Generating valuable responses from cold emails can be tough if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Simply sending out a generic sales email to a list of prospects is bound to return poor results. Effective (i.e., non-creepy) personalization with a touch of originality is the key to standing out in B2B sales.
But what’s the best way to do that?
When you’re building or refining your own email prospecting strategy, it helps to see first-hand how others have done it successfully. That’s why we compiled this list of B2B cold email templates that sales and marketing pros have used in their own businesses.
We posed the following question to 16 experts:
What’s the best cold email you’ve ever received or sent, and why did it work?
Take a look at their responses below and learn the cold email tactics that they've used to hook more customers
.Note: Click the title of each email to view it. Some of the names in the emails have been removed or changed to protect their privacy.
P.S.: Hate your current CRM? Still working off spreadsheets? Register for our "Intro to Nutshell" live demo and see why sales teams love us!
Jump ahead to:
Prospecting cold email templates to secure a call, meeting, or demo
The compliment / benefit / time / help email
Zachary Rose, CEO at Zack Academy, writes:
Here’s my hindsight dissection of why this email resonated with me:
- He started out by telling me how awesome I am, and who doesn’t want to hear that?! A COMPLIMENT that is indirect and concise goes a long way.
- In two sentences he summed up his entire operation and made it 5th-grade-easy for me to understand their model and how I could BENEFIT from working with them.
- He set the expectation of how much TIME I would need to invest to learn more about how we could work together.
- HELP is something every human has a soft spot for. We love being helped and we love doing the helping. It makes both people in the transaction feel important.
To summarize: COMPLIMENT, BENEFIT, TIME, and HELP are what made this email pop. I responded within three days and have been a client ever since.
The "two things you should fix" email
Forster Perelsztejn, Head of Acquisition at Prospect.io, says:
Writing sales emails is my job, so I’m not easily impressed. But this email I got not so long ago was a masterpiece of targeting and scalability. Because that’s what a good sales email template is all about: scaling a tedious process while getting it just right.
Why is this email awesome?
- The subject line is personalized and establishes a link between people from both companies
- The first sentence establishes a clear link between you and the company
- Matt inserts a humorous line, which is always good if it’s short and in good taste
- He gets to the point and singles out your company while teasing the why
- He offers value and personalization by mentioning improvement possibilities
- The call to action is clear and easy to respond to
Note: Sumo is big enough that they don’t have to worry about providing social proof in the first email, which might not be your case if you’re a smaller company.
The bear gif email
Jonathan Grana, Co-founder & CEO at Interseller, says…
This template has approximately a 16% reply rate as the last message in a sequence. Very often these emails will result in a meeting or to being forwarded to the decision maker.
It’s important to show some personality in your emails to remind people that there is a human on the other end of that thread, but make sure to avoid the cliche of eaten by alligators.
The good reviews email
Laura Burget, Business Development at Influitive, says:
This template works great as a first touch in the commercial segment, largely I believe because of how specific the identification of the pain point is, as well as the customization.
Screenshots are a fantastic way to show that you have done your homework and also communicates a story quickly for a prospect, allowing us to not just send over a wall of text.
Also, including some of their competitors who are customers of ours is another great way to grab their attention.
My approach is always to come in with an opinion/observation of a prospect’s current state, and then offer up insight into how we can help them hit their targets and grow their business.
The rap video email
Jeremy Leveille, Sr. Business Development Specialist at LeadIQ, says…
I sent this email to a super targeted list of prospects in Atlanta. Here’s the video I sent them.
I booked a meeting using that email. Here’s what they said:
The email is all about targeting sales leaders in Atlanta who meet our ideal customer profile— the type of account most likely to buy from us and get value from our product. This would be tech companies with between 50-500 employees, based in the U.S.
It’s an Atlanta theme. I’m lip syncing the song, “Welcome to Atlanta” while wearing an Atlanta Hawks throwback jersey, then I have a quick value prop that adds value but is conversational, concise and non-salesy and end it by name dropping two customers we have in Atlanta—since the prospect is also in Atlanta they probably know those companies.
Bonus tip #1:
I’m not sure of the best cold email I ever received, but I’ll tell you what’s worked lately—a well thought-out, well researched, simple and concise question.
It starts a conversation instead of going in for the kill right away, it’s easy for me to respond to which is low effort, and it shows you did your research so it’s relevant.
Let the conversation and pitch flow from there. It’s as easy as just starting with a simple question. Better yet, make it a flattering question or something close to an area they enjoy, and build the relationship first while simultaneously getting qualifying info.
— Max Altschuler, Founder & CEO of Sales Hacker
The "you're a big deal" email
Josh Slone, Content Marketing Manager at LeadFuze, says…
One of the best recent cold emails we received was a great example of B2B personalization. Here are a five reasons why I loved it and one critique:
Number One: The subject line and the first sentence pair nicely to prompt the open. With the majority of email users being able to read the first several words of your actual email, this sender knew that we would not only see the subject line, but also “…you’re kind of a big deal.”
Number Two: The sender knows his audience. A SaaS startup is (likely) going to appreciate a good gif. Ron Burgundy is a hilarious, yet thoughtful choice that continues the “big deal” theme.
Number Three: The “big deal” theme itself. Mentioning your customers more than you mention yourself is a rule that is broken all the time in cold email outreach. This email starts with LeadFuze and ends with how LeadFuze + my company could equal great results.
Number Four: The proof. Just saying something isn’t enough. This has an image that shows us at #1, proving it. I can say you’re awesome all day, but if I can’t make that compliment touch reality in some way, it’s worthless smoke.
