Editor's note: this blog was originally published on June 2, 2021. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Raise your hand if you get tons of poorly worded, similar sounding cold emails in your inbox on a daily basis. If you’re like me, you’ve probably gotten to the point where you hardly read them anymore. A simple subject line or preview text alone can help you determine whether or not it’s going to be worth your time. With so many cold emails coming in daily, why are so few of them actually good?
What makes a bad cold sales email?
I just want to preface this by saying… not all cold emails are bad. However, the vast majority are (at least the ones landing in my inbox, anyway). So what’s the problem? What makes a cold email bad? Usually it’s because they are:
The good news is, the above can all be solved – it just takes a little more effort but I promise you will get better results from your sales outreach emails. Here’s how:
1) Make sure your email recipients match your target customer
Simply put; research who you’re sending your emails to and make sure they’re actually in your target audience. This may seem like a no brainer, yet I still receive so many sales emails promoting products or services that I’m a bad fit for. For example, if you’re sharing resources in your emails that are beneficial to Financial Advisors, don’t send the same email to Marketing Directors.
This is extremely important when sending sales outreach emails. The goal of your email should be to make the prospect feel like you understand them, their business, and their pain points. You’ll never achieve that by sending emails that make it seem like you have no idea who you’re talking to.
2) Craft an attention-grabbing subject line
It doesn’t matter if you write the best cold email ever if your subject line sucks because no one will ever open it and see how amazing the body of the email is!
Subject lines you should avoid are generic, unclear and provide no value to the recipient. For example, “Re: My Company Name + Your Company Name”. At first glance, this subject line means absolutely nothing to me. It gives me no hint at what the body of the email could say, therefore it would likely go unread in my inbox. And using the Re or Fwd trick in your subject lines has become overused. Not to mention, it’s deceptive so you’re already starting your relationship with this prospect on the wrong foot.
A good, attention-grabbing subject line could include a question, a name, a benefit, a call to action, or some type of value prop. For example, “Learn how this Financial Advisor earned $20,000 by doing X”. This subject line makes it clear who the email is meant for, and it tells me that there is some type of solution or benefit inside. It’s enough to make me want to click it and learn more. Don't worry, we've done the hard work for you by compiling tested connection message template in our connection message resource.
Or, check out this article from Brafton for more good email subject line examples.
3) Write a compelling intro that finds common ground
We’ve all received the typical cold email that goes something like, “Hello, I am [name] from [company]. We provide [product or service]. Let me know if you’re interested”. Emails like these almost always get instantly deleted because there is no personalization and it provides no value. Nothing about this email sparks interest.
Instead, make sure your email is addressed to a real person. And before diving into what the email is about, try to find some common ground. This can either be a shared interest, mutual contact/connection, or other commonalities. An example of an intro using this is, “Hi [name], I heard about you from [mutual contact]. He suggested I reach out because [reason / other commonality]”.
It’s important that you don’t dive straight into your pitch without establishing rapport. Starting your email with that common ground is a quick way to build a bit of rapport and trust. To access some tested pitch message templates, check out our downloadable resource on pitch & follow up messages.
For more in depth examples of good cold emails, check out this article.
4) Communicate the benefits or value props
Perhaps one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of a cold email is the benefit or value you’re providing. The benefit needs to be specific and relate to your prospect. For example, writing that they’ll achieve better results isn’t enough of a benefit. Specify what results, and exactly how they’ll achieve this.
It’s also important to back up the above claims with proof. You can use testimonials, case studies, videos, or product reviews; anything that backs up what you’re saying. This is also a good way to build trust.
5) Include one clear call to action
Last but not least, there needs to be a clear call to action in your email. If there isn’t a call to action, you risk leaving prospects unsure of what to do next. It should not only be clear what you want the prospect to do next, but also easy to do. If it’s too much work to figure out what to do next, your prospects will leave you on read.
For example, if the goal of your email is to have prospects book a meeting with you, leave a link to your calendar in the email so your prospects know exactly how to schedule a time with you. If your desired action is to have prospects sign up for a webinar, include a single button that will direct them to the sign up sheet. Make it as straightforward as possible, and only stick to one CTA.
For more awesome email CTA examples and best practices, check out this article.
Now that you’ve read this blog, promise you’ll never send a bad, unhelpful cold email ever again! And while you’re here, please sign this petition to make “bad cold emails” the 8th deadly sin (totally kidding).