What is the Best Professional Cold-Call Email?

I have often been asked to explain the best professional e-mail format to send to a prospect who doesn’t know me, sometimes called a cold-call e-mail.

I don’t think there is one format that always works.  However, certain guidelines will make your email more attractive to a reader.  They are:

  1. Address the person properly.  Unless you have previously met the person, I would not use their first name, such as “Dear Bob” or “Dear Mary.”  I would also not use “To whom it may concern” or the formal Dear Mr. Jones.  Instead, I would advise something like “Dear Nancy Jones” or Dear Treasurer (their function or position.)
  2. The number one rule is to keep your email short, perhaps two short paragraphs consisting of no more than 7 or 8 short sentences.
  3. Grab their attention immediately in your first line.  Here are seven examples:
    • Have you checked your inventory balance of x lately?
    • Do you know what your competitors are doing about x?
    • Are you aware of the new government regulation regarding x?
    • How much does it cost you not to replace your x?
    • Have you heard the news about the latest AI technology that can do x for your company?
    • Here is a way you can reduce your overhead by 10%…
    • Are you looking to increase your market share with x product? Or to expand into an overseas market?

But don’t go “over the top” and say something ridiculous that will reduce your credibility with the reader.

  1. Don’t put extraneous filler in your message, such as “Our company has been around 25 years” or “Let me tell you about the features and functions of this product.” Anything that can be answered with “So what?” should not be used.
  2. It is all about what you can do for them, nothing else! Superfluous text can be distracting and suboptimal.
  3. Your message should always be cordial.
  4. Tell them when you are going to follow up with them.  Don’t ask them to call or email you.  For example, “I will call your office next Tuesday at 10 AM to discuss how I can do this for you.  Please let me know if that day and time are acceptable.  If not, please suggest an alternative.”
  5. Don’t be afraid to be unique.  You do not need to copy what others are doing.
  6. It is an iterative process. Try different versions (an A, B, and C.)  See which version has the best response rate. And keep modifying the email format until you have one that works well.  And then keep modifying that version.   
  7. Be sure that the list of targeted people and companies you send your emails to is in your company’s “sweet spot” or ideal customer profile.
  8. Never give up! Although some sales trainers think sending cold call emails or calling people is a waste of time, it often needs to be done to build or augment the number of prospects in your pipeline.  Most companies do not provide their salespros with enough leads so they must have their own demand creation programs.