How to Connect with B2B Sales Prospects: Effective Cold Email Framework (+ Examples)

How to Connect with B2B Sales Prospects: Effective Cold Email Framework (+ Examples)

Cold emailing is not rocket science. However, there’s a great deal of science in it, as we’ve recently discovered thanks to Reply research. There are certain patterns and data-backed best practices we’ve developed over the years – just like any other SDR team out there.

In this post, I will share one of the most effective cold email frameworks to connect with B2B sales prospects (along with some examples from the top sales experts out there). 

But first, let’s focus on the basics. No matter the industry, business model, or niche, successful cold emailing always boils down to just two things: Targeting and messaging.

How to identify your target audience (and where to find it)

Successful cold outreach starts long before you send your first email, even before you write it. First, you have to identify who you’re going to reach out to with that email. 

There are several ways to identify your target audience.

  1. Look at your existing customers. Focus on accounts with the highest lifetime value (LTV) to identify priority accounts. What do they have in common? What pain points do they share?  You can analyze the available data from your CRM or talk to them in person. 
  2. Interview people within the customer-facing teams., i.e., customer support, customer service, and customer success. As the primary points of contact, they can give you a good understanding of who they talk to most frequently.

Ideally, you should be aiming to have at least 100 conversations, whether held directly with customers or with people in customer-facing roles. Here are some questions to focus on while you talk to them.

  • What industry do they work in?
  • What is their job title?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How do they currently deal with their pain points? 
  • What tools/ technology are they already using?
  • What are their KPIs?
  • What would success look like for them?

Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas Workbook (+ Templates)

 

If you’re looking to build or update your ICP and create spot-on buyer personas, grab a copy of this workbook packed with handy tips and ready-to-use templates.

Once you figure out who your ideal customers are (yes, there can be a few categories of them), you can use this information to build laser-focused lists and further segment them to improve your targeting.

There are dozens of tactics for building targeted prospect lists: From using LinkedIn or other relevant social media platforms and lead capture tools that can identify your website visitors to sourcing contacts directly from a trusted B2B data provider.

We won’t go into too much detail here. The lead generation tactics you choose might vary depending on the specifics of your audience, your budget, or even your personal preferences. Instead, let’s talk about how to connect with those B2B sales prospects (and explain why the knowledge of your ICP is so important).

Effective cold email framework to connect with B2B sales prospects

Over the past few years in sales development, I have sent thousands – if not millions – of cold emails. Like many of you, I also get dozens of emails every day. Due to my personal curiosity or professional interest, I enjoy going through those emails from time to time. This way I am keeping up with the latest trends and current best practices in the industry.

From what I’ve seen, the style, length, specific content, or some other details are unique to each and every email. But if you break it down, the structure of each email is relatively similar. Namely, around 90% of the top-performing cold emails follow this common framework.

  • Greeting – the standard part as we don’t want to come off as rude or violate business etiquette. If you want to get creative, you can personalize your greeting by addressing the recipient in their native language (if reaching out to contacts outside of the US).
  • Trigger or a reason for outreach. This can be anything from a LinkedIn profile visit to company-related intent signals (funding, new hires, new product/feature, related content, etc.). It’s also a great opportunity to throw in a custom personalized snippet to make your outreach feel personal and targeted. 
  • Pain point assumption. This is where you should be using all that ICP-related information you sourced earlier, any other insights from the target industry or role, as well as intent signals mentioned earlier. Or you can simply ask the prospect how they are handling the task you help with.
  • Solution to that pain point as your value proposition. Probably the most important part of the email, this is where you explain how your product can solve the problem the prospect is currently facing. The key here is to avoid blatant selling and focus on helping. Also, keep it short – a one-sentence pitch is enough, no need to go into detail here.
  • Call to action or ask for interest. Using a simple yes/no question as a CTA can significantly boost your reply rate because it doesn’t take too much effort to respond.

Now, to see this framework in action, I’ve sourced some email templates from my fellow sales professionals and thought leaders out there.

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1. Stephan Hamilton, co-founder at The SDR Newsletter

The first example comes from Stephan Hamilton, co-founder of The SDR Newsletter. He’s masterfully using relevant research data to bring up the issue his prospect might be facing and suggest a valuable resource – his own newsletter – to help them solve it. 

Hi [name] – Congrats on the new SDR role at [company]!

