Why Starting a Conversation is a Cold Email Strategy That Works

08/19/2016 10:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

2016-08-16-1471373196-8350627-JustinMcGill.pngBy Justin McGill

Over the last couple of years, I have had the privilege of overseeing more than 3 million cold email messages. Unfortunately, most of them fail miserably.

Why Most Cold Emails Fail

If your cold emails look like this, you are doing it wrong:

"Hi Justin, hope you're doing well! Can we schedule a short meeting to discuss our company services at your convenience?"

There are several reasons why cold emails fail: these can include anything from bad subject lines, to emailing the wrong contact, to not personalizing your message enough. Unfortunately, it is pretty easy to create bad cold emails.

A Simple Cold Email Framework

Because quality cold emails are so rare these days, I came up with a simple formula I call "QVC" to help people increase their responses.

  • Q is for Question. This should be one sentence.

  • V is for Value Proposition. This should be one to three sentences maximum.

  • C is for Closing. This should be one sentence.
  • You don't want to worry about introducing yourself in the very first sentence; this immediately tells the recipient that they don't know you. Aside from the subject line, this is the single most important element of your entire email, because it's what shows up in preview panes in their email client and on their phones.

    You can introduce yourself and your offering in the next section. However, you want to focus on your benefit here. This means you should replace the "I" and "we" with a "you" in this portion of the email.

    Lastly, you want to close the email with another question. Ideally, a question that is easy to respond to while helping the conversation advance to the next stage.

    Using the QVC framework, I've been able to generate a 45 percent open rate on my cold emails. Even better is the combined 14 percent response rate (31 percent combined between the first two emails).

    Nail the Subject Line

    Two things need to happen with your cold email subject lines. One, you want to capture their interest, and two, you want to avoid being flagged as spam. Believe it or not, 69 percent of email recipients flag an email as spam solely based on the subject line.

    Emails that have "Re:" perform higher than any other subject line. This is especially important for follow-up emails: include your previous email correspondence in your follow-up for easy reference, while using "Re:" at the beginning of your subject line.

    If you are having a hard time coming up with a great subject line, don't stress. Studies show an 8 percent improvement in open rates with no subject line at all!

    Send at Least Four More Follow-ups

    Unfortunately, 44 percent of salespeople stop following up after two attempts. Meanwhile, 80 percent of sales occur after five attempts. Don't just quit after one or even two emails.

    You also want to avoid the typical "checking in" or "I haven't heard back" follow-ups. Instead, try to bring value. Use a case study for one follow-up, ask a question for another follow-up, link to a relevant blog post for another, or focus on a different benefit than what you did in your previous emails.

    Getting a Response

    By writing cold emails with the intention of getting a response, you are helping your future email deliverability. This is because you are showing engagement. Any response is a good response (even when they request to never be emailed again).

    In addition, by having a more naturally flowing email, you help reduce your risk of being flagged as spam.

    Lastly, you won't have to burn through so many of your ideal prospects, because you'll be converting a higher percentage of them into actual conversations that move the sales process forward.

    If they do respond and are interested in what you offer, I recommend sending them a link to your calendar to book a time to chat further. Don't try to simply close the deal via email.

    Justin McGill is CEO & co-founder of LeadFuze, a B2B lead-generation platform that automates prospect discovery and personalized outreach at scale.