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Why Cold Email Templates Don’t Work (& What to Do Instead)

Cold email response rates are notoriously low. So how do you get the results you need to hit your numbers and drive sales?

Rather than looking for yet another cold email template, focus on the fundamentals.

This video training was originally presented at the 2019 Sales Hacker Success Summit. In it, outbound sales coach & consultant Jason Bay shares a messaging framework for increasing response rates, setting more meetings, and closing more deals.

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The REPLY Method For Cold Prospecting

The average cold email response rate is 1%.

If that’s you, the first thing you probably did was Google “best cold email templates.”

It’s what I did back in 2013.

And when those email templates didn’t work, I tried a different set of email templates.

I paid thousands of dollars for other people’s email templates and online courses. Tried the humor approach. And used one too many cheesy memes.

None of it worked. And I couldn’t figure out why.

Then one day I had a harsh realization.

I was treating my cold email problem like a weight loss problem. instead of understanding how my body burns fat, I was trying out a new fad diet every 2-3 months.

It’s Human Nature To Look For Prescriptive Solutions To Our Problems.

My wife, Sara, told me a few months ago that I had put on some extra pounds. The first thing I did was Google all the different diet options out there.

I quickly found a bunch of “after” images that looked similar to what I wanted.

I was surprised that they all ate very different diets but still looked very similar — lean and fit.

Their diet was what they had least in common.

What they had most in common was discipline and consistency. These two skills are required for any diet to be effective.

If you research effective diets, every one of them is very similar in these areas:

  • Exercise a few times every week
  • Regulate your calorie intake
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Drink lots of water
  • Consistency

That’s exactly how we should look at cold emails.

Instead of looking for prescriptive solutions (a new email template to copy/paste), master the fundamentals of effective sales copy.

Why Cold Email Templates Aren’t A Great Long-term Strategy

When too many reps use the same email templates, they stop working. I’ve received the same exact breakup email dozens of times, and every time, it gets deleted.

Email templates are never industry or persona agnostic. The same template used for VPs of Sales at SaaS companies won’t work the same way for VPs of IT at Professional Services firms. Different people, different jobs, different industries.

Many email templates are missing context. Every email should be tailored to the industry, the niche, the persona, or to a specific sales trigger. First name, job title, and company merge tags aren’t enough.

AI and automation will soon replace the salesperson who can’t do more than send a cold email template.

Instead of looking for the next cold email template to copy/paste, you need to learn the fundamentals, and create your own cold email templates that are specifically tailored to your target audience.

The Goal Of Your Cold Emails

The fundamental principle behind every prospecting activity should be:

Don’t prospect to make a sale, prospect to start a conversation.

The goal of prospecting is not to sell your product/service.

Approach prospects with a customer service mindset. You have a great solution. They might have a problem you can help them with.

If you don’t learn more about the prospect, you’ll never know how you can help them.

We earn the right to sell to prospects by first seeing how we can help.

A conversation has to start in order for a sale to take place.

The Fundamentals Of A Solid Cold Email

We developed an approach to cold emails called the REPLY Method. Our clients have used it to connect with everything from Fortune 1000 companies down to local companies with fewer than 20 employees.

The REPLY Method isn’t a step-by-step recipe for setting appointments. Just like a chef must master 4 elements to create a tasty dish — salt, fat, acid, and heat — the REPLY method teaches you to master the 5 elements of successful prospecting.

REPLY is an acronym that stands for:

Results — Get the prospect’s attention

This is probably the hardest part of the prospecting process. You need the prospect to go from, “What’s in it for me?” to… “This looks interesting.

The first thing anyone wants to know when asked faced with a new opportunity is, “what’s in it for us.” Your prospects expect to see relevant results you’ve created for similar companies. Results are the universal language of business. They don’t care about product features, company awards, or how many LinkedIn followers you have.

Leverage relevant success stories and case studies to build social proof in your outreach. Focus on how you can make the prospect’s job easier, or how you can help them grow their business.

Let’s look at an example.

What to avoid:

 

We run a training/consulting company with less than 10 employees.

I don’t relate to companies like Google, Spotify, and Uber. The rep should have shared companies similar to Blissful Prospecting, or at least B2B companies.

Instead of focusing on “influencer marketing” they could have talked about the results they create for clients like me.