Given that only 68% of SDRs hit quota (according to The Bridge Group), what steps are you taking to make sure you’re up to date on the latest DR tactics and part of that quota hitting group?

Other top performing SDs are finding innovative tactics and real outreach examples by subscribing to The SDR Newsletter.

Any interest in checking it out?

Also, pay attention to the intro line. It combines personalization and intent signal to make the email look targeted. Reaching out to the prospect in the first few weeks since joining a new company is also one of the effective tactics to boost your success rate.

2. Sarah Brazier, Account Executive at Gong

Another outstanding sales leader – Sarah Brazier, account executive at Gong – has recently reshared a post praising her cold emailing skills. Here’s the exact template she used.

[name]

Five days ago you broke down the difference between strategy and rapport building, emphasizing the need to create genuine rapport with your prospects and customers.

In the comments, you expand, “if I had to do more of one, I’d say sales strategy/process over bonding and rapport. Relationships take time to cultivate while bringing great value to a customer can happen a lot faster”

As you think about how you and your sales leadership coach reps on these tactics – be it running a great sales process or having a genuine conversation – it can sometimes be challenging to know how they take your coaching and implement it in the wild.

We surface insights from customer conversations – getting you in front of coachable calls and highlight at risk deals where refinement of strategy could be the difference between winning and losing.

Worth a conversation?

While it’s substantially longer than the previous example, it follows the same framework with a personalized trigger, pain-point, and solution. The email also ties in perfectly with the social selling strategy, using the prospect’s social media activity as the reason for outreach and personalized hook. I bet she liked or even commented on that post before sending this email.

Also, note how she didn’t even mention the company’s name in the pitch. That’s some pro cold emailing move! Much respect ????

3. Josh Braun, founder at Braun Training and host of the Inside Selling Podcast

One more thought leader using this framework is Josh Braun, founder at Braun Training and host of the Inside Selling Podcast. Here’s his short and sweet take on this tactic.

Hi [name],

I saw that you’re doubling your sales team.

How are dealing with managing comp plans as you scale?

With [product] you calculate, run & send commission statements in minutes. No errors or hard-pasting entire Excel pages into Google Sheets. Gong and Udemy are saving 40 hours/month

Open to learning more?

Unlike Sarah, he’s choosing to focus on the value prop rather than the personalization or trigger. Also, despite having a very vague reason for outreach, there’s a great social proof element with a clear numerical benefit of 40 hours/month saved. Who wouldn’t want that?

4. Vin Matano, Senior Account Executive at Demandbase

Vin Matano, senior account executive at Demandbase, offers another example of how this email framework can be used to connect with B2B sales prospects. What’s unique about his implementation is that he skipped the reason for outreach part leaving only a quick reference to the ICP role – sales leader.

Hi [name],

As a Sales Leader, curious how your reps prioritize which accounts to reach out to?

If I can create a list for your team of Accounts researching competitors like Salesforce would it be worth a conversation?

Either way, congrats on recently being named Top Sales Coach!

Except for the value proposition merged with the CTA, there’s one more interesting thing about this email. Notice this last line? It’s a smart move to use the personalized hook as the signoff. I personally like adding some custom P.S. sections to my emails as well.

5. Gabrielle “GB” Blackwell, Sales Development Manager at Culture Amp

Last but definitely not least, Gabrielle Blackwell, sales development manager at Culture Amp and a top sales influencer, shares her tactic to “craft a relevance based cold email using a press release article.” This is a perfect example of intent-based outreach that also matches our framework really well.

Hi [name],

You mentioned [quote] in the [article publisher name].

How are you and your team going about [superpower your solution unlocks] as a part of [initiative mentioned in article]?

Thanks [name],

Although there’s no sales pitch, just a genuine question from a peer, this email can do the job and help you start a conversation. If the prospect replies with more details on how they are solving the problem you’ve mentioned, this will give you some extra information to better tailor your value proposition leading to higher chances of booking a call. What I like most about the email (except for the personalization part) is how there’s absolutely no fluff.

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Wrapping up

Here you go, a tried and tested cold email framework along with some first-hand inspiration from the top sales pros. 

Of course, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to follow this formula or come up with your own tactic. Luckily, there’s a ton of other creative ways to connect with B2B sales prospects as well as amazing tools that can help you (including AI email assistants).

Yet adopting some proven frameworks and following in the footsteps of the best sales teams can help you minimize the risk and increase your chances of success.

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