Cold Email Best Practices

Many variables determine the success of your cold email or outbound marketing efforts, and what works for one company may or may not work for your company. Common variables include subject lines, body copy, offer, relevancy, data quality, email reputation, and deliverability, which are just a few issues you must address.

This guide will help you get started down the right path to success.

So, where do you begin? The subject line!

Subject lines impact your email open rates, and if you don’t have good open rates, it doesn’t matter how good your body copy or offer is. No one will see it.

Subject Line Length

Keep subject lines short and personal. More often, emails are being opened on mobile devices where longer subject lines are cut off. Subject lines with 3-7 words are the most effective.

Use Creative Subject Lines

The first thing your prospect sees when emailing them is the subject line and who sent the email. These two combinations determine whether they open your email (Step One).

Make sure that you come up with a subject line that is as creative as possible to achieve a good email open rate. Questions in subject lines consistently perform well across all our clients.

Subject Line Examples

  • Is this a problem?
  • A Big mistake!
  • Any chance you can help?
  • Introduction?
  • Our CEO wants to talk to you
  • Your advice is needed
  • Looking for feedback

Personalized Subject Lines

If you’re trying to reach out to an employee at a particular company, including their name or the company name in the subject line can help. Whenever I see my name or the name of my company in the subject, I’m willing to open the email and at least scan it in case there’s something important or relevant to me.

This type of subject line makes the email about them, not about your services or goods, touches on what matters to your prospects, and highlights the fact they are important to you.

Sales Prophet allows you to personalize any subject line with any attribute in the database.  


  • {{company}} information needed
  • {{company}} + YourCompany = Success
  • Looking for HR contact at {{company}}
  • {{first_name}}, who should I address?
  • {{first_name}}, is this worth consideration?

Email Senders Name

The sender’s name is something people often don’t put much thought into. Make sure your sender’s name is real a real person and matches their profile on LinkedIn.

Wrap Up

The tips above are the ones we use to ensure our client’s open rates remain high enough to provide the proper level of engagement with their prospects.

Subject Lines Best Practices

  • Always test at least two, if not more, subject lines (using the exact body copy)
  • Test using your prospects’ name or company in the subject line.
  • Don’t make it sound like a marketing email.
  • Experiment with questions in your subject lines.
  • Always deliver in your email what you promise in your subject line.

Email Writing Basics

Most cold emails being used today are either response campaigns or action campaigns.

As the name implies, response campaigns are designed to generate responses from your ideal prospects, while action campaigns are designed to get the prospect to take an action, usually involving a click somewhere.

Regardless of which campaign type you decide on, you will want to keep your emails short and to the point. Emails that are 50-125 words work best.

Create emails that appear as though you wrote the email (manually) for that person using as much personalization as possible. Asking questions is an excellent way to generate responses.

If you sell what we call a considered purchase with an extended sales cycle, you can write longer emails, but make sure to tell the prospect why you are contacting them, what your value proposition is, and list the companies you work with within the same industry.

In short, do your best to keep your emails as brief as possible.

If you aren’t having much luck in generating responses, then you might want to shift your focus to getting prospects to take action (Action Campaign).

Call to Action (CTA)

Here is a short list of popular CTAs; sign up for a free training course or trial, book a demo, schedule a meeting, and download a whitepaper or guide.

Having a compelling offer will increase the chance the prospect takes your desired call to action.

Remember, a lazy offer is no offer at all. If the offer isn’t compelling to you, chances are it’s not compelling to your prospect either.


Reading Level

Make sure your text is easy to read, and your content is presented in a logical and easy-to-read order. Surprisingly, emails written at a 3rd-grade reading level are most likely to get a response. Simpler words and shorter sentences yield better results, period.


The format of your emails is just as important as the email copy. Some marketers say the format is more important than the actual copy.


People tend to scan emails vs. read every word, so if your email is lengthy, play around with the format by bolding or highlighting words of importance.

  • Using bullets is also a great way to improve the readability of your emails.
  • Test using colored headlines and  emojis in your 👍emails as well.


Positivity defines how positive or negative the context of your email is. The highest email response rates come from emails that are slightly positive in tone.

Spam Words

Limit the number of spam words you use as much as you can (1-3 words top). This increases the chance your email will be delivered to the inbox. We are working on a complete list of words to try to avoid, which we will post on our website soon.

Sample Cold Email

The very first email you should test is a primary introduction email. This email should be short and to the point and describe who you are, what pain you solve, and for whom (Ideally companies similar to your prospect’s company) with one clear call to action.


Subject Line: Introduction?

Hello {{John}},

I noticed your title was {{VP of Procurement}} at {{Acme Company}}, and I wanted to introduce myself (I hope you don’t mind).

Who are you, and what pain do you solve?

Add clients like theirs that you have worked for or continue to do work for.

Add one clear call to action.

Add Signature

Keep your email short and sweet; don’t send long advertising or sales copies – those emails are rarely read and are usually ignored.

