January 18 by Sally Hereford
As difficult as it can be to develop a cold-emailing formula that will ensure a response from a prospect, it’s important to understand that in the business world today, cold-emailing is still an effective method for engaging prospects. Whether you’re in enterprise software sales, or starting out in a business development role, your success is highly dependent on your ability to spark that initial interest and engage with prospects via cold-emailing.
After experimenting with various cold-emailing strategies in my current Business Development role at Apttus, my colleagues and I have developed a winning formula to crafting perfect cold emails that guarantee a much higher response rate from prospects. In this piece, I’ll provide an overview of the most important components of a cold email, and how to successfully incorporate these tips & tricks into everyday out-bounding efforts.
Understand the Art of the Subject Line
Subject lines are without a doubt the trickiest aspect of a cold email; however, they also have the most direct influence on your open and response rates. Subject lines give you a chance to peak the prospects’ interest right off the bat, and no matter how well-written and relevant that the body of your email is, it won’t translate into results if your subject line doesn’t make the prospect want to open it. There is a lot of experimenting that goes into developing a cache of effective subject lines – but there are some best practices to share that will help increase the rate at which prospects are opening your cold emails.
First, it is absolutely crucial that the content in your subject line matches what you’re saying in the body of the email. For this reason, we highly recommend that you write the subject line after you craft the email itself. Because success in sales starts with the first touch, it’s important to keep the prospects ‘journey’ through your cold email congruent, providing relevant information that relates to the different parts of the outreach. Failing to match the content in your subject line with the body of the email will leave your reader confused and lead your email to the trash can.
Second, it’s important to ensure a casual/conversational
tone in your cold emails. So when crafting subject lines,
you want to keep it short and avoid capital letters. You wouldn’t
use capital letters in your subject when emailing a friend or a colleague, right? The idea is no different when trying to get a response from a prospect. The tone of the subject line sets a precedent and that could influence the entire sales cycle.
Avoid cheesy sales jargon in your subject lines. These tend to be highly overused in cold emailing, so prospects will be much more likely to dismiss your note and be unhappy or annoyed with your obviously salesy outreach. However, sometimes if I’m trying to engage with a completely unresponsive prospect, I’ll use a cheesy subject line like “Eaten by alligators or just swamped?’ as a last-ditch attempt. And it has worked!
Don’t be afraid to experiment with subject lines. There’s no universal solution here –prospects respond to varying tones and messaging in cold emails. This largely depends on what kind of prospect that you’re trying to reach – their position, industry, etc. all influence the messaging that you should use in the body of an email and in a subject line. Therefore, try out different subject lines and keep track of open and response rates to see what people are most responsive to.
Change your subject lines every once in a while. This is especially important when emailing multiple prospects at a single organization because it helps avoid spam triggers. This is also a good practice in general – subject lines are something that you can continuously improve as you gain more understanding of your target. So don’t be afraid to switch it up!
Write Clear and Concise Body Content
Crafting a good introduction
The introduction, and especially the first line, of a cold email is not about selling – it’s all about sparking the prospect’s interest in learning more about what you’re offering. Think about it, everyone’s email inboxes are completely clogged with junk – so subject lines and email intros are the best way to make your note stand out. There are some important tactics that you can use to make the most of seconds of attention that the prospect will give your email before they move on.
Optimize the first line of your email. If you mess this up, there’s little chance that the prospect will continue reading the email, nor will they have any interest in learning more about what you have to offer. So, to make the most of this crucial part of your note, we recommend getting straight to the point and making it as relevant as possible to the prospect right off the bat. Don’t waste any time with lengthy introductions of your name/company – put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and craft initial messaging that is will make them want to keep reading.
Emphasize the benefit of the email to the recipient
There are a few key factors that can contribute to response rates when cold mailing: tailoring your messaging to the prospect (value propositioning) and keeping the email short, casual and conversational will make a big difference. It’s perfectly normal to have a few email templates that you often use when reaching out to prospects; however, those are just templates, and should be treated as such. What I mean by that is that it’s absolutely imperative that you tailor the general messaging to fit the specific interests of your target.
Emphasize the benefit to the recipient and tailor your message to fit their distinct perspective. It doesn’t have to be a completely different email that you’re sending out, but you want to include persona-specific information that will appeal directly to them. For instance, my messaging when reaching out to folks in Sales versus Legal will be very different while
the structure of my email might be the same. It’s important to master this
and to bring in specific information about that person that you can glean from their LinkedIn, company profile, etc. Use this to your advantage – it will give you an edge in all aspects of sales and will directly correlate with success in cold emailing.
Keeping your message short, casual and conversational will add to the personal tone that we want to develop in these emails. Remember that when you’re cold emailing, the goal is not to sell, it’s to generate interest and coax prospects further down the sales cycle. Therefore, it’s important to keep it targeted and avoid talking about specific product features. Instead, find a clear and concise way to describe what you’re offering, focus on the core benefit, and adjust the messaging to fit the interests of the decision-maker and explain it from their perspective.
