Cold email sequence best practices

Introduce how to write cold emails and cold email sequence best practices.

Won You
· 10 min read
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Photo by Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

A cold email campaign is the most common method in outbound sales. However, it is a bit tricky to do right. If you make a mistake, it wastes your resources and endangers your brand and domain reputation.

In this post, we will discuss the following topics.

  • What is a cold email and why is it important?
  • How to write a cold email
  • How to follow-up
  • Cold email sequence best practices

What is a cold email and why is it important?

A cold email is when a sales representative reaches out via email to a potential customer who isn’t expecting the email. The purpose of a cold email is to generate interest from a potential customer.

Sending cold emails is one of the most common tactics in outbound sales prospecting. Cold emails are considered less intrusive than cold calls and do not require extensive resources. According to, 80% of people prefer to be contacted by email than by phone calls or social media messages.

Sending cold emails is a must-do for early-stage B2B startups to validate your hypothesis, increase brand awareness, and generate sales leads. Also, sending cold emails helps you reach out to prospects on a scale and generate sales leads quickly.

However, running an effective cold email campaign can be tricky. Doing this incorrectly wastes your resources and endangers your brand and domain reputation.

What is a cold email sequence?

A cold email sequence is an outbound technique where you set up a series of emails to send to prospects until they reply.

Cold email sequence is an efficient way to reach a large number of prospects, but it's harder to personalize and should be used sparingly. We recommend personalizing cold emails for the most important prospects on your outbound list and using cold email sequences for the rest.

How to write cold email subject lines

The subject line is the title of an email; this is the first thing your prospect will see. According to SuperOffice, 33% of email recipients decide whether to open the email based on the subject line alone. Also, 69% of email recipients report emails as spam after reading the subject line. (Source: Invesp) So, the subject line is key in cold emails.

1. Keep subject lines simple

Since most people decide whether to read your email by reading the subject line, it has to be simple. It must be concise and clear enough to understand your offering.

The longer the subject line, the smaller the chance your prospects will open your email. In a study by, the open rate is 44% with 3-12 characters long, falling to 33% with 29-45 characters.

One way to test if your subject line is simple enough is to send a test email to yourself and read it from your phone. Also, more people are checking emails from their phones, and writing mobile-friendly emails is important.

2. Personalize the subject line

According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing, personalizing subject lines increases the open rate by 50%. You can personalize subject lines by including the prospect’s first name, company name, and relevant business problems.

Including the company name is the most effective way to personalize the subject line. It increases the open rate by 22%. (Source: Outreach)

One thing to note when personalizing the subject line is that it has to be relevant to your prospect's business problem and that you can offer a solution.

3. More ways to write better subject lines

There are many ways to improve the subject line, including asking questions and adding numbers.

If you include a question in the subject line, you can increase the open rate by 21% (Source: Yesware). Numbers in the subject line can increase the open rate by 113% (Source: Yesware).

There is no one right answer to write better subject lines, so you must experiment as you run your email campaigns.

How to write cold email body content

Although you make your prospects open the email, they will stop reading it in a second if you don’t have a great opening line. If you don’t have a clear value proposition and call to action, they will not respond.

Here are some tips for writing great content.

1. Relevant to the prospect’s problem

The content has to be relevant to a prospect’s top priority problem. If not, they won’t continue reading. An example of being relevant to the prospect’s problem is the following:

“Our customers in the xyz industry are struggling with challenge, and I want to share how they are addressing the challenge.”

In many cases, cold emails start with an extensive introduction of yourself and the team. Although a proper introduction gives prospects reasons to trust what you offer and to continue reading the email, the content should not focus on you.

Sometimes, people misunderstand how to personalize cold emails. The most appropriate personalization is to understand your prospect's top priority problem and offer a solution to the problem. Of course, mentioning when and where you met before (e.g., at industry events, conferences, etc.) can build rapport quickly.

2. Focus on the value, not the features

This is something many sales representatives make mistakes with. The brutal reality is that no one cares about your features and the amazing technology behind the product.

“We are building a solution with xyz features, and it’s based on technology that is 10x more effective than current solutions.”

What prospects really care about is if you can solve their top priority problem. So, you should be direct on how you can solve the problem. Every line in the email should be about the value you offer.

"We are building a solution that addresses challenge of customers similar to you."

The purpose of cold emails is to generate interest from prospects. The best way to do that is to show them how you can add value to them. You will have plenty of time to discuss features and technologies later on.

3. Keep it concise with a clear call to action

There is no reason for your prospects to spend more than a few minutes on your email, trying to think about what you are trying to say, what value they might get from you, and whether they should respond to you.

From the opening line to the call to action at the end, just get to the point. Ask if they have a problem that you can offer a great solution for and if so, let them take action by responding to your email or booking a quick call with you.

If your offer is unclear, prospects will likely ignore your email.

How to follow-up

No matter how excellent your subject line and content are, your prospects will likely not reply to you the first time. That is why you must follow up with them.

According to Backlinko, sending follow-up emails will double the response rate. When your prospects read the initial email, they might be busy or forget to reply. So, it’s important to remind them that you have a solution to their problem.

Usually, 3-4 follow-up emails are recommended, though you can send up to 7 follow-up emails. Further, mixing cold calls and emails can increase the chance of connecting with prospects.

Here are some tips for writing good follow-up emails.

