value or, Worse, Spammy

Pushy is one thing, but not being able to express your value proposition is another.

Yet, many cold emails fail on both counts.

They focus on the sender's products and company, raving on about how great they are and the awards they've won.

And then, when no one answers, the sender tries again with a bunch of annoying follow-ups to remind us (and themselves) that they're amazing.

Newsflash: nobody cares about what you're doing unless you clearly (and briefly) explain how your actions can benefit them.

It's a fact of life and the basis for the What's In It For Me? (WIIFM) Principle.

By this point, your enthusiasm for cold emails has probably faded, and you're feeling a little bit like Elmo in the middle of a blizzard on “Cold Email Mountain”:


But don't panic yet; the snowstorm is about to pass, and you're on the verge of learning how to conquer mountains better than Lance Armstrong (without the steroids).

Just keep pedaling, and we'll do the rest by introducing you to the secrets of effective cold emails.

If you give it until the end of this post, we promise you'll feel a lot more like this:


How To Write a Cold Email

Think About Your Intention and How You Want To Be Perceived

The very first thing you should think about when you sit down to write a cold email is:

“How do I want to come across?”

The answer will depend on your personality and your company's brand persona.

Here are a few options:

  • Friendly
  • Funny
  • Knowledgeable
  • Professional
  • Dependable

Once you pick a style, move on to the next point.

Give the Recipient Something They Want

Remember the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) principle?

Of course, you do.

Well, now's the moment to apply it to make sure everything you write is valuable and worth your recipient's time.

How should you go about doing that?

Simple: transform your major selling points into clear benefits for the reader.

For example, suppose you have 50 customer agents and have recently won an award for excellent service. Don't merely state the facts, but instead say something like “Award-winning customer service that answers within 5 minutes, 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Now do the same with your company. Set on the perfect USP angle?

Great, it's time to move onto the cold email itself.

The Cold Email Template

Writing copy for a cold email is hard, especially if you're not a content specialist.

Luckily for you, there's an alternative to staring at your screen and despairing:

Cold email templates.

But DON'T just Google the phrase, copy and paste a template, and then blast it out.

It won't work (and it'll be spam).

You need to slow down and transform your favorite template into a custom-made message for each of your recipients.

It won't be hard, and it will make an enormous difference.

And as a little “thank you for not spamming,” we'll save you the effort of Googling by giving you three proven templates for three separate occasions:

  1. Seeking confirmation or a referral
  2. Contacting a quality prospect
  3. Following up on an unanswered email

Go ahead, copy and reuse them on the ONE condition you personalize them.

1. Best Cold Email Template for Referrals

Hi [prospect's first name],

My name is [your name], and I'm the [your position] here at [your company]. We've recently launched a new [insert the exciting thing or product you're offering].

Why should you take notice?

[Insert a sentence about your unique selling point].

Based on your online profile, I believe you're the appropriate person to connect with to discuss how we can help your business resolve [insert the pain point you remove].

If I'm right, would you be open to having a brief 15-minute call at a time of your choosing [hyperlink to a calendar software]?

However, if I've missed the mark, could you point me in the direction of the person responsible for [the area/responsibility you need to contact]?

I appreciate your help.


[Your first name]

2. Best Cold Email Template for Engaging With a High-Quality Prospect

Hi [prospect's first name],

My name is [your name], and I'm the [your position] here at [your company].

We work with companies like [a client that will impress the reader] to help them [insert your unique selling point in one sentence].

As I was researching [prospect's company], I came across your profile - I love how [insert a flattering but genuine compliment on their work]. Your hard work shines through in this.

[raving online review about the prospect].

However, despite your success, I imagine you're still struggling with [insert the pain point you remove]. Am I right?

If so, I'd be happy to show you how our [insert your product or service] can transform [insert two major points].

All I need is 15 minutes on the phone at any time that suits you [hyperlink to a calendar software] - can I count you in?

Thanks for the opportunity.

All the best,

[Your first name]

3. Best Cold Email Template for a Simple Follow-Up With a Prospect

Hi there again [prospect's first name],

I'm the first person that hates pushy salespeople.

But, at the same time, I noticed in my CRM that I hadn't heard back from you in [time frame], and I'd hate to think that I gave up on you when all you needed was an extra nudge.

If that's the case, please book some time with me [hyperlink to a calendar software] or hit me back with the number (1,2,3) that best describes your intentions:

  • I'm swamped at the moment - email me back next week.
  • I'll get back to you within a week.
  • I'm not interested - please stop contacting me.

P.S. As a token of my appreciation, here's a link to a piece of thought-leadership [hyperlink to a relevant article] that can help you [insert benefit].

Thanks again,

[Your first name]

Nine Tips on How to Cold Email Like a Pro


Cold email subject line

Starting to feel confident again?

Awesome, let's take it even further by equipping you with nine golden nuggets that will supercharge your cold email marketing effectiveness.

If you implement them all, you could be looking at 30-50% open rates and 10-25% response rates, so pay close attention.

1. Make Your Cold Email Subject Line Interesting

First impressions count.

Just think that 47% of recipients decide whether to open your email solely based on the subject line.

This means you have to come up with a catchy cold call email subject line.

