How to write a cold email that gets a response and doesn’t irritate people like this one did

written and produced by john c ashworth

cold email outreach

Cold email outreach...does it work??

How to write a cold email that gets a response and doesn't irritate people like this one did...

The cold email is a great way to get your name out there but it can be time consuming and ineffective. I know you can do better. And I know you can do a lot better than the cold email I received today and that triggered this rant inside my private podcast for subscribers only. If you want to watch it, click here. Otherwise, I wanted to share some ideas and strategy on the subject so that you can do far better than this with your own cold email outreach.

First, What is cold email outreach?

Sometimes, as a salesperson, you've got to look for any way you can find to generate a lead, and if that means shaking the trees with cold email prospecting? Well, I'm currently trying a little of that right now too.

I'm always big proponent of taking massive action, and it's likely that a little cold email outreach, especially when scheduled with some kind of automation tool, can be an effective marketing strategy that many companies use to connect with potential customers.

Cold emailing is when you contact someone who doesn’t know or have any connection with your business. This often happens when you and the business are in different industries, such as asking a blogger for an interview about fashion (when you own a pet food company). The reason cold email works so well is because it gets the recipient’s attention in a way they aren’t used to: instead of seeing “marketing spam” from businesses they don’t know, they see something out of the ordinary—and curiosity compels them open your meial and sometimes they do reply. I got a couple soft leads this way last week, and from some fairly large prospects. No deals yet, but leads I would not have identified otherwise.

This is an art form for sure and where many salespeople still make a lot of mistakes.  Listen to the podcast on this topic for my perspective on this and the cold email example I received in my inbox earlier this morning.  It was awful and I don't want you to make the same mistakes.

Some people worry about being rejected by using cold emails, but remember that even if one person replies negatively, there will be others who respond positively; consider how long it would take to reach those people without doing any research or reaching out at all!  And always remember that if you're not irritating at least a couple people per day, you're not really going hard enough as a salesperson.

Lead generation using cold emails

It is very important to remember that choosing the right lead list is your most important task. Because if you don't have a good one, all of your other efforts in cold emailing for sales will be wasted, regardless of how good your copy and strategy might be. The purpose of the lead list is to identify potential customers who are interested enough in what you're selling that they'll respond favorably if approached with an offer over email. Lead lists can be compiled manually or through automation software such as autoresponders and marketing automation systems like Infusionsoft, OntraPort and HubSpot .To build a great lead list takes time but it's well worth the effort because it allows you to reach out to people who might actually buy from you when exposed to your sales messages via email. Before diving into how best to create a successful lead generation program using cold emails I would like first talk about why leads really matter? Why do we need them at all? Because without leads there, your outreach lacks focus and as a result, you'll have far less conversions, a lot of wasted time, and no money coming into our banks account!

Using Cold email for networking and more powerful lead generation opportunities  like speaking engagements

While you’re building up your experience, you can still get opportunities by contacting conference organizers. Some people are afraid to reach out because they don’t have any particular background or expertise in the area of a desired opportunity. If this describes you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! As long as there is something in your professional experience that would make a talk relevant and interesting to attendees, go for it! The worst that can happen is receiving an outright “no.” You may be surprised at how many times “no” turns into a positive conversation with the organizer about submitting a workshop proposal instead—or even being invited to speak if someone else cancels their talk!  Put it out there, baby!  And make something happen.  You never know.  And the majority of my best opportunities in life and career have come directly from just this kind of approach. Use cold emails to begin the conversation.

The worst thing that can happen is that people say no.  Or, you get hung-up on or treated like an unwanted guest.  Because actually, in this cae, you are!  Don't let that deter you.  YOU will find opportunity and when you are willing to look at the BIG picture, you will quickly realize that EVERY cold call you make - good or bad - is valuable.

Click here for a short podcast I did inside Ashworth Academy that will reveal to you how valuable each call I make right now actually is.

How to write compelling cold email copy

The opening line of your cold email has a dual purpose: it’s meant to grab the prospect’s attention and make them want to read more (the subject line is vital too), as well as act on what they see. To accomplish this, you need to craft an effective message starting with a powerful subject line...please do NOT do what I decribed in this podcast.

