Cold emailing is a critical tool for prospecting. But in today’s era of overstuffed inboxes, it’s all too easy for a carefully crafted email to end up in the trash.

If you want your prospects to actually open your email—and better yet, read and respond to it— try following these tips:

1. Make yourself familiar to the prospect before ever sending the email

In the rush to get to inbox zero, there isn’t much incentive to open an email from an unknown sender. But if you make yourself known to a prospect, suddenly that cold email gets a lot warmer.

There are many things you can do to build a relationship in an appropriate way. Follow prospects on social media, introduce yourself at events, and comment on blog articles as appropriate. Then, when the prospect sees your name in their inbox they’ll be more willing to give you a shot to make your pitch.

2. Send the email at the right time

There’s a rich compendium of data on the best time to send an email. Mondays and Fridays are almost always bad choices. The best day to send an email is Tuesday, although Wednesdays and Thursdays can also be good times.

According to the data, 10 in the morning or so is the best time to send an email if you want it to be opened. However, this can vary between individuals so a little experimentation can help. If your prospects consistently ignore emails on a particular time or day, switch it up.


3. Write an engaging subject line

Your subject line is probably the single most important factor in determining whether an email gets opened. Write a subject line that is original and engaging. Ideally, your email’s subject line should reference the prospect’s main pain point so they have a reason to open your email. Be specific and offer a tangible benefit to opening the email. Vague and hyperbolic language tends to do poorly. Humor might be helpful, depending on your prospect’s personality.

To write a really great subject line, devote time to it. Try coming up with at least 3-5 subject lines before committing to any one of them.

4. A/B test and collect data on what does and doesn’t work

Now that you have 3-5 subject line ideas, you need to test them to figure out what works with each type of prospect. Just because you think one idea will work better than the others, it’s not necessarily true.

Incorporate A/B testing into your sales email workflow so you can constantly receive insights on what works. Keep track of the data and use this to improve your open rates.

5. Avoid words that are commonly flagged by spam filters

Today, it’s a good bet that everyone will have some kind of spam filter installed on their email client. To make sure your email doesn’t end up there, become familiar with words that are commonly flagged by spam filters. Do not use these words in the email’s subject line. Excessive punctuation and use of caps lock also trigger spam filters, so take it easy with the exclamation points. (Really!!!)

There are also free tools like Contactology or Mailing Check that will test how well your email do against spam filters. Many email programs like Constant Contact and Mailchimp have built-in tools that assess the likelihood of an email being sent to the spam folder.

Familiarize yourself with spam filter words and phrases (“free,” “limited time,” etc.) and avoid them in the subject line and if possible the body of the email.


6. Pay attention to the preview text

Before your prospect opens the email, they’ll read the preview text. Attention-grabbing preview text can push prospects into opening the email.

Of course, you don’t know exactly which email client or device your prospect will be using. But you can test the preview text for commonly used email clients like Gmail and Outlook before sending your email. If possible, include words and phrases that are likely to pique your prospect’s interest. Reference their needs and pain points.

7. Include a greeting that is friendly and professional

In today’s business environment, “Sir” and “Madam” tend to feel pretty stuffy. Address your prospect with appropriate honorifics, but be friendly about it. Usually, “Hi Ms. [Name]” works great. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Since email is today’s go-to form of communication, it’s critical that you understand the key elements of email writing for modern-day professionals.

8. Be succinct in the email and use simple language

No one has time to read long emails. To keep your email short, cut out all unnecessary filler words and comments that don’t serve your prospect.

The research also proves that the reading level of a sales email matters. Sales emails written at a third-grade reading level had the highest open response, while emails written at the college level had the lowest level. People just don’t want to have to think that much when reading email. So even if your recipients have graduate degrees, avoid technical jargon and use basic language.


9. Personalize the email to the buyer’s needs and situation

Although sending out the same template email to every prospect is time-efficient, it’s not a good tactic in terms of actually getting a response. Before sending your email, research your prospect. This will enable you to discuss—on a specific level—how your solution serves your prospect’s needs. If you can reference recent developments at your recipient’s company, you’ll show that you’re not just another salesperson sending mass emails.

10. Include a call-to-action (CTA) in the email

Every sales email should have a clear CTA, such as “contact me to schedule a call” or “sign up for our mailing list.” Most prospects need prompting to act. Without a CTA, your email is just sitting in someone’s inbox without any real purpose.

11. Follow up if you don’t get a response

So if your cold email doesn’t get a response, does that mean it’s game over? Not necessarily. It’s acceptable to send a series of follow-up emails after an appropriate interval that gently reminds your prospect that you’re still here.

Send different emails to prospects who didn’t open your email as compared to prospects who opened the email but did not respond to your CTA. Don’t try to guilt them for not responding, instead show the prospect how they can benefit from your email in your follow-up email subject line.

There aren’t any guarantees in cold emails. But following these best practices significantly improves your chances of getting a positive response.

Best Practices for Getting Your Sales Emails Opened (and Read)

PS. And don’t send it from a Gmail account 😃