How to write cold emails that turn into sales?

In the office hours yesterday, @csallen and @lynnetye both emphasized that cold emails can be an effective tool when they're well-researched and concise.

My process for learning about potential customer issues and getting sign-ups from cold emails has gone like this:

  • find people who complain about competitors on social media
  • send emails asking to elaborate on grievances
  • they (sometimes) respond detailing these grievances. Sometimes they've looked at my post explaining what my product does that's in my email signature
  • I either ask for more details before making a plug for how my product can help or go straight to the plug

Do you have other strategies you've used for making sales from cold emails?

  • What do you do to establish trust and credibility in your emails?
  • Have you experimented with more unusual email signatures? Maybe linking to a youtube video pitching your product?
  • When have you found is the best time to put a plug for your company?


  1. 5

    I love the way you're approaching this because I'm all about backdoors, too! If someone complains on social media, you can reply right then and there or DM them about their post. This makes you a familiar face for when you do move the conversation to work emails.

    I'll add that you can/should do minimal research on the person you're reaching out to. If you have mutual LinkedIn connections, share the same alma mater, grew up in the same small town – all of these things help build a real connection. A simple Google search might reveal shared passions or interests. Last year, I met w/ a woman who had previously written several blog posts about promoting women in tech. Knowing this info really helped me guide our first call because I knew what would resonate w/ her on a personal level.

    Re: email signatures... 😂 I, laughably, haven't looked into this at all.

    Re: best time to plug your company, I think this depends on who you're talking to. If it is someone's job to spend their company's budget, you might as well cut to the chase. They're constantly evaluating different tools / channels / approaches, so "buying" is already top of mind.

    If you're reaching out to software engineers who are not responsible for buying things and likely have zero experience making company purchases, it's a different story. They might not even know who to ask or intro you to. For your product, it's possible that first conversations w/ software engineers are only to inform your sales call w/ someone else at the company. Learn about their team's development process and their willingness to experiment w/ new tools. Find out whether they're already using a competitor and what they think about it. Next steps may be for them to try your product out and/or make an intro to someone at the company w/ a credit card (someone you may have identified beforehand).

    1. 2

      Just an update: I've found that spending a few minutes finding common interests with people I reach out to has made a big difference - especially in how quickly people respond to my initial email. I was hesitant to include common interests because it feels a little creepy but the shared interests are genuine and it makes sense that they help form a stronger relationship.

      In one example, an engineer told me that he didn't have time to continue exchanging emails. I responded no problem and that we actually have a common activism interest totally unrelated to my product so perhaps we'd cross paths there. He was excited by this common interest and continued the discussion on email about my product. He also offered to talk on the phone and added me on social media.

      1. 1

        🙌🙌🙌 No one wants to be sold random shit. Everyone wants to make real human connections.

        Congrats, Cara!!!

    2. 2

      these are really great ideas - thank you, lynne!

      will try out some of these tactics and report back on how it goes.

      1. 2

        I've got one more for you. (I should really write all of these out some day!)

        After you do a call, try to stay top of mind without flooding their inbox. Three days later, follow them on Twitter. The following week, send a follow up email. Two days later, send a LinkedIn request. Later that week, reply to a tweet they made. I'm making up the actual cadence/steps, but you get the idea.

        Just keep it natural and classy. 👌

        1. 3

          Great idea. I've been making the mistake of only using email but I like how using a couple of different forums can make staying top-of-mind more casual.

          I think a lot of founders (and anyone else doing sales) would benefit from this. ^^ looks like the first draft of a blog post.

          Thank you, Lynne!

  2. 2

    I visit websites in a certain niche that have obvious issues and offer to fix them.

    Nothing pushy and just a few sentences making sure to mention the industry in the email.

    If you can get a name even better.

    I then follow up 4 times at least till they give in!

  3. 2

    Great approaches...

    What do you do to establish trust and credibility in your emails?

    Just a plain old text email, 1 to 2 sentences max.

    Have you experimented with more unusual email signatures?

    I leave out the email sig

    Maybe linking to a youtube video pitching your product?

    I usually don't pitch in a cold email

    When have you found is the best time to put a plug for your company?

    I'm subtle up to the very end. I say up to the very end because you may discover your product is not needed by them, so I don't mention it.

    Sending them an email from your products domain can be very powerful and "non-pitchy" as I've found many people will say to themselves (if you list the from address as only your name e.g. Bob Smith) "Who is this?" and they'll look at the email address, e.g. [email protected]

    In general, cold emails (i've found) are best when they are text, short, don't pitch, conversational, and directed 100% towards them and their needs (and benefiting only them e.g. your product is not a benefit to them)

    1. 1

      It makes sense that cold emails should be short and directed completely at a potential customer's needs - but I'm not sure how to do that and keep it super short. Can you give an example of a one-sentence email you've sent?

      1. 1

        Let's you've just created a new product called BetterSurvey and SurveyMonkey is a direct competitor...


        Is anything bothering you about SurveyMonkey?

        Hi Cara,

        I noticed you're using SurveyMonkey on your site and I'm writing a blog post with work arounds to common pain points with it.

        I use SurveyMonkey too and find it super painful to do "X", "Y", and "Z".

        Can you share anything that bothers you about SurveyMonkey for my blog post?



        Sorry, can't share any real emails.

        And I know... longer than 2 sentences ;)

        ...but this is what I came up with on the fly and gets to my point. That said, you could definitely spend time to tighten this up, make it pop, and shorten it up a bit.

        Just trying to spark a casual conversation with someone. Get them to reply. Once they reply I'm on their radar and my responses are no longer cold emails :)

        I could do a much better job, but what I'm subtling getting at is that if you share a pain point with me I'll link back to your site (free backlink!) from my blog post. Also, if you share a pain point, I may write a work around that helps you. Benefits!

        1. 2

          That's very helpful - thank you, Chris. I like how you start with a question and then go into the context - it lets the reader see what the email is about right away. I'll try that out in my emails.

  4. 1

    Love this, thanks for sharing.

    I don't just look at complains about competitors on social media. My filters for generating a lead are much looser, anybody who is fairly interested in the topic may be a lead, and not just on social media but on every form of community online like forums, review sites etc. Stricter targeting may work better, I guess it depends.

  5. 1

    Hey Cara,

    I don't think enough people know about this course: https://academy.hubspot.com/courses?page=1

    It is free. Sales is really changing, you need an inbound marketing funnel. Plugging, your company is always a bad idea. Nobody cares. People only care about their own pain points. What pain points do you solve for your current customers? I would write those down and craft emails around how your company solves those pain points. The course above is free and explains all of that.

    1. 1

      Will check out those courses - this looks very helpful. Thank you, Chloe!

  6. 1

    Hey Cara - check the Dinner Party Strategy by Val Geisler here: http://www.valgeisler.com/tdps/

    1. 2

      thanks for sharing, the blog seems like a great resource.

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