Here are some tips on how to write one

Make sure what you say in the first sentence resonates with readers and relates directly back to the subject line.

Start by saying who you are – if prospects don’t know who you are, how can they trust you?

Use short sentences that get right to the point.  Long winded explanations turn people off immediately since most people scan their emails instead of reading them word for word initially anyway.

Craft two or three compelling reasons why your prospects should care about what you have to say.  Don't start out talking about you, your company and why you think they should listen.  Hit them with something that compells them to pay attention. This is about them and NOT YOU!

People won't be compelled enough just knowing that you want something from them...this is what triggered my gigantic rant in the private podcast.  The incredibly stupid approach I decribed should be avoided no matter what!

Put yourself in their shoes

If you're wondering why they haven't responded to your email, don’t just automatically assume that it was because of something in the body of your message. It's always good to keep an open mind about all possibilities and try to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe the email got lost or deleted, maybe there was a glitch on their end with their mail server, maybe they forgot about it or thought that it wasn’t important enough for them to respond immediately (or at all). You never know what could have happened unless you ask! If you feel that sending another email would be too much trouble, then at least send them a quick note as a reminder about the first message.  One of the best things to do is use an automated tool that allows you to create a series of emails inside each of which you can try something a little different and do more testing with less work as a result.

On average we receive around 300 emails per week through our various inboxes - if you can get someone's attention by making sure yours is one of those rare ones worth reading, then go ahead and do so! Make sure your subject line contains something unique and interesting while also being informative – this is one of the main reasons I want you to work to find better and more productive ways to prospect than cold emailing - because 98% of the time, you're going to be ignored. Of course, the same holds true for direct-mail and what you might actually find is that even a 2% response will be helpful to you in reaching your sales goals.

Perform a Safety Check Before Hitting the Send Button

This is an important and often overlooked step in creating great cold outreach.

Make sure our email doesn’t contain any spammy elements…

Make sure the timing for sending your cold email is perfect...

Remember to follow up ...and split test every bit of your cold email until you find the magic formula that drives conversions for you. You might have to test over and over again to get it to work - keep going...

And while I'm thinking of it, here's a cold email template that converts. It’s a simple and effective cold email template that you can use to learn how to write cold emails that convert.


My name is {YOUR FULL NAME} and I'm the owner of {FULL BLOG or COMAPNY NAME}. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and have always been impressed by your writing style as well as by the quality of your content. You're obviously an expert on {topic you want to promote here}. But more importantly, you have {INSERT TAILORED COMPLIMENT HERE}. Because of this, I...{make your offer and make it compelling and focus first on the benefits to your readers and prospects}...

Remember, good cold outreach is about creating relationships - not making a sale on the spot.

Customer Service Support Assistance Service Help Guide Concept

Sure, now and then, if you're making enough cold calls and send enough emails with subject lines that soar and that focus accurately on the pain points of your prospects, you will find a little gold here and there.  But it will be much like the tiny little fraction of gold nuggest that the poor guy with no teeth works all day to pan from the river so that he can buy himself even just one beer at the pub that tonight.  Don't rely on it.  

Good cold outreach is all about relationships. Almost every outreach attempt has some small part that’s transactional; you need something, whether it is a link on someone else’s site or an introduction to another person who can help you reach your goal. But if all your communication starts there—no lead-in, no seamless transition into a personal note of relative value—you are not building relationships with people.

There is no MAGIC rule for subject lines. Everything depends on your cold outreach campaign goal.

There are different subject lines for different occasions . All of them should be descriptive and concise. With a clear call to action (CTS).  Here is an example of a subject line for building potential cooperation with your prospect:

The subject line contains a short question with the suggestion for potential cooperation. This helps the recipient understand if he or she is interested in this request immediately.  This subject line is perfect for some kind of business partnership. 

