How to Write Cold Emails That Convert, According to Data [Reply Research]

How to Write Cold Emails That Convert, According to Data [Reply Research]

Over my past 7 years in sales development, I’ve done it all — from prospect research to inventing creative personalization tactics. But the most challenging part of the job for me has always been template writing. 

Understanding how to write cold sales emails is crucial for absolutely every modern SDR. 

While innovative tools such as our AI sales assistant (an AI cold email writer) definitely simplifies this tedious task, it’s always good to know if you’re moving in the right direction by looking into the hard data.

In this research piece, we’ve combined the key insights on how to write a cold email that gets opened and replied to with proven best practices after years of sales outreach campaigns and concrete data. 

As a result — we have created a cold email guide, from template structure to the optimal email length and timing, and we are eager to share it with you. 

Disclaimer: The average performance metrics for the analyzed emails that we used as the benchmark in this research are 3.02% reply rate and 22.99% Interest rate.

Golden rules of cold email outreach 

First things first, let’s quickly take a look at the most crucial aspects of how to write effective cold emails before diving into the specifics: 

  • Be laser-focused on the ICP and IBP (Ideal Customer Profile and Ideal Buyer Persona) →  even the best cold email template won’t work if you target the wrong prospects.
  • Be relevant → even the best email template won’t work if your offer isn’t something they are thinking about right now.
  • People do not buy your product → they buy solutions to complete their tasks and solve their specific pain points.
  • Never sell something via cold emails right away → cold outreach works better if you are polite and tactful.
  • Properly set-up your cold outreach infrastructure → domains, inboxes, sending limits, deliverability, etc.
  • Don’t be pushy or salesy → it might sound controversial and counterintuitive, but our goal is to start a conversation, not to close a deal.
  • Use polite language and avoid the imperative mood or strong calls to action → for example, instead of this CTA:

use this one:

While these golden rules guide emailing effectiveness by prompting greater open and reply rates, it will also require putting effort into the smaller details such as optimal length, timing, content, and more to get the job done. 

Without further ado, let’s get right into the intricate details on how to write cold emails for sales outreach.

Cold email template structure 

Your email template should be well-structured and contain the following building blocks:

  • Subject Line
  • Greeting
  • Intro
  • Reason for Outreach
  • Value Proposition
  • CTA
  • P.S. Sentence or Ice-breaker
  • Signature

Now, let’s take a look at the main best practices for each of these elements that together create a powerful cold email. 

Subject Line

→ 1-5 words max (mobile friendly); longer subject lines will get fewer opens.

→ Do not use CAPS LOCK subject lines.

→ You can use numbers as social proof.

→ Do not use Re: and Fwd: to simulate replies or forwards.

→ Never send emails with empty subject lines (goes without saying). 

→ Avoid using question marks (?) or exclamation points (!).

→ No catchy, tricky words at all; avoid buzzwords.

Cold Email Subject Lines Cheat Sheet (+70 Top-Performing Templates)

How do you capture the prospect’s attention in 5 words or less?

We’ve looked into the data on how different words might affect your cold email subject line performance.

Greeting

Start your email with a greeting, as it’s one of the most commonly used rituals across different cultures around the world. Yet, it remains a polite and proper way to grab someone’s attention.

Here are some tips on how to start a cold email:

→ First of all, rely on commonly used “Hi” and “Hello”.

→ Depending on your audience, “Hey” also may be an option.

→ Avoid using “Dear Sir”, “Dear Madam”, “Dear Mr/Mrs”.

→ Avoid using “Hi there”; always add the {{FirstName}} variable.

Introduction 

Deciding how to write a cold email introduction may seem intimidating, but the reality is that it should be light and friendly, as you would introduce yourself in real life. 

A sentence like “Vlad from Reply here – an email outreach automation tool for sales and growth teams” helps to:

→ Quickly identify the name of the sender (maybe they even know me).

→ Quickly recognize the company of the sender (maybe they are already familiar with our company).

→ Swiftly introduce our company and what we do.

→ We can even hyperlink the company name, so recipients can easily check our website.

Reason for Outreach

The reason for outreach is one of the most important parts of how to write good cold emails.

