How to Craft Cold Emails That Warm Up New Leads

You want to get in front of a major prospective customer or distribution partner who, if you secured a contract, could make a huge difference to your company’s future. But you don’t have the relationships in your network who can make a personal introduction for you… at least not yet, anyway.

So, what’s your next move? When time is critical, how can you get in the door NOW?

Craft a simple cold email to introduce yourself in a way that establishes trust, builds rapport, and lays the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship between you and the prospect.

In this article, I share email tips and templates that I’ve developed and tested across a wide range of industries to consistently generate a 25 to 35-percent favorable response rate.

START SLOW TO GO FAST

Many well-meaning sales experts recommend writing an initial cold email that boldly pitches the prospect as to why they should meet with you.

That makes sense, right? After all, why would a recipient respond to your email unless you first put forth a bold and compelling reason?

But my experience has taught me that pitching a prospect on an initial contact is almost always a losing move. Think about it: Why would that person respond favorably to your pitch if they don’t know and trust you in the first place?

You must overcome the Trust Barrier before a prospect will agree to meet for lunch, hear your sales pitch, or even give you the courtesy of a response to your email.

(To dig deeper on how to break through the Trust Barrier, read: "Storytelling for Each Stage of Your Sales Cycle.")

So, start slow and limit your initial objective. This will help improve response rate to get you in the door, so you can discern the person’s interest level and establish at least enough trust to make a larger request—such as, “Let’s talk”—and eventually put your sales cycle on the fast track.

HOW? 

Even if your objective is to schedule a lunch or demo your product, take a step back and start at the ground level: Give the prospect the opportunity to qualify herself as the right person you should be speaking with in the first place.

You may already know that the person you’re emailing is the right contact, but you want her to say so for these reasons:

  • It’s a high-probability way to generate a response, implicitly giving you permission to continue the dialogue.

  • She doesn’t feel the need to put her guard up.

  • If her role has changed, she is more inclined to respond by giving you the new contact’s information or even copying that person on her reply email, which helps warm up the lead you really want to reach.

Let me illustrate this for you with the following template I use for B2B sales scenarios.

COLD CALL EMAIL TEMPLATE: B2B SALES

Hi [Contact],
I'm hoping you can help point me in the right direction.
My name is [full name] with [company name].
We [offer/provide/etc... then give one sentence description of your product/service, including a value proposition].
Who would I speak with about offering a competitive proposal on your [accounting software systems, HR benefits package, corporate insurance policies, etc.]? Would that be you?
Thank you for all your help.
My best,
[Name]
[Signature]

THE STRUCTURE

Notice the simple structure:

1. Ask for help.

2. Introduce yourself and company.

3. Write a one-sentence description, with a concise value proposition.

4. Ask for confirmation that the person is the best contact.

5. Keep each paragraph to one sentence (except for paragraph four where you ask for confirmation).

THE RESPONSE

The contact may respond, "No, actually that would be John Smith." So, what do you say now?

Approach John Smith with similar messaging for the first three lines but replace the fourth line with “To confirm …”:

Hi John. Joe Wilson pointed me your direction . . .
My name is [name] with [company name].
We [offer/provide/etc... then give one sentence description of your product/service].
To confirm . . . Are you the person I would speak with about offering a competitive proposal on your [accounting software systems, HR benefits package, corporate insurance policies, etc.]?
My best,
[Name]
[Signature]

If the person identifies herself as the contact, then proceed to your “next step” to:  

  • Schedule lunch or an appointment to demo/ present your product or service
  • Get permission to place the prospect on your email list
  • Get permission to send more information.

EXAMPLE 

When I first launched Lyden Communications, we worked with marketing and public relations agencies, providing outsourced professional writing support to serve their clients. Here’s how I used the Cold Email Template to help expand our network of high-value prospects, when I didn't have the relationships who could make personal introductions for me.  

Hi Jim,
I'm hoping you can help point me in the right direction.
My name is Sean Lyden with Lyden Communications, LLC.
We provide outsourced professional writing support to help agencies quickly expand their content production capabilities when their in-house resources are swamped.
Who would I speak with about whether your agency ever uses outside writers, as-needed, to support your talented in-house team? Would that be you?
Thank you for all your help.
My best,
Sean
[Signature]

THE BOTTOM LINE

When you approach cold emails with the attitude that you're NOT trying to make the sale (or secure an appointment) on the first contact, you take pressure off you and the prospect. This gives the customer time to warm up to you and be more inclined to want to get to know you—and agree to meet with you.

Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that teaches entrepreneurs how to tap into the power of story to sell big ideas that change the world. A former columnist at Entrepreneur magazine, Sean also serves in editorial roles at Utility Fleet Professional magazine and ExpeditersOnline, writing and speaking about the future of transportation and its impact on business and society.

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