Many salespeople use a cold email as a key tool to try to engage with a sales prospect. We say “cold” in the same way that we refer to a cold call in that you are sending an email to someone that you do not have an existing relationship or dialogue with.

Using email instead of a phone call, or just before reaching out with a call, can have a lot of benefits, but there are definitely some things to keep in mind in order to improve your results and effectiveness.


1. Avoid the instant delete

Your initial goal is to not get your email insta-deleted. This is where a prospect either deletes your email without looking at it or deletes it with just a very quick glance (a couple of seconds). If you can design your email so that you minimize this instant delete, you will greatly improve your results.


2. Don’t design your email to have a one-to-many appearance

One key principle to adopt to help minimize the instant delete is to avoid having a one-to-many appearance in your cold email. This refers to whether the prospect thinks you wrote the email just for them or that you wrote the email once and are sending that same email to a number of different people.

The logic here is that if the email is one-to-many, the recipient can develop a few very quick and very negative assumptions:

  • You are a salesperson trying to sell something
  • You did not write and send this specifically to me
  • You do not know much about me
  • You are not taking the time to learn about me and communicate with me directly
  • Since this is not written specifically for me, I can delete it quickly without reading, and I will most likely not miss anything

When you add all of those up, it is easy to see how having a one-to-many cold email will drive up your instant delete rate.


3. Minimize design effects

To support your effort to avoid the one-to-many appearance, try to minimize the use of images, borders, and HTML effects. Yes, all of those things make an email look really nice, but if I am sending you a personal one-to-one email, I will not typically take the time to insert all of those.


4. Don’t use hyperlinks (anchor text)

A very common thing that many people do in a cold email that is a quick hint that it is not one-to-one is that they insert hyperlinks. When someone sees that, they can be immediately clued into the fact that the email was probably set up as some sort of email template in an email marketing software system and sent out to a mass list.

The reason is that people do not usually insert hyperlinked text in personal one-to-one emails. It is not really complicated to do so, but it is just not really common in the way that people typically compose personal one-to-one emails.

One workaround here is it is important to try to send the prospect to a website is to insert the hyperlink as an actual web address linking to text.


5. Try not to sound like a salesperson

You also want to avoid looking too much like a salesperson trying to sell something in your cold email.
In order to help with this, don’t send the prospect an email that is structured all around what you sell and what it does.

I get emails all of the time from salespeople that have the following flow:

  • This is who I am and the company I am with
  • This is what we sell
  • This is what it does
  • I would like to meet with you (to try to sell everything I just mentioned)

Keep in mind that a cold email is similar to a cold call in that you are typically reaching out to a prospect who is not actively looking to purchase what you are selling. As a result, when you approach with such an “I am a salesperson with something to sell” frame, the prospect might not only get turned off right away, but they are also in an easy position to object by saying, “I do not need that right now.”


6. Avoid talking about your products and company

In order to minimize how much you look like a salesperson, try to avoid talking too much about your company, what it does, what products you offer, what they do, etc.

Not only does this make you look like a salesperson trying to sell something, but it is also a very “all about me” way to approach someone.

We are all self-serving a little bit. This means that one of the main things we care about is our stuff and how we can improve things for ourselves. This is why your natural instinct draws you toward talking about your products – it is you following your self-serving instincts.

If you become more aware of this, you can see that your prospect is also self-serving. When you lead by talking about your products, you are trying to address your self-serving interests and ignoring the prospects. This cannot only turn off a prospect, but it can also make it more difficult to grab a prospect’s attention.

With this knowledge, you can hack this process to make things go in your favor by resisting your urge to talk about your products (all about me) and focusing more on the prospect’s interests (all about you).


7. Focus more on the value your products and services offer

One way to not be so “all about me” and more “all about you” is to focus more on the value that you offer. Talk about the improvements that you typically create. Talk about how you can help the prospect and make things better for them.


8. Focus on the pain that you help to resolve

You can also be very “all about you” by talking about the challenges the prospect is experiencing. This is also a great way to grab a prospect’s attention in a cold email. You can even mention the pain that you help to resolve in the subject line, and if the prospect is experiencing that pain, they will be more likely to open your email.

The challenges that the prospect is having is something that they will care about most. If you can center your email around those, you will be more likely to have a captive audience.


9. Keep your email short

The last thing to really address here is to always keep brevity in mind with your cold email.

Yes, you have a lot that you want to share with your prospect. But if you try to squeeze it all into your email and the email is more than a handful of sentences, then your email is too long, and this can increase your instant delete rate from prospects simply not wanting to read your cold email based solely on length alone.