Cold emailing is hard. 

It is actually harder than most communications. It’s been reported that the average person gets 147 emails a day – and most of them are a pain. So you have people deleting emails just from looking at the subject lines.

Research by Baydin’s Boomerang shows that we delete 71 emails in under 3.2 seconds. You have a little over 3 seconds to convince a reader about the usefulness of your email. As a result, most cold emails are doomed even before hitting the send button. 

According to Harvard Business Review, Shane Snow author of Smartcuts carried out an interesting experiment for his book. He sent 1,000 cold emails to executives and got almost no response…a 1.7% response rate to be exact.

There is a plausible reason though…most cold emails aren’t any good. The subject lines are impersonal, emails read like they were culled from a template, there are too many links in the email or there are no clear value propositions for the reader.

So Shane tried again with a smaller slice of the same people, using some principles we are going to get into later, and he got better results.

Let’s take a quick pop quiz:

  • Q: What is the first goal of your cold email?

A: It’s not to get a reply. It’s simple, to get your email read.

Next question

  • Q: What is the goal of the first sentence of your email?

A: It’s to get the second sentence read.

Each sentence of your cold email has one job. To get the next sentence read.

Understanding the Psychology of the Prospect

It’s a completely bad idea to dive right into email marketing tactics without knowing your subject. This has to be borderline stalking.

What we are saying in simple terms is in you need to get inside the mind of your subject first. To do this, we’ll give you an example of what you should NOT do. This is a bad sample from Nutshell

Raquel Email 1 1024x671 - How to write cold emails that get replies

If you send an email like the one above, it doesn’t show any empathy for the reader. And if the reader can’t tell what’s in it for them, you’ll lose them fast.

Below are key things to keep in mind about the psychology of readers before you send your next cold email.

  1. Sell to me not the company

Target a specific individual and not the corporation. You need to do your research and we are not talking a generic mention of something on the first page of Google or Bing.

You have to answer the question “why are you emailing this person instead of someone else?”. Personalization is key here, you have to think about who this person is, what interests them, what they want from you. Doing this and having your email demonstrate it shows you have put work into understanding them.

It is a well-known fact that people buy with emotion and justify later on with logic. So tell a story, show empathy.

Email Template HubSpot - How to write cold emails that get replies


Catherine’s email is amazing! It comes off as genuine and sets itself apart from the crowd because it shows empathy. She really took time to think about this person and it shows.

  1. Make sure the reader cannot fulfil your request another way

It’s easy enough to ignore an unsolicited email, don’t make it easier. 

Don’t ask the author of “How to build a business” to advise you on how to build a business. He already wrote a book on it! If he is gracious, he’ll refer you to the book instead of ignoring you altogether.

You can instead read the book and ask questions on the book. This is taking personalization one step further.

See a sample from Saleshacker below.

Cold Email Example for Freelancers Ryan Robinson ryrob feature on my blog 1024x335 - How to write cold emails that get replies

  1. Fit into your prospect’s daily workflow

Let’s go into a typical day for the Managing Partner of the firm. She’s swamped and has to attend a million meetings at once. One of the top customers is threatening to leave, some staff are being poached, she needs a break so she turns into her inbox.

By some stroke of luck…(or maybe your subject line is just that good), she opens your email. What sort of message would make her respond to you amidst that chaos?

You’ve got to alleviate her pain or give her something she wants. Make your email fit within that workflow.

Here’s another sample from Saleshacker

unorthodox application email image - How to write cold emails that get replies

  1. Establish your credibility

When you are at a networking session, the most repetitive question is “so what do you do?”. Translation, “why are you standing in front of me?” With email, it’s even worse, they don’t have to pretend to be polite.

In this scenario, you are a stranger, maybe stalker. You’ve done a ton of research on your subject but they don’t know you, so you need to assure them they can trust you.

A great way to do this is to drop names. If you have direct connections use them. If you don’t, mention a few satisfied customers; and make sure they are relevant to your prospect in terms of industry, country or whatever similarities you can find.

Social proof is the quickest way to prove your credibility.

  1. Do NOT force your subject to make a decision for both of you

An email that ends with “let me know if you would want a meeting” is too stressful. Whatever you are asking for as to be simple and easily doable.

Keep the email short. If you are asking for help, great but make it actionable. One of the easiest ways to do this is to write the way you’d do at a networking event. Introduce yourself, say something nice and make a request.

Read the email aloud, how does it sound to you?

Most fantastic CTAs are so because they demand very little of the subject. 

  • If you are interested? Try it out for free
  • If you have questions? Ask
  • If you want a meeting? This is when I’m available
  • Do you want my Resume? See it here
  • If you’d rather not, I understand
  • Do you want my writing samples? Here they are
  • Do you have ten minutes for a free phone call? Yes/No

Make things simple. It tells your subject that you are confident and you aren’t trying to pressure them.

  1. Spend quality time on your email title

Goals are set, research has been done, badass emails have been written..there’s just one tiny problem left. The email title.

How do you make sure the prospect sees and reads what you have written? Keep in mind you are not only competing with other cold emails in their inbox, but you are also competing with other emails from co-workers, families etc. Essentially you have to stand out like neon in the dark.

There’s no easy formula to adapt, but the best email titles are interesting, thought-provoking and creative without giving too much away. It helps to also A/B test your titles when sending emails so you know what works and what doesn’t.

Below are some email title templates you can tweak and customize for your own use:

  • [Mutual Connection] asked I get in touch
  • Congrats on the promotion [First Name]
  • You’re invited
  • Don’t buy [product name] till you read this
  • [No Subject]
  • [Your competitor] does [something] better than you. Here’s how
  • A [benefit] for [prospect/company]. 
    • Sample, A new PR strategy for Nestle
  • X no of ideas for [pain point]
  • I found you through [mutual connection]
  • [First Name] I think you might like these blogs
  • Feeling [Emotion]? I can help
  • Have you tried [restaurant in prospect’ town?]
  • Talk on [day] at [time]?
  • How are you dealing with [pain point]?

Your email title is the gatekeeper, it’s responsible for getting you in the compound. So spend as much time on it as possible.

If you do cold emails right, you can see incredible results in record time. This B2B company had a 2% response rate on their cold emails. After a few tweaks, they shot up to a 57% open rate, 21% response rate and 16 new B2B customers.

Inboxes will continue to be flooded giving cold emails a hard time, but email is still unbeaten at generating sales.

Let us know in the comment section, how did you write cold emails that got replies!

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