Here are a few other simple rules for cold email subject lines...

a) Keep them short

b) Reveal the purpose of your email

c) Personalize whenever possible

Now, before I leave you, here is short list of additional tips for your cold emails and cold outreach that should help

  • First, remember that cold outreach is just that - a cold and unwanted and unexpected communication that the person on the other end doesn't care about, until you find a compelling way to make them care about it.  Be careful.  Be thoughtful.  Be assertive.  Be somewhere and be somebody.
  • Write like you talk
  • Forget the introduction - you will lose people's attention very quickly if you waste words here.
  • Get to the point - The first paragraph of your email should focus on answering the question and addressing the pain. Even if your message is in response to a question that the person has asked, keep it short and get straight into answering their question as soon as possible.
  • Personalize your cold outreach when you can
  • Use social proof to win over prospects
  • Mention the one thing you want them to do - Use the last sentence of your email to ask for a specific action. This can be as simple as "If you want to learn more about how our software can help you generate $7K more per month in sales, just hit reply or click here." Sometimes, the more detail your provide the better: "If you're interested in this idea/product/position and would like to discuss it further, please call me at 608-442-9411 between 2 and 8 PM Monday through Friday."
  • Make it clear why you're reaching-out - The purpose of your first email is to establish whether they’re interested in hearing more. If they aren’t, you can save everyone time and move on to the next person on your list.
  • Put all of your contact information into your signature
  • Use images and videos
  • Craft compelling cold email copy
  • Although there are many ways to capture your prospect’s attention, they can be categorized into the following:
    • Question approach (Ask a question that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer.) This is the most preferred and popular way to start cold emails by 37% of marketers surveyed in our recent email marketing study.  An example of this type of opening line would be something like, "Do you believe it's possible to create an average of $X profit per month with only 20 hours/week? If yes, please read on..."
    • Teaser approach (Create curiosity by hinting at something valuable.) Only 15% marketers use teaser lines but their effectiveness has been proven over time and expectedly so as teasers work well for two basic reasons: First, people love free stuff; second, those who do open such messages are likely interested in what you're going to say next because they've already been
    • Include a PS
  • Take advantage of cold emailing software - there is some really great stuff out there.  One of the tools I've tried most recently and that I like very much is
  • Include a precise and compelling call-to-action. As a general rule, never assume your readers will figure out what you want them to do. It’s especially important to point this out in a cold email where your objective is pretty straight forward: get people to click through and visit your site. One study found that emails with just one CTA saw a 42% boost in click-through rate compared to the original email that had four CTAs (and thus was more confusing). Another study discovered that displaying the CTA as a button rather than plain text improved click-through rate by 28%.
  • Include a professional email signature - As stated before, it’s basically your electronic business card, and you should use this space to convey all relevant information about yourself as well as any special offers or discounts that you have on offer. In addition to adding a CTA in your email signature, it’s also important for you to keep your message simple without making the recipient feel like they’re reading an essay from a college student. I would highly recommend that you limit the length of your email signature by using bullet points (i.e., don't include more than 3-4 items in one sentence).
    So what can we take away from this? Think about how people will receive and act upon these messages.
  • Remember to send follow-up emails and to take advantage of cold email outreach tools to help make this process a lot more efficient.
  • Split test your email and keep track of the results to help you discover the top performers
  • Cold email is a real art. Not everyone can do it well, but once you get the hang of it and understand what works best for your business, you'll be able to connect with top prospects in no time. To create an effective cold email, consider the following five points:
    • 1) Keep it short. Cold emails are not about promoting yourself or your company. They're about offering value and building interest in a potential collaboration that benefits both parties involved. So keep your message short and sweet—no more than four sentences at most (unless you're responding to someone who has written something longer).
    • 2) Show Your Prospect's Why. If you want someone to take action on your request, they need to know why they should respond now instead of later. Even if this isn't an immediate opportunity for them right now—for example if there's no budget or other resources available yet—it doesn't hurt to plant the seed early on by showing how their needs align with yours and how working together might benefit both them and you.

Good luck out there and be sure to get my podcast on this subject.


About the Author
John Ashworth is an empathetic sales leader with an incredibly diverse background as a salesman, business consultant, marketing maniac, writer, Dad and full time Bohemian Athlete. aka Johnny Renaissance.

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