What to do instead:

 

We sent this email, and it landed us a meeting because we shared our results with a similar nonprofit. The case study is with a similar organization, and we listed companies the prospect would also like to connect with.

Checklist for your outbound messaging:

  • Don’t prospect to make a sale. Prospect to start a conversation.
  • Avoid sharing case studies or social proof with companies the prospect doesn’t relate with.
  • Share relevant, tangible results you’ve created for similar companies.

Empathy — Show the prospect you’re one of them

Sales is stressful. If I’ve had a tough day at work, grabbing a drink with a few friends in sales helps me feel better.

My friends know what I’m going through so they have empathy. Feeling understood is critical in opening up to people.

Prospects are the same way. They want to feel understood. They expect that you know about their job, their responsibilities, and the challenges they’re having. You need your prospects to go from, “You’re not one of us.” to…“You’re speaking my language.

There’s a lot of confusion on what empathy means in sales. It doesn’t mean that if a prospect is feeling frustrated, you should also feel frustrated.

It means that you take the opportunity to say, “I totally understand why that would be frustrating…”

Show the prospect you know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.

Let’s look at a few examples.

What to avoid:

 

This email has no empathy. The rep doesn’t address my content marketing challenges.

I’d be more interested if they addressed a problem I might be facing, such as staying up on my editorial calendar when I don’t have a full-time marketing team.

What to do instead:

 

A financial broker sent this email to a small law firm. They highlighted specific challenges law firms have with lenders… And it worked.

Checklist for your outbound messaging:

  • Lead with your prospect’s pain points, frustrations, or challenges.
  • Avoid sending outreach that doesn’t address what your prospect is struggling with in relation to your solution.
  • If you don’t know your prospect’s challenges, interview your clients and ask them.

Personalization — Show you’re not a spammer and that your outreach was intentional.

Ever get those mass blast invites on Facebook to like a company page or join a private group? I don’t accept many of those requests, and you probably don’t either.

They’re very impersonal. Why would I want to follow their page or join their group? No one gave me a reason.

You’re doing the same thing to prospects when you send mass blast emails.

First name, title, and/or company name isn’t enough when it comes to personalization. You need to move the prospect from, “That’s clearly a mass outreach…[delete],” to…“They did their homework.”

Anyone can send mass email outreach these days. The average office worker receives 121 emails every day. Busy executives receive 500+ emails every day.

Your biggest competition isn’t your competitors, it’s the noise your prospects deal with daily.

Show the prospect you intended to email them as an individual — not a list. That’s the only way you can hope to stand out from the noise.

Let’s look at some examples.

What to avoid:

 

There’s no personalization in this email besides my name, role, and company name. I don’t know why they’re reaching out to me.

How is their solution connected to my problem? Why would a learning platform help us with our training/consulting services?

What to do instead:

 

This isn’t the best cold email I’ve seen, but I give the rep mad props for doing his research.

He called out specific client verticals we work with, our service offerings, and the method in which we deliver our services. He also took the time to read about me and noticed I follow UFC fights.

Checklist for your outbound messaging:

  • Segment your outreach by industry/niche, persona, or need. Avoid sending the same message to everyone.
  • Personalize your outreach to provide context to your solution.
  • Use 1-to-1 personalized videos to add an extra pop to your personalization.

Laser-Focus — Get to the point

The average person’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. That’s less than a goldfish!

Prospects are dealing with more distractions than ever. You’re no longer competing with distracting coworkers at the office. You’re competing with their Slack, email, texts, phone, social media, and any other notifications they have set up.

Prospects expect succinct communication. You need to move your prospect from, “Don’t have time for that… [delete],” to, Wait, what was that?”

For subject lines, keep it short and sweet. Limit them to 7 words or less and personalize them with the prospect’s first name or company name.

A few favorites:

  • Hi Jason, I was researching Blissful Prospecting and…
  • Hi Jason, your mission to…
  • Hey Jason, I noticed…
  • [area of expertise] at Blissful Prospecting
  • Your [LinkedIn post, article, podcast, etc.] on [subject of content]
  • [sales trigger]

What to avoid:

 

Does this make your eyes glaze over as well? It’s too long. The first five paragraphs are unnecessary.

What to do instead:

 

This email landed a meeting because it’s to-the-point. There’s one call-to-action and one link to look at.