Thus, when you send someone an email, always ask yourself, “Why am I reaching out to this person?”, and how this reason will resonate with the prospects’ problems.

To give your email a purpose, start your “reason for outreach” with phrases like: I saw, I read, I heard, I noticed, I watched, I listened, etc.

Then, use this “reason for outreach” to connect to your value proposition, making the email more authentic and personalized: 

  1. I saw that you’re doubling your SDR team. → I’m curious, how are you dealing with managing comp plans as you scale?
  2. I saw you opened a new office in London? → I’m curious, have you completed all the legal documents?
  3. I noticed you founded a new startup? → I’m curious, have you been thinking about SEO for further growth?

Value Proposition

The value proposition is the most important part of any template and an integral part of how to write B2B cold emails. 

Typically, it consists of 1-2 sentences that explain how your services, product, idea, or partnership will help them solve their problems.

Here are some “value proposition” golden rules:

→ 1-2 sentences long

→ Typically, it’s a separate paragraph within your cold email

→ Highlights a problem the prospects might have (e.g., slow revenue growth)

→ Explains how you, your product, or your services, or cooperation with your company will help solve this problem (e.g., we can help automate cold outreach at scale)

→ Describes the outcome of cooperation with your company (e.g., as a result, more meetings)

→ Provides social proof (e.g., we already helped one customer generate 100 meetings that generated $1 million in revenue; outbound only)

CTA

Calls-to-action or CTAs are also a super important element when planning how to write cold call email templates. 

Here are some golden rules to write outstanding CTAs:

→ Use a maximum of 1 question; 0 questions is better.

→ Have 1 clear CTA; avoid multiple CTAs; focus on one simple action (reply back, book a call).  

→ Use low-friction, interest-based CTAs (e.g. Worth a conversation?)

→ Start a conversation, don’t push for a meeting right away.

→ Your CTA should be crystal clear and straightforward

P.S. Sentence or Ice-breaker

Including a P.S. line or an ice-breaker in a cold email is a non-mandatory element, but it could help boost reply rates. how to write cold email for research or outreach 

By personalizing your sign-off, your email will remain memorable and demonstrate that you did your homework, whether you’re structuring how to write cold email for research, sales, or just to establish a connection. 

Here are some ideas for ice-breakers and P.S. lines:

→ Mention their hobbies (e.g., “P.S. I noticed you’re a PS5 fan. What are your thoughts on the new Spider-Man game?”)

→ Mention their recent posts on social media (e.g., “Loved your post about the top 5 AI tools.”)

Signature

Probably, a signature is the least optimized part of a cold email, and many salespeople forget that it’s as important a part of their template as any other when sending cold emails.

That’s why it’s also important to optimize signatures for cold outreach campaigns.

So, here are some tips on how to put cold email signatures that improve deliverability:

→ Use simple sign-offs like “Best Regards” or “Regards”

→ Pro tip: localize sign-offs

→ Avoid HTML-heavy signatures, images, and stick to a maximum of 1 link.

→ “Plain Text” signatures are preferable

Crafting a compelling cold call email requires careful attention to the template structure, ensuring each component effectively captures the recipient’s interest and prompts action.

Here is an example of a cold email that contains all the elements of a winner template structure: 

This structure works great for us and other B2B sales companies alike, but it’s definitely a good idea to slightly tweak it when deciding how to create cold email templates for your unique audience. 

P.S. Don’t forget about your follow-ups! Learn how to write a follow up cold email that will reignite your prospects’ attention following our compact guide.

How long should a cold email be?

With the decreasing attention spans of email recipients, brevity and specificity have become more important than ever when deciding how to write a cold sales email.

In the quest of how to write an effective cold email — a golden rule is to get straight to the point by delivering a clear message without overwhelming the recipient with too much information.

Yet, keeping it “short and sweet” doesn’t provide any clarity regarding the exact number of words or paragraphs. 

So we’ve decided to fix that and set the record straight regarding how to write the best cold email in terms of length. 

First, we focused on the optimal number of words to include. And here are the results at a glance.

