How To Get A 35% Cold Email Response Rate Without Selling Your Soul

Last week, I was speaking with the CEO of a startup who struggled to send cold emails without selling her soul (e.g. pushy sales tactics).  Most, if not all, CEO’s of startups I’ve met have a sense of idealism – they have discovered a problem, are uber passionate about their solution, and want to generate sales, but they don’t think of themselves as being a sales person.

Here is a formula and “mindset” for selling in a way that feels natural and authentic.

The Mindset

The goal of sending cold emails is to start a conversation, not to make a sales pitch.  Focus on having a mutually beneficial conversation with your potential customer, where you can learn if they have a pain you can address so you can discover if there’s a fit.

The 4 Sentence Formula

I’ve used my company as an example, but you should be able to connect the dots back to your company. For best results, try sending 3 variations of the template below over 4-6 weeks.

Sentence 1: Show you did your homework (“I noticed on your website that xyz is a customer. Congrats on getting traction with such an established brand, which is undeniably no small feat for an early stage startup.”).

Sentence 2: Explain what they are missing out on (“I know from speaking with other founders that many, if not all, find it challenging to developing a repeatable selling process in a way that feels natural, comfortable, and authentic without sounding “sales-y.” The impact – inaction.  Lack of a predictable pipeline and sales.”). Why this worksFear of loss is a much more powerful motivator than gain.  

Sentence 3: Explain how you might be able to help and add social proof (“In the past year we’ve worked with companies like abc and def to help them close more deals in less time without selling their soul, and we think we might be able to help xyz in this area as well.”).

Sentence 4: Include a call to action (“I’m not sure if this is a fit for you folks, but if you’d like to learn more, would you be open to carving out some time to explore?”). Why this works: It’s not assumptive.  It’s humble.  At this point I’m not sure if I am of help because I don’t know anything about their situation.  

Sentence 4 Variation: “If you’d like, I can send you a 2 minute demo so you can evaluate.”). Why this works: This is a lower-friction ask than scheduling a meeting.  The added benefit is that if they take the offer, you know they’re intrigued and have a reason to follow up.