Checklist for your outbound messaging:

  • Use less than 120 words or 3-5 sentences for your emails.
  • Use one Call-to-Action (CTA) and be clear with your ask.
  • Will this pique the prospect’s interest, show you’re one of them, or provide context to your outreach? If not, get rid of it.

You — Make the prospect the hero

Check out the best advertising campaigns of all time and you’ll notice a pattern. Most of them make their customers the hero.

Coca Cola put names on cans and bottles. They made customers feel special by drinking a soda with their name on it.

The deodorant brand Always had a great campaign during the 2015 Super Bowl to empower young girls. They addressed the stigma of “like a girl.” They made girls the hero, not their deodorant.

One of the most important parts of cold-outreach, is making your prospect the hero. Take the focus off of yourself, and help the prospect go from, “I get it! You think you’re really awesome!” to…”This could help me…”

Prospects don’t care about you, your product/service, or your company. They care about their company, and their problems. They only care about you in relation to how you can help them. So, tell the prospect you can help them win, not how great your solution is.

Let’s look at some more example emails.

What to avoid:

 

This email is all about what they do, instead of how I benefit. They use “I” and “we” seven times in the email. There’s very little in here about how they can help us win.

What to do instead:

 

This email is great because they use “you” and “your” more than they use “I.” They focus on helping the prospect reduce their time to market, as they did with another similar company.

Checklist for your outbound messaging:

  • Are you making the prospect the hero? Or your company (or worse…you)? Don’t make it about yourself. No one wants to be Alfred. Everyone wants to be Batman.
  • Use “you” and “your” more than you use “I.”
  • Tell the prospect what’s in it for them.

How To Create Your Own Cold Email Templates

Now that you have the fundamentals of an effective cold email, you can piece them together to create your template.

Here’s what the structure looks like:

[First name],

[Personalization]

[Empathy – address challenge/frustration or an understanding of what they do]

[Results – share relevant results]

[CTA]

Now let’s look at some examples of how that structure looks like in practice.

Email example #1:

Subject: Loved your podcast on Sell or Die!

Hey Jason,

Heard you on the Sell or Die! podcast. What you said about using videos to get the attention of busy prospects really stuck out to me.

Looks like personalization is a key part to your outbound success. One way our clients uses ABC video platform is to cut the research time for personalization in half. Thought it would be helpful for those cool videos you’re sending.

Would sending your videos in half the time be worth a conversation?

John

Email example #2:

Subject: Hi Jason, I was researching Blissful Prospecting and…

Hey Jason,

Took a look at your LinkedIn post on cold calling. Loved your tip on going out to socialize at a coffee shop before making your cold calls. I’m an introvert, so found that helpful!

Not sure if you run into this, but a challenge I’ve heard sales trainers talk about is finding reliable data. Especially if your clients are prospecting within LinkedIn. One way our ABC tool helps is by getting data from LinkedIn into your CRM in half the time.

Would that be worth a few minutes of your time to chat about?

John

Email example #3:

Subject: Call coaching?

Hey Jason,

Enjoyed your article on four ways to warm up your cold calls. I really liked the tip about warming up prospects by engaging with them on LinkedIn prior to your outreach.

Looks like you offer training/coaching to your clients. One of the challenges can be the time it takes to find patterns in what the resp are doing well and what they need help with. ABC Tool helps trainers like yourself get better results in less time with their clients by analyzing the call recordings for you.

I’m curious—what kind of tools are you using to coach your clients through their cold calls?

John

Do your best to follow the recommended structure, but don’t be too rigid. Remember, these aren’t templates. For the REPLY method to work, you need to create your own template that’s targeted to your customers.

Don’t Forget To Follow Up

You have the structure for an effective cold email now, but don’t stop with one email. Make sure to always follow up.

One of the best tools you have at your disposal is the phone. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call prospects if they’re not responding to your emails.

The ideal outbound cadence is 12-15 touches across emails, phone calls, and LinkedIn.

Nail Your Next Cold Email

Remember to focus your email messaging on these fundamentals:

  • Results – Share results you’ve accomplished with similar companies
  • Empathy – Lead with your prospect’s challenges and frustrations
  • Personalization – Show the prospect your outreach was intended for them
  • Laser-focus – Keep your communication short and sweet
  • You – Make the prospect the hero, not your solution

The goal is not to make a sale through your cold outreach, it’s to start a conversation. Now go out there and nail your next cold email!

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