 

As you can see, less is indeed more! Emails containing 50-70 words perform the best on average. Namely, it seems that 54 words is the perfect cold email length, with a 5.72% reply rate and a 31.47% interest rate (which is an 89% and 37% increase respectively, compared to the average results). That is a huge difference!

That said, don’t get discouraged if you can’t keep your emails below 70 words. It’s OK as templates containing 70-100 words still show results that are close to the average results with 2.89% reply and 22.29% interest rates. No big deal if you ask me.

Once you cross the 100 words mark, however, the number of replies (including the interested ones) keeps decreasing. So keep that in mind when planning how to write cold email templates.

Now, let’s talk about another indicator of email length – the number of paragraphs. Here’s what the numbers look like here.

 

Once again, we can say that people don’t like long cold emails. The perfect number of paragraphs in a cold email is 2-3. Such templates tend to get up to a 58% higher reply rate and up to 66% more Interested responses.

At the same time, emails consisting of just one paragraph will generate the fewest responses – only 2.4%. And the interest rate is the lowest with the 4-5 paragraph emails – 21.36 to 21.01%.

An interesting observation here is that emails with 7-10 paragraphs generate results that are close to (or even slightly above) average in terms of reply and interest rates, meaning it’s relatively safe to elaborate on something with shorter paragraphs, even if it takes 5+ of them.

Here are a few main takeaways regarding how to write B2B cold email templates that convey the desired message but keep it at the optimal length: 

  • Keep the email copy compact (ideally — under 80 words total) 
  • Separate each thought into its own paragraph (ideally — 1 sentence per paragraph)
  • Always write the CTA as a separate paragraph 
  • Make sure it takes 15 seconds max to read through the entire email 
  • Write as you speak — no need to overcomplicate things, keep it light and friendly!

What about the non-text elements – images, GIFs, and links?

Cold outreach has always been a very competitive environment. The more emails sent every day, the fewer will make it to the inbox and eventually get opened and replied to. Call it a “law of the jungle” if you like.

That is one of the reasons I’m so enthusiastic about visual prospecting – using images and video to make your emails stand out. But does it really work? Let’s see the data!

Well, the results are pretty mixed. 

While it’s clear that GIFs don’t work in cold emails (at least in the first-step emails we’ve analyzed), things are not as transparent when it comes to images. With a 6% higher interest rate, cold emails containing pictures tend to get fewer replies overall. This correlates with the results of our previous research on using visuals in cold outreach

Adding links to your cold emails might lead to similar results – an 11% increase in positive responses with a slightly lower reply rate in general. 

My guess is that this might be linked to the spam issues as images and links can be considered suspicious or harmful by email service providers. So I suggest you double down on email deliverability and warm up your email account, including the exact template you’re going to use, before launching your prospecting sequences.

In summary, when it comes to images and videos — always A/B test to see which emails perform better with your audience; for links — keep them at the minimum, and stick to 1 link max in your initial email. 

How to Write Un-ignorable Cold Emails: An Ultimate Guide

Unlock the secrets of how to write a good cold email from A-Z —personalization techniques, copywriting best practices, data-driven insights, and everything else to ensure your emails reach their destination. 

How to use variables for personalization?

Variables are the building blocks of personalized and meaningful outreach at scale, which is by far the most effective email strategy to connect with prospects and foster genuine connections. 

When deciding how to write a cold call email for sales, meaningful personalization shows prospects you took the time to look into them, and this isn’t another mass-sent email.

While the most common variable text fields such as {{First Name}}, {{Industry}}, {{JobTitle}}, and {{Location}} offer some room for personalization and creativity, nowadays — it won’t cut it. 

We suggest taking it a step further with more complex variables such as hyper-personalized intro lines that would hook the recipient’s attention, for instance: “Congrats on your 8th anniversary at Microsoft!”. 

These could be either manually researched (although that would be time consuming for mass outreach), or AI-generated with outreach tools like Reply, which skims through the prospect’s LinkedIn for a neat ice-breaker, and automates this process at scale. 

