How to Cold Email Prospects

by Scott - 79 Comments

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I’ve written hundreds of cold emails over the past year and come to a few conclusions about how to elicit a positive response. I’ve also received a few myself and consistently see people use strategies that just haven’t worked for me. Here’s my two cents on how to cold email prospects effectively.

cold email


Keep it 4 sentences or less (ideally 3).

When you send someone you don’t know a novel to read, you’re making them work. Busy people have too much on their plate to dedicate time to a speculative narrative – so they don’t read them diligently (this may not apply if your email domain rhymes with moogle or hicrosoft).

Most long, cold emails I receive are from JV sales people that rarely add value to my life. I suspect that many other people have a similar experience. By mirroring this format, you risk the chance of bundling yourself within this group before they’ve even read your email.

With these two forces at play, long cold emails are hastily skimmed, lost, and discarded. This is why I always aim to keep cold emails 3 sentences, max 4. Anything more is overkill and can appear daunting.

Use language and tone that’s conversational

The only context I have from a cold email I receive is:

a) my familiarity of your company

b) the 3-6 sentences you wrote

If I’m unfamiliar with your company, using rigid, boring language does not make me excited to hop on the phone with you. But if you come off like a cool person I might want to do business with, I’m more likely to give you a chance. This is why I opt for more of a conversational tone in my email copy.

Before you fire off a cold email, read it and ask yourself – would I want to have a conversation with a person who sent me this email? If the answer is no change it.

Find a unique way to display that it’s not a canned email

I always like to find ways to demonstrate to prospects that they’re not receiving 1 of 568 canned emails. People are more likely to respond to genuine, personable inquiries. Here are a few ways you can signal that you’re sending an original:

a) reference something unique to their company
b) hyperlink to something on their site that’s pertinent to your offering
c) mention recent press or news relative to them

I like to do this in the first sentence. The sooner you can convey that you’re sending a unique, personalized email, the better.

Get to the point in the subject line

People don’t like to do work when the payoff is unclear. That’s why it’s so important to effectively communicate why you’re emailing someone as early and succinctly as possible. Naturally, the subject line is an excellent place to start.

Schedule a followup (and followup)

This may be the most important practice in this entire email. Many people fire off one email and then take solace in the fact that “they tried” when they don’t get a response. That’s weak sauce.


On average, my response rate increases by 50% when I follow up to an unanswered cold email. Why? For starters, most people don’t. It stands out. Secondly, an intentional follow up signals that I actually care.

As soon as I fire off a cold email, I immediately set a reminder to myself to follow up using my buddy Chris’s software This automates the process of me having to remember so that I never forget to follow up.

Make sure you’re emailing the right person

Crafting an excellent email is only as good as your ability to deliver it to the correct person. I’d like to think that members of a forward moving organization would take ownership and pass it along to the appropriate contact. Reality – you can’t bank on this. That’s why it’s imperative to be certain you’re emailing the right target.


I wrote a post awhile back called Less Obvious Ways to Identify a Decision Maker that oulines a few tactics to ensure you’re emailing the right person.


Start with an obnoxious or boring declaration

Somewhere along the way someone said that you need to start a cold email by declaring who you are and what you do. Someone else said it was a good idea to name drop things like investors and competitive clients within the first sentence. Does this sound like someone you’d be excited to hop on a call with?

“Hi Scott,

My name is Joe Dealbro and I run business development at, a leading content-synchronization digitizer backed by Investor Uno, Investor Dos, and Investor Tres.”

During the battle for my inbox attention, this type of email introduction does not lure me in. In fact, it does the opposite, even when there’s stellar optics in the form of investors and partners.

I have A/B tested emails with a similar introductory sentence EXTENSIVELY (sans investor name-dropping) and my ability to elicit a response this way is far worse than simply getting to the point using a conversational tone.

By emailing from your company email address and including your professional title in your signature, you’re already providing any remotely conscientious prospect all the context they need. Why waste a sentence, and start a conversation by focusing on yourself instead of how you could potentially help a prospect out?

What’s worked best for me is approaching email copy like real-world conversation. Sounds crazy right? If someone approached me at a bar by declaring who they were and how awesome their job was, I’d start counting down the seconds till the interaction was over. However, if someone approached me with an “as a matter of fact” observation followed by an indication that they could improve my life, well, I’d be pretty interested in chatting with them.

Say thanks for your consideration

I see this sentence constantly. I think it signals weakness and desperation. If you’re confident in the product you’re selling, your demeanor needs to convey this. I want prospects to leave an interaction qualifying themselves to work with me, not thinking they’ll throw me a bone. At every point in the discussion, it should be a no-brainer that they want to work with us. Saying things like “thanks for you consideration” does not project this emotion.

Forgetting to use line breaks

Emails with dense paragraphs appear like more work than a nicely segmented message. There’s a greater chance people will read things they perceive as easier to consume.

Email more than one person at a company at the same time

When you simultaneously cold email multiple people within the same company, it signals you haven’t done your homework. How can I take you seriously when you’re belligerently cluttering 3 of my co-workers inboxes with a template email? People talk you know…this does not make a strong first impression.

Attach a deck or pdf to your email

A pdf should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can. So why send a deck and let a static document do the selling instead of you? If they’re not into your offering after reviewing their deck, there is literally no reason to hop on a call with you. Don’t take yourself out of play, own the sale.

Bringing it all together

Below is an example of a simple cold email that embodies everything I’ve mentioned above. The context is that I’m reaching out to an online magazine to integrate my blogging widget.

Hi Nucky, I noticed you guys don’t have a commenting widget on your site. It’s actually something my company Wigeto provides emagazines for free to boost engagement. When you have a few minutes, I’d love to talk to you or the appropriate person about taking care of that. Best, -Scott

Again these approaches are merely a reflection of what has worked for me – not a prescription that everyone should use. More than anything else, I think it’s important that BD and sales people start taking a measured, iterative approach to outreach. That’s the only way to determine an optimal technique for a particular situation. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different outcome.  


Interested in learning more strategies and tactics on how to cold email and get meetings with people you don’t know? Check out my upcoming Skillshare Class – Business Development: How to Get Meetings With Anyone that includes scripts and templates you can start using today.


Other excellent cold email posts:

How to Email Busy People by Jason Freedman

How to Cold Email Anyone by David Garland

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