Try things like:

  • Super brief subject lines
  • Personalization
  • Being original and funny
  • Power words
  • Avoiding “spammy” language
  • Emojis

Need some more help?

Check out this post for 20 examples of cold email subject lines!

Extra tip: don't forget about the preview text - it'll make or break your open rate on mobiles.

2. Research First, Email Second

Do you know who uses guesswork to identify prospects and their pain points?

Spammers and Nigerian princes (or are they the same person?).

So pull out the elbow grease because you'll need to:

  • Do more Google searches than you can count
  • Study potential prospects' social media accounts
  • Examine the job openings they post
  • Check your CRM for any past communication or shared connections
  • Find a valid email address for each lead

Only stop researching when you're sure a) you've found the right people and b) you know all about their pain points.

3. Validate Your Credentials

Never forget that the person you're emailing has no idea who you are.

And in most cases, they've been getting along just fine without you in their lives.

At least, so they think.

You need to make the most of the few lines at your disposal and convince them that you're a reputable guy or gal that can change their fortunes.

You can do that by name-dropping a shared connection or mentioning a relevant case study.

4. Remember That Personalization Is King

Segmenting your prospect list is an excellent starting point; however, if that's the only thing you do, you'll still send rather vague cold emails.

You know that doesn't work.

So go a step further and personalize every single email you send.

We know getting to know someone who might not reply is painstaking work, but it's the only way to distinguish yourself from all the other cold emails clogging up their inbox.

5. Keep Your Emails Short and to the Point

It's 2021, and we're all insanely busy.

Nobody's got time for long emails and essay-like blocks of text where you waffle on and on about your company.

That's why people are far more likely to read short emails.

To prove our point, we'll end this tip here.

6. Include Only One Call-to-Action (CTA)

It's pretty safe to assume that you want your reader to take some sort of action.

I mean, why else would you be dropping them a cold email?

And since you're asking them to do something they didn't expect to do, you might as well make this task as straightforward as can be.

Keep things simple by adding only one CTA to the end of each of your short emails.

7. Don't Get Too Sales-y

Jumping the gun with your sales pitch is unlikely to get the results you're looking for.

After all, would you just walk up to someone at a cocktail party and immediately hit them with your pitch?

Only if you were a terrible salesperson, and we trust that you're not.

So don't let a screen give you a false sense of assurance and trick you into doing something that you'd never do in person.

8. Follow Up but Avoid Being Pushy

The cold email follow-up can help you increase your response rate by up to 69%.

But you need to be super careful not to come across as pushy or aggressive, or else you'll end up doing more damage than good.

What's the secret?

  1. Wait at least three days before sending an email.
  2. Add an extra bit of value in each of your follow-ups.
  3. Don't send more than 3-4 follow-ups and sign off with a break-up email.

Pro tip: being appreciative and thanking your leads in your emails can work miracles.

9. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment and Test

Odds are your first cold email campaign won't be perfect…

But that's all part of the game; no one was born an email marketing guru.

You have to rely on your emailing software's analytics capabilities and good old-fashioned A/B tests to determine what resonates with your audience.

Need an example?

We thought so, let's show you how it's done.

Imagine that you've sent out two versions of a cold email, and these are your results:


Email A

Email B

Open rate



Response rate



Conversion rate



What these results are telling you is that:

  • Email B has a fantastic subject line but weak copy and an average CTA.
  • Email A has a less effective subject but compelling copy and a persuasive CTA.

You should combine the two into a single email using email B's subject line and email A's copy and CTA - the results would blow your mind.

The Key to Success: Cold Email Software

You're at the one-yard line.

You're almost ready to click “send” and show the world your touchdown dance.

But to get past those enormous linebackers, you need a final push, and your personal Gmail inbox isn't strong enough.

It's time to call in some dedicated emailing software to ensure you have the deliverability, the integrations, and the super-sweet insights you need to succeed.

Who are you going to sub in?

Types of Software Available

You have the choice between two types of cold emailing software - standalone or integrated.

Standalone software is usually a specialized program for cold emailing or a dedicated email marketing platform.

On the other hand, integrated software is typically a sales CRM with built-in email functionality and much more (like a sales pipeline, a softphone, cross-platform drip campaigns, and more analytics than you'll ever need).

Two basic questions can help you decide which one is right for your company:

“Do we already have a CRM system? And if yes, are we satisfied with it?”

If you answered no to either question, go for integrated software.

If not, stick to standalone software with proven integration capabilities.

Our Top Recommendations

Here are our five candidates for top standalone software:

And here are five favorite integrated CRM solutions:

Concluding Thoughts: Ready To Start Sending Cold Emails?

Sending out cold emails isn't for the weak-hearted.

You're going to have to overcome some serious challenges.

But that's not going to be a problem because you're armed with everything you need: the knowledge, the templates, and nine actionable tactics.

  1. Write compelling subject lines
  2. Research first, email second
  3. Validate your credentials
  4. Personalization is king
  5. Keep your emails short and sweet
  6. Stick to one CTA per email
  7. Don't get overly sales-y
  8. Follow up without being pushy
  9. Don't be afraid to experiment

You're ready to send cold emails and drive some serious $$$ to your business.

Just remember you could boost your ROI by working with a powerful yet affordable sales CRM like Ringy - book a demo today, and we'll show you how!

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