Utilizing Social Proof
Social proof is a key component of a winning cold-email because nothing works better to generate interest and a response than winning the trust of the recipient. By utilizing customer success examples, testimonials, and real statistics of how what you’re offering has helped people/organizations in similar situations, you are presenting proof that can win the trust of the prospect on a first-touch. There are a few best practices to emphasize that will help you win a prospect’s trust in a single sentence.
Never, ever make up customer testimonials or statistics. Always use real examples that are most relevant to the prospect based on industry, title in the organization, etc.
Provide real customer quotes with statistics, emphasizing points of success that will resonate with the prospect that you are targeting. For instance, if you’re cold emailing a VP of Sales at a manufacturing company, you want to include a quote from a customer in manufacturing where they’re explaining exactly how much money the solution saved them, etc. Using solid statistics like this will dramatically increase your credibility to the recipient, increasing the likelihood that you’ll see a response.
Don’t be afraid to name-drop some of your organization’s best customers in a cold email, especially if they have something in common with your target. In generating an initial interest, nothing is more effective than a testimonial from a happy customer. Even in retail sales, you’re much more likely to be interested in a donut place or coffee shop that was recommended by a friend then you would be in one that you’ve never heard of. The same logic applies here so use it to your advantage.
Experiment with adding a single-sentence testimonial from a happy customer. Make sure to keep it short and concise, and include a distinct value proposition that emphasizes the relevance and benefit of the email to the prospect (ties in with the ‘benefit’ section mentioned above).
Always Provide a Call to Action
Always, always end your cold emails with a call to action for the prospect. A well-executed CTA gives a clear signal and leaves the prospect with a task to complete. We’ve come up with a few strategies that will help you create a CTA that will drive results.
First, don’t be afraid to propose a specific time/date to connect with the prospect on a call – this is a good tactic because it leaves them with an obvious ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question to answer. A strong CTA leaves the prospect no room for doubt about what action should be taken next and leaving them with a question will dramatically increase their likelihood to respond. While this works a lot of the time, it’s important to test different strategies for a CTA. Some folks could be more responsive to a more open CTA (“do you have 20 minutes next week for a call?”) versus pushing a date (“are you available next Thursday at 3pm for a call?”). Just keep experimenting and tracking results to see what strategy works best for you.
While a strong CTA is a crucial component of creating a successful
cold-email, you don’t want to be so strong and demanding that it
makes the prospect think that you’re actually forcing them to make a decision. Doing so has strictly negative connotations and will make you and your account management team appear pushy and unpleasant to work with.
Furthermore, to ensure a best performing CTA, you also want to avoid distracting the recipient with too many links or attachments on the email. I’ve found that it’s best to avoid links and attachments on the first touch because it could cause your note to land in a spam folder. Also, providing too
much information right away gives the recipient an easy ‘out’ because they now
know too much and can push you off from there. With a cold email, I’m always trying to sell the meeting, not the product, and in order to do that, it’s important to not show your cards too early. Providing too many links and attachments on a cold-email also distracts the prospect from the CTA and will not yield as many responses.
Understand The Different Cold Email Types
There are a few general email types that are important to be aware of when developing a cold emailing strategy. We discussed what elements you should include in all cold emails above; however, it’s important to note that based on certain aspects of your prospects, there are specific types of emails that are more appropriate to use.
There is only one goal when sending referral emails: to find a decision maker/correct contact within a target organization. When out-bounding into large corporations, you’re going to end up connecting with lots of incorrect contacts, so make the most of those conversations/email chains by asking who the correct contact within the organization is. The key here is to not be afraid to ask for a referral – sometimes organizations are stingy with them, but every once in a while you’ll find someone who’s willing to give out a decision-maker’s name and contact information.
To increase the chance that your referral request is fulfilled, make sure to keep referral emails short and get straight to the point; emphasize the benefit and social proof; and include an obvious CTA.
Direct pitch – Short:
This is the kind of email that you want to send to someone that you are completely certain is the decision-maker/correct contact that you are targeting. Emphasize the benefit and social proof here and make a point of showing how much your solution will help them specifically. Employ the strategies that we mentioned above; use an interest-catching introduction, benefit and introduce the solution, use social proof to establish trust, and include a clear CTA at the end to ensure a response.
Direct pitch – Long:
This is not much different in terms of the goal, and situation that you would use this email type, as a short direct pitch. The big difference here is that you want to weave the introduction, benefit, social proof, and CTA into an interesting story, while keeping the tone of the email conversational. Long emails leave space to include personalization and the pain/dream/solution story approach. Use the pain portion to prove that you understand the prospect’s needs/challenges, and then introduce your offering as a dream solution to that problem. From there, you use the solution section to outline the social proof and direct value propositions. End the entire message with an obvious CTA.
Thanks for reading and I hope that these tips & tricks for cold emailing will help you as much as they’ve helped our team!
Posted by Sally Hereford on January 18, 2016.