how to write a cold sales email

How to Write a Cold Sales Email: Thoughts from a Buyer

When you hold the keys to a marketing budget, the cold sales email becomes a familiar visitor in your inbox. Truth is, I don’t mind. Staying on top of opportunities to reach new users and tell our story is a core piece of my job.

As somebody helping build a platform for salespeople, it’s valuable to understand how companies position themselves in their outbound messaging. Every time I’m on the receiving end of sales outreach, it’s a learning opportunity.

Having seen my fair share, I wanted to share my perspective on how to write an effective cold sales email – as a buyer, and as a marketer. Like anything in business, there’s no silver bullet. But, hopefully, this will give you another perspective to draw from when you craft your outbound messaging.

Things to avoid when writing a cold sales email

600 word cold email
600 word cold email
  • Writing essays. Just like you, I’m busy. I really don’t want to read an essay on your product or your company. If I see a wall of text, I’m not going to do much more than glimpse at it and send it straight to the trash.
  • Focusing only on features. It’s great that your product does all the things. But, forcing your reader (me) to imagine how I might use them takes too much time and energy. It’s your job to tell me why your product is useful, game-changing, or the next best thing.
  • Formatting that doesn’t work on mobile. It’s widely known that 65% of all email is opened on mobile. So, make sure you test how your message looks on major mobile email clients. The zoom-pinch-sidescroll finger dance? It’s your prospects worst nightmare. Before you hit send, test how your message looks major mobile email clients.
  • Using fear tactics. Just don’t. I can’t be threatened into spending my marketing budget, and it shuts down the conversation before it even started.

Crafting an effective message

Your cold email is my first introduction to your business. So, give it attention, and take the copy seriously. (You can actually learn a lot from classic copywriting techniques.)

Here are five (and a half) suggestions on writing an effective message:

0) Sell something great.

Any salesperson or marketer worth their salt will tell you that, to sell effectively, you need a great product. And that product? You need to truly believe in it.

These are table stakes. If your product isn’t good, and you don’t believe in it, that’s going to come across in every interaction you have with a prospect. If you wouldn’t buy your product, why should I?

1) Write a clear and compelling subject line.

Spend time crafting a great subject line. You can’t pitch me if I don’t open your email. I prefer subject lines that identify the company and succinctly spell out the value proposition.

You should be able to do this in less than ten words. The punchier the better. Experiment here, or run a real A/B test.

As a start, try these templates: “<Value prop>: YourCo + ProspectCo” or “<Stat that illustrates your product’s impact> with YourCo.” 

Write something compelling, but no clickbait. Spammy subject lines increase open rates, but they often misrepresent what you can actually for me. If your email doesn’t deliver what the subject promised, or is unrelated to it, I won’t make it to the demo.

2) Focus on value and benefit, not features.

Benefit is the intersection of your prospect’s needs and your product’s features. The purpose of your pitch is to create that connection. A great way to do this is to include a focused value statement.

Here’s a template adapted from Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm:

For (target customers) who (have this problem), your product/company (describe your product class/market) that provides (key benefit). Optional: Unlike (competitor or competition) your product/company (key differentiator).

Example: For businesses that rely on collateral during the sales process, DocSend helps salespeople close more deals by providing actionable insight about prospect engagement. Unlike other tools in this space, DocSend offer an intuitive interface for both you and your prospect.

3) Get to the point quickly and clearly.

Keep your message short, and to the point. If you need to enumerate on key benefits or features, bullet points are your friend. (Pro-tip: Three is the magical number.)

It’s generally a good idea to put the ‘ask’ in its own paragraph to make it stand out. Provided you’re not using a ton of styling, try bolding it to grab your reader’s eye if they’re just skimming.

Including a piece of collateral is a great way of giving prospects the option to learn more, while keeping your email concise.

4) Personalize your message. (Check out Ari’s Sales Snack on this.)

You can learn a lot about somebody from a quick view of their LinkedIn profile. Pay attention to the little things and try to get a basic read on your prospect’s personality. What do you know about their industry? How do they describe their work? Can you see what other interests and skills they might have?


Use these details to tailor your message to your prospect, the same way you would as if you met in person. If they work in a traditionally formal field, maybe choose a classier greeting than “Hey whatsup hello.”

On the flip side, if you’re reaching out to somebody who’s been endorsed 63 times on LinkedIn for anything related to Burning Man, getting a little outside the box might be just the ticket.

Authenticity is key here. Don’t feign interest. Pick something that you genuinely find interesting and draw a connection through that. Congratulations work great if the person, or company, recently hit a milestone.

5) Make it easy to say ‘Yes.’

Make it as easy as possible for your prospect to do whatever it is you are asking. If you’re asking for a meeting or call, offer a specific time at the outset. Use a meeting scheduler if you can to eliminate back and forth.

Our friends at Zapier put together a great list of scheduling tools. We’re partial to Calendly. You should also check out, which offers a virtual assistant that handles scheduling for you right over email.

And then, follow up. And again, and then again.