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Improve Your Cold Emails to Increase Sales

The cold email is this generation’s version of the cold call.

And I get it. It’s easy. It’s efficient. You type up an email, blind copy (Bcc) all 37 email addresses you collected at last night’s networking event and hit “send.” Then you sit back and wait for the sales to roll in.

How often does that work? Pretty much never.

If you’re going to cut through all the noise and actually get your prospect to read your email, you’ll have to do a little better than that.

Here’s an example of a typical cold email (this may or may not be an actual email I received…with the names changed for privacy purposes, of course):

Subject: Riverside Hotel

Good afternoon,

We are working with y’all on the Riverside Hotel project and I haven’t had the opportunity to meet with you. Are you available next week on the afternoon of the 28th or anytime on May 2nd or 3rd for 20-30 minutes? I’d like to introduce myself and catch you up to speed on our service and how we can help with some additional projects you have coming up. Please let me know a date and time that works well for you.

John Smith
The Best Company, Inc.
Mobile: 555.555.5555

I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what any of this means. This person wants to meet with me for a half hour to pitch his service. But nowhere in the email does Mr. Smith even say what that service is!

Here’s what’s wrong with this email:

  1. The email subject line is generic. It’s just the name of my current project (“Riverside Hotel”). While this means I probably won’t delete the email right away, it also doesn’t grab my attention. If you’re like me, you get dozens of emails a day with a subject line that’s nothing more than the name of your project. Subject lines like this don’t stand out.
  2. The greeting is impersonal. “Good afternoon” is a blanket opening. When I read that, I think “cut and paste,” or “doesn’t remember my name.” Or worse–I think it’s just an email blast from a list I don’t remember subscribing to. A personalized greeting makes me think I’ve at least met the sender.
  3. He goes straight for the ask. He doesn’t tell me who he is or what his company can do for me. He doesn’t give me anything of value. All Mr. Smith does is ask to meet with me, which means he’s probably asking for money. This screams “scammy or salesy.” I delete the email at this point (if I haven’t already).

Cold emails like this are a form of copywriting. You’re writing words to communicate ideas or information to another person. And you some day hope to sell that person something.

One important concept to understand about copywriting is this: The goal of every written line is to get your reader to read the next line. If you do this correctly, they will read all the way to the end. Here’s how this concept applies to a cold email:

  • The subject line convinces the recipient to open the email and start reading
  • The greeting convinces him to read the body
  • The body convinces him to read through to the end and take action

Another important copywriting concept to keep in mind is that you can’t go straight for the ask. Your “ask” may be a sell, a commitment, acceptance of an invitation or any other call-to-action. But we’re talking about cold emails here. These are people that you don’t really know that well–or even at all. They are cold leads, and you have to warm them up before you ask for something.

How do you turn up the temperature on someone you don’t know? You give them something of value. “Value” could mean a lot of things. You could run a quick ROI analysis and tell them a few ways your service will save them money. Or you could put together a quick demo with your reader’s logo on it.

However you do this, you want to give (and give and give and give) before you ask. People don’t care about your company and how awesome it is. They care about what you can do for them. So show them.

And then ask for something in return. In social psychology, this is known as “reciprocity.” If someone is given something of value, they feel obligated to settle up and repay the debt. Think of the “free” massages you get offered when you walk by a kiosk in the mall. Or more relevant–think about all the “free” lunches you’ve treated potential clients to. These things are done to give something of value in exchange for a future transaction. Use reciprocity to your advantage.

With all this in mind, here’s how I would rewrite Mr. Smith’s email:

Subject: Want to See Your Project from Anywhere, Anytime?

Hey Jimmy:

I hear you’re the Project Manager for the Riverside Hotel. I’ve seen the renderings–it’s going to be an amazing project!

Anyway, my name is John with The Best Company, Inc. We set up streaming web cameras for construction projects. You can pull up live video of your job site on your laptop or smartphone from anywhere, anytime you want.

Check out this link. We put cameras up for one of your company’s other projects: [link]

I’ve already located a couple of different nearby buildings that would offer a great view of the Riverside Hotel. And I already cleared it with the building owners to set cameras up on the roof.

Attached is a snapshot of what the view of your site will look like. And I also attached a quote for 1, 2 or 3 cameras.

I’d love to chat more. Email me back or give me a call!

John Smith
The Best Company, Inc.
Mobile: 555.555.5555

Notice the difference?

John opens the email with a friendly, personal greeting. He makes it obvious in the first two sentences that he’s done his research on both the project and the Project Manager. Then he moves right into who he is and what service he provides. He provides a link to an existing project so I can check out his service (value). Then he offers massive value by preemptively locating the best camera locations and clearing it with the property owners!

John wraps up with another “give” by showing me exactly what my project will look like from the vantage point of the cameras. And only after all that does he ask for anything. And he does that while already including his quote–I don’t even have to ask!

I can tell you that, as a Project Manager myself, I appreciate the preliminary work done prior to sending me an email. We’re all busy people. The fewer questions I have to ask, the better. And the odds of me responding to this email are much higher than John’s original one.

If you’re sending a cold email, that’s all you want, right? You want to open a door. You want a chance to discuss your services and close a sale.

Coming from someone who has deleted more emails than I care to remember, trust me. If you apply these basic copywriting principles to your email, you’ll have a much better chance of success.

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