Number Five: The way the benefit was introduced. “I don’t have a single customer at #1 that isn’t utilizing their positioning across all of their marketing channels.” Nice.
One Critique: Going straight for the call. If it’s a cold email, your goal is a response. You do that by offering something the reader (if interested) can’t refuse. Any market-leading B2B company wants to know what they can do to build on their success, but many won’t want to hop on a call right away. Something that enticed the reader to click the reply button (a case study or webinar) would have been more welcome.
The Starbucks gift card email
Dave Parsons, Field Marketing Manager at Donatos Pizza, says…
What’s funny about the above email is that I immediately went and checked my mailbox, and lo and behold, there was the Starbucks card. So I replied to Molly with:
OK, Molly…..so I just got my mail today and wouldn’t you know it there was the Starbucks card.
So, I decided to go use it and then do some research on your company while I enjoyed a Java Chip Frappuccino. I watched the video about what you guys do and then scrolled through as many pages on the website as possible to see what I could find out about this brilliant person who lured me in with free coffee. LOL
Anyway, I’ll summarize by saying that if you were to connect with someone at Donatos about this, it would be Erin Corrigan, our digital manager. Our company is in the beginning stages of developing a loyalty program that will work with our in-house POS and website, so I’m not sure what direction we will end up going and also how that works with outside vendors.
Just wanted to give you a response and thank you for the coffee.
She totally lured me in and got the information that she wanted, all for a $5 Starbucks gift card and a first class stamp. Well done, Molly!
The friendly / flattery / relevant email
Laura V. Lopuch, Email Conversion Engineer at lauralopuch.com, says…
This is the cold email format that I used to attract a $20,000 client for my business, and get another client a 33% uplift in replies on their recent cold email campaign.
This cold email worked really well, thanks to three key points:
- Friendly: Cold emails fall prey to the stiff, formal biz talk. That makes your cold email reader want to gag. We’re social beings and we want to connect with a breathing, live person! Let your cold email reader see your personality in your email and chances are, they’ll reply. In this email, I used friendly, casual language.
- Flattery: This email starts off with a compliment to warm up my reader, showing that I’m a pro because I did my research on his company. This isn’t a fly-by-night cold email. This is a highly-targeted, relevant cold email, making it more persuasive.
- Relevant: In paragraphs #4 and 5, I explain how I benefit and help them accomplish their business goals. My reader doesn’t have to connect the dots between what I do and how it’s relevant to him and his job, because I explain exactly how I can make his job easier or make him look awesome to his boss.
The ferret email
Jon Buchan, Director of Charm Offensive, says:
So many cold email approaches fail because they go straight to persuasion.
The very first line starts with something like, “We’re the best people in the world at X…We’ve worked with X client and our groundbreaking X technology is a world’s first…”
YUCK! Of course, that gets deleted!
Your job is to sell the idea that a call or meeting with you is not a bad idea. Not to give every little detail—or to sell your entire offering in one go. Those steps come later.
Dave Trott talks about this when discussing effective advertising. Imagine for a moment that you wanted your other half to make you a cup of tea or coffee. First, you need to make impact.
“CATH!” That gets her attention.
The communication is next. “Cath, will you make me a cup of tea?”
However, that’s not very persuasive. So how about: “If you make me a cup of tea, I’ll take the trash out.”
The same rule applies to cold emails or any form of effective advertising. You need to make impact first. Then communicate. Then persuade.
You need to stand out.
Your prospect likely gets a ton of other letters and emails (and cold calls)—and they all look and read the same.
You need to make IMPACT. Without that, it doesn’t matter how good your communication is. It doesn’t matter how persuasive you are. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.
Most people think persuasion is the most important. They focus on using specific words and formulas and forget they’re writing to a human.
But you’re not trying to beat a machine at chess.
You need to get a reaction. A bite. A nod. A smile. A laugh.
You need people to actually see and read and listen before you can communicate and persuade.
Being able to cut through—especially if it’s done in a unique or clever way—is persuasive in itself.
The "no extra work" email
Greg d’Aboville, Head of Growth at WisePops, says…
Here’s what we liked about the email:
- The email’s target was precise: we did use Groove
- The email is personalized: they used our first name and company name throughout the email
- Their copy is very good: we experienced the problems they mentioned in their email
- They reassured us about the transition and the pricing
We tried their solution right away!
The partnership email
Laurentiu Bancu, Marketing Manager at Paymo, says…
Here’s why this email worked:
- It was an email about our target market: “creative freelance professionals”
- Even if people lie about their numbers sometimes, 220,000 was a very attractive figure 🙂
- It’s obvious that the guy sending me the email did his homework: “managing projects” is an issue for the freelancers and Paymo is in the business of helping people manage their projects
- The sender, Damien, didn’t try to sell me something from the get-go; he proposed a partnership
The short and direct email
Ben Slater, VP Growth at Beamery, says:
Here’s why it worked:
Short, to the point and relevant, this email hit on the pains that a Head of Marketing typically has (i.e., lead generation), provides a solution and gives reference points to our industry (HR Tech).
Relevance is the key here. People often spend hours personalizing emails, but something that is relevant to a prospect’s pain will always win out.
Bonus tip #2:
The best cold email I received was super simple. I had gotten a few emails from a rep and ignored them. Then one day, I got the following:
That’s all it said. It was simple, human, and creative. I took the call based on creativity. Honestly, I was not his ideal customer profile and I told him. I let him know what I do, sales training, and told him he had carte blanche to call me any time to ask for sales advice. He’s done it a few times. It’s been a nice business relationship.
— Richard Harris, Owner of The Harris Consulting Group