Emails Sequences Best Practices

Now that you have a good idea of how to create/test your subject lines and you have a good idea of the first message you want to send to your prospects, it’s time to create your email sequences, which is a series of emails sent over any period of time.

Why do we use email sequences?

The average person receives close to 150 emails a day. Expecting a response from someone who doesn’t know you, not to mention that you probably don’t know them either, after sending them just one email is not realistic. Most often, it takes several emails over a period of time to generate a response. It also takes time to determine the right subject line and body copy your prospects respond to the best.

How long does it take to refine your email sequence?

It varies for each client, but the first month is generally used to warm up your email account and test various subject lines for the best open rates. In month two, we begin to test email copy and offers using the best-performing subject lines learned from month one.

People often get frustrated when they begin planning their first email sequence. So, in this section, we’ve gathered the top-performing email sequences from several of our customers to use as examples in creating your own email sequence.

Note: Having a good database of ideal prospects makes it much easier to build a highly effective email marketing sequence that turns your cold prospects into warm leads.

We recommend you break your lists into segments for the best possible results.

For example, you might want to have different messaging for one industry vs. another. Or you might want to have different messages for each buyer personas.

In most cases, at least four different personas are involved in any major purchase decision.

Researcher – This person was tasked to find two or three possible vendors to fix a problem and will want to see comparison charts on functionality, including pricing. They will also be interested in taking demos of your solutions and learning about how your solution has helped other companies in the same industry as theirs.

End User – This is the person most likely to use your product or service and wants to know how your solution differs from what they are using today, how long it will take to learn, what kind of training you offer, etc.

Decision Maker – This is the person who makes the final decision on which solution the company picks. They will care about your case studies and successes with other companies in the same industry and if your solution will make their team more efficient or effective. They will also be interested in expected ROI’s.

Financial Authority – This person is primarily concerned about the terms and conditions, guarantees, escalation policy, and the ROI of your product or service.

These are four completely different concerns, so we urge our customers to segment their lists accordingly and test different subject lines and body copy for each.

If you decide to add additional segments, remember that you will need to write at least two different versions of the email copy for each new segment for testing purposes. Just because one segment responds well to one message doesn’t mean the other segment will respond the same.

Note: we also recommend you create content for known “Blockers.” These personas look for possible problems and reasons why the company shouldn’t change solutions. While you might not include these people in your outbound sales and marketing efforts, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the challenges they might present.

A/B Test Splits

We recommend writing at least two different email series or sequences for every campaign/segment which is known as A/B test splits. (preferably 3 to5)

It is very rare we ever run an email sequence with only one or two email versions. We are constantly testing. Especially if we have no experience sending emails to prospects in specific industries on behalf of clients, we have never worked with.

Usually, we would create what we call a Response Campaign, which is designed to do one thing: generate a response or reply from our target audience.

Then we like to create an entirely different campaign we like to call an Action Campaign.

Responses Campaigns are designed to ask a question, i.e., Do you have this xxxx problem? Are you the right person to talk to about xxxx? Would you be interested in xxxx? Can you help me? etc.

Action Campaigns are designed to get your target audience to take action, i.e., download a whitepaper, read a case study, click on a link, sign up for a demo, register for a webinar, etc.

The goal is to determine which body copy best generates your desired outcome. Sometimes, you might want to establish credibility, share content and expertise, and then ask for a meeting. In other cases, you might only be interested in getting a prospect to book a meeting.

When building your email sequence, you can combine response and action messages into your email series. But you must be careful not to ruin your testing efforts by having too many variations.


It will be hard to determine which email version or sequence performs best if you have too many variables.

Example Email Sequence Below

Response Campaign

Email 1A

Subject line: Introduction?

Hello {{first_name}},

I noticed you are the {{title}} at {{company}} and wanted to introduce myself (I hope you don’t mind).

I help companies like yours (describe the pain point).

We work with clients like (insert companies you work with in similar industries and sizes)

Would you be up for a conversation?

Any feedback is appreciated.


(Insert your Signature)

Action Campaign

Email 1B

Subject line: Introduction?

Hello {{first_name}},

I noticed your {{title}} at {{company}}, and I wanted to introduce myself because my company recently wrote a whitepaper I think you will find interesting.

The whitepaper covers:


To name just a few topics.

You can download the whitepaper here if you are interested.

I’d like to get your feedback after you read it.


(Insert your Signature)

As you can see, we have two completely different messages to the same target audience.

We can determine which message generates the best response rate over time (ideally, after 1000 email sends).

Note: We have already tested the subject line “Introduction?” in this example.
(To date, “Introduction?” is one of the best-performing subject lines across all clients).


Adding the Second Email to Your Sequence

The second email in your sequence goes to people who didn’t respond to our first email, i.e., Email 1A or 1B with the subject line “Introduction?” after x number of days.

You can send this second message or follow-up message any number of days after the first email. It’s up to you. (100% customizable)

We generally recommend you send the second email three to four days after the first email because not everyone opens their emails right away. But once again, this is worth testing. You might get better results by being more aggressive and sending the second message the next day.

