Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ

The Coronavirus pandemic has been tough on sales teams, and we’re no exception. Unless we have mobile numbers for prospects, it’s been all but impossible to get hold of people.

Every cloud has a silver lining, however. Forced to find another way through, we turned to cold emails. While they’ve always been part of our outreach strategy, they’ve never been the focal point. This was the perfect chance to see just how effective cold email outreach could be.

Our sales team committed to sending at least 300 emails over the course of a few weeks to find what out what works, what doesn’t and whether we can book appointments using emails alone.  

If you’re looking to crack email outreach, here’s what worked for us.

1. Structure: Keep It Short and Simple

A great cold email is short. Remember, this isn’t the phone. You’re not trying to book an appointment in one email. “The goal of sending cold emails is to start a conversation, not to make a sales pitch,” writes sales coach Josh Braun. You don’t need more than a couple of lines to achieve this. 

There’s another reason to keep it short: your email probably won’t get read. Writing more than you have to is a waste of your time. Long emails are also much more likely to be ignored. No one wants to read five paragraphs from someone they don’t know. We’ve found between four and five lines and a maximum of 200 words to be effective.

How should you use those words? Start with a catchy, personalised subject line. Something that makes your prospect want to open the email.

Follow this up in the body of the email with another couple of personalised lines that grab your prospects attention, make them laugh and prove you’ve done your research.

Transition into a one-line pitch of what you’re selling. Potentially include social proof in the form of a one-line case study.

End with a soft call to action. Something as simple as: is there any reason we couldn’t have a chat?

That’s it. Remember, you aren’t trying to deliver your whole pitch in one email. You’re just trying to get them on the phone. 

“The Golden Rule in cold emails is not to waste people’s time,” says Sales Hacker’s Kathryn Aragon. “So your message needs to be short and to the point.”

2. Personalisation: How to Do it Right

Personalisation matters. According to the team at Refract personalised emails have been shown to increase transaction rates by 600%. Nurturing leads with personalised content increases sales opportunities by 20%. That’s why they recommend tailoring “the tone, language and overall composition of the email” to every prospect. 

Personalisation achieves a couple of things. For one, it proves that we’ve done our research and aren’t just blasting out emails to everyone in our CRM. A personalised opening line is also a much better hook than something obviously generic. If you can show you’ve taken the time to email them personally, they’re much more likely to read the whole email and bother to respond. 

How do you personalise effectively?

Scour your prospect’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for inspiration. Look at what they’ve posted and commented on, check out where they used to work, read their bio, see what music or sports teams they like. All this information is perfect for creating a catchy opening line.

Above all, make sure your personalisation is relevant to your pitch. It’s very obvious when you make a personalised comment and then plough straight into your pitch. Guess what, it won’t work.

Salesloft CEO Kyle Porter stresses the importance of tying in a personalised subject line with the opening line of the message and your pitch. The smoother you can transition into your pitch, the better.

3. Call To Action: Write One That Converts

If you’re anything like us, then the whole point of emailing prospect is to get them on the phone. Speaking to someone on the phone lets you build rapport faster, gives you more information and makes it easier to close your prospect. 

Despite that, our preferred call to action doesn’t don’t demand a phone call or even suggest a time to talk. We’ve found the softest calls to action to be the most successful.

Our favourite? 

“Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to discuss this further.”

This call to action works for because it is no-orientated. You’ll find it much easier to make a prospect answer with a no than with a yes. That’s because psychologically saying no lets them stay in control of the conversation while a yes feels like they are giving up power.

The lack of force is also useful in convincing prospects to have a chat. In a way, prospects like being sold to; it strokes their ego. So it comes as a shock then when salespeople aren’t pushy and don’t seem fussed either way. It makes them wonder what they’re missing out on.

Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to discuss this further.

4. Following Up: Do it Repeatedly

According to statistics compiled by CRM platform Copper, follow up emails can triple your reply rate. They can also get a higher response rate than your first email. Our personal experience backs this up. We’ve had as many responses to our follow up emails as we’ve had to our initial outreach.

Long story short, you’re missing out on sales if you aren’t following up.

Not just any follow-up email will work, however. Firstly, you want to make sure you are replying to your initial email. This way if your prospect did genuinely miss your email, they can quickly see what you said before.

You’ll also want to personalise your follow-up as much as your initial email. Bog-standard “I’m just following up the email below” messages are boring and easy to ignore. Personalise your follow-up, however, and you make it much more relevant and interesting. You also prove once again that you’ve done your research.


Don’t forget about reaching out on other channels, too. Our email-based cadence also includes phone calls and LinkedIn messages to ensure we generate as many touchpoints as possible.

Make sure to personalise these, too, says Sarah Drake, Sales Development Representative at Directive. Use the information you dug up during research to turn cold calls and cold InMail messages warm. You can also like and comment on your prospect’s LinkedIn posts to create further touchpoints and increase the chances they recognise your name. 

If you’re integrating phone calls into your follow-up cadence, we recommend avoiding asking prospects if they’ve seen your email. This just gives them an excuse to end the call and postpone talking until they have.

Don’t be afraid to be open and honest where appropriate, however. If you’re speaking to other sales and marketing professionals, you could mention that your email tracking tool tells you they’ve read your email. These prospects are going to be familiar with platforms like Salesloft, so this level of insight is going to be much less creepy to them than it would to a finance professional. 

5. Saving Time: Create a Repeatable Process

We can’t stress enough the importance of creating a repeatable process, especially If you want to send at least 10 good emails a day. We’ve found that open rates hover at around 40%, which means most of the emails you send are going to end up in the trash without ever being read.

That means it’s just not worth your time to create a brand new email from scratch. Instead, we recommend using a short customisable template that you can personalise efficiently and effectively. 

If you have a 5-line email, aim to personalise the first line or two, but then keep the rest of the body copy largely the same. 

We recommend batching research, too. We’ve been using a two-step approach to make researching prospects and creating the emails as simple as possible. On the first day, we’ll batch all of our prospect research, skimming their LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for any nuggets of information. On the second day, we’ll spend an hour customising our template and sending them all out. 

Ready to succeed with cold emailing? Follow our approach, commit to sending at least a couple of hundred emails and see how you go. If you’re struggling with data or want to narrow your approach, don’t forget you can use EngageIQ to find prospects most likely to respond. Schedule a demo to find out more. 

Images by: Krsto Jevtic, Austin Distel, Stephen Phillips