How to cold email for sales

Michael Balle Hansen by Michael Balle Hansen

Cold emailing can be challenging and scary, especially in the beginning. And it is no secret that these emails can fail at getting a response. However, it is a strategy that can deliver good results if done accordingly.

Here are a few science-backed suggestions to help you write effective cold emails for sales and increase the chances of getting a reply.

Do your research for a personalized email

The first and probably most important step of crafting an effective cold email is doing your research. Without this, all the remaining tips may prove useless. Thoroughly researching the target of your email will allow you to find insights into their personal and professional life that will help personalize your email.

You have endless options on where to do your research. From company websites to social media and personal websites, finding information on someone is easier than ever. Company or personal websites can have information like achievements, publications, or events where they participated. Platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn will allow you to gain insights into their past experiences, hobbies, and passions.

What you will be looking for are details regarding a common interest or maybe a mutual acquaintance. The latter is particularly effective as it will make you less of a stranger in the eyes of the person reading your email. But if that is not the case, finding something else you have in common is also a good option.  

As organizational psychologist Adam Grant writes in his book Give and Take, finding a unique commonality can be even more effective as it stands out from the rest. If you figure out you share an uncommon hobby, that can be a unique way to connect.

Finally, you may discover a problem they are trying to solve. If you happen to have a solution for them, this can be a great way to give something before making your request.

And most importantly, you will need to find the right email address, if you don’t already have it.

Choose your subject line carefully

The subject line is the first thing your receiver will read, and it will determine whether they even open your email. Writing a personalized subject line that catches the attention but doesn’t feel like marketing can be hard.

A few common suggestions for writing an effective, personalized subject line are to include the name of the person and the call to action. According to a
2011 study, the two main elements in the subject line that increase email opening rates are utility and curiosity. Another study conducted in the Netherlands in 2019 found that an effective subject line should be short, personal, and should elicit emotion.

In short, you should aim to write a short, personalized subject line that triggers an emotional response, preferably curiosity.

Keep it short

A cold email should be a way of starting a dialogue with a person. As such, it doesn’t need to contain all the details of your request or product. This is just the first contact, and the receiver can feel overwhelmed by a very long email and give up reading it. Keeping it short instead, can increase your chances of getting read and ultimately receiving a reply.

Aim for two or three short paragraphs where you establish a connection and explain the reason why you are contacting them.

Add a clear CTA

The perfect email may fail to elicit a response if there isn’t a clear call to action at the end. Stating exactly what you wish the person to do after reading your email is extremely important and the more specific it is, the better. You want to make it easy for the person to say yes.

A vague call to action, like “Let me know when would be a good time to have a call” can be ineffective as it leaves all the work to the other person. On the other hand, giving them clear indications on when and where, or how, you wish to connect will take away the weight of figuring out those details themselves.

You might want to give them a couple of options and define how much time you need from them. If it’s a call or meeting it should ideally be a short slot of time, like 10 or 15 minutes. Finally, make sure to allow for some flexibility. After stating your available date and time you could simply add a sentence like “If this doesn’t work for you, let me know your availability and I will make it work.”

Express your gratitude

Like Adam Grant and Francesca Gino mention in their research paper, a little thanks goes a long way. Through a series of experiments, the researchers concluded that receiving an expression of gratitude increased the target’s prosocial behavior by increasing their social worth. In other words, people are more willing to help if they feel they can make an impact and that their help is appreciated.

It may sound obvious but ending your email with a sentence that goes just a little beyond “Thank you” can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be too long and elaborate, a short sentence like “Thank you for your time, I am truly grateful” can suffice.

But you are free

A meta-analysis of 42 studies on the BYAF compliance-gaining technique showed that this is an effective way of getting your target to do what you are asking. Mentioning that they are free to deny your request, appears to have a positive effect on the receivers, as long as they take action soon after the request.

Consider adding such a sentence at the end of your email, right after expressing your gratitude. A simple sentence like “I understand if you are too busy” can work just fine.

Using templates

Using cold email templates can be useful if you don’t know where to start, but you will still need to personalize them and you should always try and improve upon them instead of just copying them blindly. Templates can give you a good structure and help you keep your email organized, short, and straight to the point.

As you write more cold emails, you may even come up with your templates based on what worked and what didn’t. Track your responses and analyze which emails worked and which didn’t to implement your own cold email strategy.


Perfecting your cold emailing skills can take time and practice. Online, many resources can help you get better. If you want to speed up your learning curve we offer email coaching and managed cold email services. Regardless what you do the best way to learn and improve is to just get started.



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