1. Keep it simpler

In the follow-up emails, you don’t need to introduce yourself and the solution you offer. Just remind your prospects why you reached out and how you can help.

You can also add more value by providing articles, demos, etc. It’s a great way to help your prospects to imagine how you can help them.

2. Test different calls to action

You can test different calls to action in the follow-up emails. If you asked for a 30-minute Zoom meeting in the initial email, try asking 15-minute phone call or even a 5-minute phone call.

3. Follow-up on time

Sending follow-up emails on time is very important because your prospect might forget what you offered in the previous email. The appropriate time between emails varies, but the recommended gap is at least three days.

Following up with each customer on time is challenging, especially if you run a cold email campaign. In that case, using email automation services can help you.

They let you build an email campaign with a set amount of follow-up emails. You can also set the gap between each email, and emails will be automatically sent unless your prospects respond, show interest, or unsubscribe.

Cold email sequence best practices

Here are cold email sequence best practices.

1/ Only send cold emails to ICPs

Outbound is much less likely to get to the next step than inbound, which is why you should only send cold emails to Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to increase conversion and lead to meaningful conversations with connected prospects.

By targeting only ICPs, you can pique their interest by talking about the biggest pain points or problems they have. Otherwise, cold emails become spam emails to a random audience, and a high spam rate can be very detrimental to your domain reputation, as well as a huge drop in email deliverability.

2/ Never send cold emails to team/group emails

You should only send cold emails to your ICPs. Team/group email is not your ICP. People pay less attention to team/group emails, and even if they check, no one will reply.

3/ Use a separate outbound-only domain

If cold emailing is your team's primary sales strategy, and you're consistently sending cold emails, regardless of how many emails you send per day, then you should use an outbound-only domain.

As you send cold emails, you may end up getting automatically spam filtered, reported as spam, unsubscribed, or bounced. These all have a detrimental effect on your domain reputation, and your email deliverability will drop significantly. This is very difficult to recover and takes forever.

Email deliverability depends on the size of your email, so it's better to avoid including links, attachments, or HTML code. Attachments are likely to be categorized as spam by email services like Gmail or Outlook, especially if they're sent by someone you don't know.

Also, sending emails styled with images, videos, borders, etc. increases the likelihood of being filtered as spam as it increases the size of the email.

If you have to include links, just add one link per email.

5/ Use sales automation tools to create cold email sequences

Use sales automation tools like Relate Sequence to send cold emails on a scale. You can set up a series of emails, and it will automatically send the emails to prospects until they respond.

Other recommended tools are Klenty, Woodpecker, and Outreach.

6/ You must keep track of all interactions with prospects

Even if your prospects do not respond to your cold emails, you still need to know when and to whom you reached out. If not, your sales team might reach out to the same prospect at the same time or to prospects who already said they are not interested.

You must use a CRM solution to keep track of all interactions you have with prospects. It can prevent your sales team from reaching out to the wrong prospects and effectively manage prospecting and cold email campaigns.

Moreover, you can create another sequence to reach prospects who did not respond to the previous campaign after two months. When you do that, follow all the tips shared above, be relevant to a prospect’s problem, keep it simple and concise, and follow up on time.

Once prospects show interest, you can manage deals in the pipeline.

7/ Create sequences with a sales solution, not a marketing solution

Because cold emails are a 1:1 communication between a salesperson and a prospect, you should send cold emails from a sales solution, not a marketing solution.

If you send cold emails with a marketing solution like Mailchimp, your cold emails will end up in the Promotions tab instead of the Inbox. The main reason for this is that marketing solutions use their servers and SMTP email addresses, and most of the emails coming from them are marketing emails like newsletters and ads, which is why Google and Outlook categorize them in the Promotions tab.

Also, the marketing solution sends all emails in a new thread, and scheduled emails don't stop even after prospects reply. So, cold emails should be sent with a sales solution, not a marketing solution.

8/ Analyze results and optimize through experiments

60% open rate and 10% reply rate are the benchmark metrics in cold emails (Source: Woodpecker). These metrics may vary depending on the type of customers or products.

What is more important is that you continuously improve the metrics. You don't need to be discouraged by the results if your initial results were a 30% open rate and a 5% reply rate. You can improve the results by updating subjects, content, CTAs, and others. You can also run A/B tests to compare more than two sequences with different variations. Below are some variables you can change.

  • Subject line
  • Opening line
  • Pitch
  • Tone & messaging
  • Call to action
  • Timing
  • Contacts

If your reply rate is below 3%, or your sequence results aren't improving meaningfully, you may be reaching out to the wrong people. In that case, you'll need to modify your outbound strategy, starting with targeting based on ICP.

When you first use an outbound sequence, I recommend running it with a relatively small number of prospects. I'd recommend starting with no more than 50 people, and then see what results you get and refine. Once you start seeing the results you want, you can scale your outbound.

It's essential to follow cold email best practices

Cold email is the most common outbound sales technique, but it's challenging to get the desired outcome. Not only is it challenging, but also it has risks that can be difficult to recover from - damaging your domain reputation and email deliverability.

That's why it's so important to follow cold email best practices. I understand that it's hard to get everything right the first time, so it's important to take it one step at a time and improve as you go.

If you need help or want to discuss about cold email best practices, the Relate team can help. Schedule a meeting here!

Other Relate blog posts on outbound and cold emails.