This analysis yields insights into their skills, recent posts, and overall professional interests, which Reply then uses to generate tailored one-line intros:

Before Reply: 

“Hi Joe,

 Hope this email finds you well. I am writing to offer you…”

After Reply: 

“Hi Joe, 

Saw your comment under Taylor Smith’s post about cold emails. I would pin your comment if I could, I agree with you so much!

Let’s hop on a quick call and discuss ways to automate cold outreach …”

This personalized approach not only captures Joe’s attention but also immediately establishes a connection based on shared interests, significantly increasing the likelihood of a positive response.

Similarly, it’s a great idea to personalize your reason for outreach by incorporating intent data variables such as: 

  • hiring intent → saw you are hiring 5 SDRs
  • technographic intent → noticed {{Company}} uses Hubspot as CRM
  • engagement intent → noticed your post on LinkedIn on {{Topic}}

Detailed guide on how to write a cold email for sales with different types of variables

Check it out

How many questions should you use in your cold emails?

This research wouldn’t be complete without looking into an integral part of most email closings – the questions. 

One of the elements that we analyze with our ‘email quality check’ feature, the number of questions in your email can have a direct impact on your cold outreach performance. And here’s the proof.

As you can see, cold emails without any questions tend to have a higher reply rate (by 11%) and Interested rate (by 25%).

As you add more questions to your cold email template, the reply and Interest rates may drop significantly – by up to 21% in both metrics for emails with 3 questions.

Whether you’re wondering how to write a cold email for research, how to write a cold email for networking, or how to write a cold email for B2B outreach, understanding the optimal number of questions can play a significant role in the effectiveness of your outreach efforts. 

My takeaway here? When planning how to write cold email for sales outreach — avoid asking too many questions in your emails – better stick to just one or, if possible, use affirmative CTAs.

When is the best time to send a cold email?

When considering how to write cold call emails for sales, it’s crucial to understand the smaller nuances of generating responses, and optimal timing is one of them. 

Determining the best time to send a cold email is a crucial aspect of any successful outreach strategy. Sales professionals often wonder, “When is the best time to cold email?”. 

The answer lies in understanding the dynamics of your target audience and industry norms. Experimenting with several emails to identify the best time to send cold emails is the only way to get the right answer for your particular niche and audience. 

By analyzing factors like recipient time zones and typical work schedules, you can optimize your outreach efforts by identifying the best time of day to send cold email messages. 

So, while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, testing various timings can help you identify the best times to send cold emails and enhance your overall outreach strategy effectiveness.

I understand it will take some time and trial-and-error, but learning how to send a cold email at the most optimal time is crucial for positive engagement and response rates.

Before you click ‘send’ 

Congrats! By now, you know how to cold email like a pro, and how to write cold emails that have the potential to generate 3-20% reply rates.

But before you click “Send Email” or “Start Sequence” — let’s check the final touches to ensure we’ve crafted cold emails that work effectively:

→ Double-check for any formatting and grammar errors 

→ Always A/B-test everything: subject lines, intros, variables, etc. 

→ Read it out and ask yourself honestly the following questions:

  • [ ] #1. Do I like this email template? (yes/no)
  • [ ] #2. Do I want to see something similar in my inbox? (yes/no)
  • [ ] #3. Would I reply if I received a similar email in my inbox? (yes/no)
  • [ ] #4. Ask your friend/colleague if they would reply to this email? (yes/no)

If you are happy with the result, send this email or start a sequence right away.

Over to you

There you have it — an extensive, research-based guide on how to write a cold email for business outreach that will get your prospects’ attention, and entice them to respond. 

Now, it’s up to you to use this information and determine how to write a great cold email that resonates with your unique audience. 

I would strongly recommend checking your current cold emails against the points we’ve laid out and A/B testing them one by one. This will help you create a perfect cold email template – based on our data and experiences, as well as your own takeaways.

Understanding how to write a cold call email is crucial for sales professionals aiming to effectively reach potential clients and generate leads, but it’s no easy task. 

However, once you take these proven best practices and adjust them to your unique business, niche, and audience — you will have an effective and scalable outreach engine that will generate more booked meetings, taking your business to new heights. 

Remember, in most cases — it all starts with a simple email. 

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