Regarding the subject line for the follow-up email, you have two options. If you leave the subject line blank in the second email, Sales Prophet will use the same subject line from the first email, “Introduction?” and include the original message of the first email below the second email.

So, the prospect sees you sent two email messages. Or you can create a new subject line for this follow-up email, like we did below, “Reconnect?”

Email 2A

Subject Line: Reconnect?


I hate to bug you, but I hope you can help me. I shot you an email hoping to talk to you about how we help companies like yours (insert the pain you solve).

We help several companies in your industry with xxx and would like to see if we can help your company.

Any feedback is appreciated.


(Insert your signature)

Email 2B

Subject Line: Reconnect?


If you recall, I sent you a whitepaper last week on how we help companies like yours use artificial intelligence to take the guesswork out of which prospects your salespeople should call today vs. tomorrow.

Is this topic relevant to you?

Would you be up for a quick conversation?

Any feedback is appreciated.


(insert your signature)

Third Email in the Sequence

This email goes to people who didn’t respond to either the first or second email. At this point, you can test various versions of email copy with different forms of calls to action, from sharing content, including a video image linked to a landing page covering how your company helps others in the same industry with xxx, or invite the prospect to a webinar, etc.

Most clients ask us how many touches or emails they should send before giving up on a prospect; the answer is always the same. It depends on the amount of contact data you have and the number of unique messages you have to send over x amount of time.

Some clients send as many as 17 emails over 14 days. Other clients send 3 messages over 2 weeks.

As a rule of thumb, you should base the number of messages on the number of contacts you have that match your ideal customer profile. If you have a lot of contacts that match your ICP, you can run multiple tests with multiple messages. If you don’t have a lot of data, you are limited in what you can do.

Since we haven’t received a response to the two previous emails, it’s fair to think that this person is not interested in your product or service (for various reasons) or is the wrong person to talk to. Hence, this following email with the subject line, {{first_name}}, who should I address? might make the most sense.

Email 3A

Subject line: {{first_name}}, who should I address?


I’m still hoping you can help me.

I am trying to find the right person at {{company}} who is responsible for xxxx.

I want to send them some information about our (insert pain and value proposition).

Can you help point me in the right direction?


Email 3B

Subject line: {{first_name}}, who should I address?


I have sent you a couple of messages regarding a whitepaper I sent you, but I’m starting to think you might not be the right person to talk to about your sales efforts at {{company]].

I want to share three more whitepapers (below) with the appropriate person, but I’m not 100% sure who that is.

• Top 5 ways to xxxx
• Latest trends in xxxx
• Latest Research Study on xxxx

Any feedback or direction is appreciated.

Thank You

Note: You can send as many emails as possible you want over any period of time you like when creating your sequences. That’s why we put so much emphasis on testing.

There are three primary areas you need to test. Subject lines, body copy and number of touches over x amount of time.


Reach vs. Touches

When building your sequences, you must consider the impact of sending multiple emails (touches or steps) on your market reach.

To safely send outbound emails, you must limit the number of emails you send to under 100 a day per email account or risk your emails being sent into the spam folder.

So, if you have 1000 contacts in your email account and are sending 100 emails daily, it will take ten days to send the first message to everyone on your list. However, since you are sending three emails to each person, “Introduction?”, “Reconnect?” and “Who should I address?” and you only wait four days in between each step like in this example above, your actual email volume looks like this below:

Email Sequence

First four days, you send 100 emails = 400 emails.

On day 5, you are now sending 50 step-one emails and 50 step-two emails.

By Day 9, you are now sending 33 emails to prospects at Step 1, 33 emails to prospects at Step 2, and 33 at Step 3.

So, the number of new contacts being added to your campaign is less than the number of emails sent to people receiving emails at steps two and three. (33 emails vs. 100 emails a day). This limits your market reach. The number of marketing touches is the same but to fewer new prospects.

Remember this as you decide how many emails you want to send in your sequences. (Reach vs. Touches)

Note: in Sales Prophet, you can elect to prioritize new emails or new emails and follow-up emails. However, if you elect to focus on new emails, your sequence will lose its timeline, and the first email will go to all people in your sequence, then the second email and third.

Hopefully, by now, we have given you some ideas on how to think about your sales automation efforts and generate either responses or actions using a series or sequence of text-based emails.

How to Increase The Volume of Emails Sent

Two things you can do to increase your email volume: Connect to a third-party SMTP provider like Mailgun, Sparkpost, or Sendgrid, or add an email warming solution. 

Connecting to an SMTP provider allows you to use a sub-domain and increase your email volume to thousands of emails daily.

If you don’t want to purchase an SMTP provider, you can increase the number of emails you send out of your Office 365 or G-suite email account by adding a third-party email warming solution. However, you can only increase your volume 30-50% based on your email engagement rates.

So, in effect, you go from 90 emails a day to as high as 134 emails a day. This is why we suggest using a sub-domain and a third-party SMTP provider if you want or need to send more volume.

We have had good success using WarmUpInBox.

For more advice on how to implement or launch a sales automation program, make sure to check out our YouTube channel here.