A series of essays about sales, startups, & general banter by Nick Persico

Cold Emails

The most common questions I get about sales usually center around sending cold emails. Mentors always say to write about the subjects that people ask you about the most. With this post, I'm taking their advice.

Here are the common questions I get about sending cold emails:

  • What do I write?
  • How do I respond?
  • What's a good response rate?

Regardless of what the product or service I'm selling, my cold emails always have the same structure. I never change. I never change because I'm always looking for the same result when I send a cold email, and that's to schedule a quick phone call.

Cold Email Structure

Subject: {Company Name} + {Your Company}

1. Hi, my name is Nick with {Your Company}.  
2. We help {specific company type} with {one liner}.  
3. I wanted to learn how you handle {thing your company handles} at {Company Name} and show you what we're working on.  
4. Ask for a quick call tomorrow afternoon.  

The structure is very simple because I'm only looking for one thing to happen. That one thing is a quick call as soon as possible. Don't use the email to explain everything you do. All of that information should be on your website, which they almost always go check out before they decide to reply.

As an example, here is a cold email I would send if I trying to sell Dropbox to a law firm:

Subject: Larry's Law Firm + Dropbox

Hi Larry,

My name is Nick with Dropbox.

We help law firms store & manage all of their client data securely in the cloud. I wanted to learn how you handle data storage at Larry's Law Firm and show you what we're working on.

Are you available for a quick call tomorrow afternoon?


Nick Persico  
Account Manager, Dropbox.com  

To use a real world example, here is a Smart Host cold email I used to get a 12% response rate just last week:

Hi Mike,

My name is Nick and I’m a co-founder at Smart Host. We help property managers optimize their pricing on marketplaces like HomeAway, VRBO, and Flipkey.

I wanted to learn how you currently handle price optimization and show you what we're working on.

Are you available for a quick call tomorrow afternoon?


Nick Persico  
Smart Host  

The point of writing the email this way is to quickly explain who, what, why, and when. If Larry or Mike is opening the email, they will go to the website and decide if they want to learn more. Their decision to reply has very little to do with what your email says. It's all about what your website says.

The email is also soft selling the prospect. The reason for this is because I'm not sure if Larry or Mike is even qualified to buy my product. I just want to learn about what he currently does, and if he is qualified I'll move forward and "show him what we're working on".

Handling The Responses

The responses from these type of cold emails will vary. You will get responses like a date and a time to call, some reason why they're not interested, or a bunch of questions. Regardless of the response, you're goal is to get a call scheduled.

One bad habit I see from a lot of sales reps is getting into back and forth emails with the prospect. As I wrote in my last post, you shouldn't be trying to sell over email. Selling over email puts you in the worst possible position to win because the prospect has time to think about reasons why they shouldn't buy what you are selling.

Is their reply a question? Give them a call immediately.

Call the prospect immediately if they reply to your cold email with a question. A question from a prospect is always an opportunity to engage with them. Don't leave a voicemail if they don't pick up. Instead, email them back saying you just tried to give them a call and ask for a better time to reach out.

If they do answer, here is a simple script for how I handle this type of call:

Me: "Hi Mike, this is Nick from Smart Host."

Mike: "Hey Nick." (probably confused)

Me: "Did I catch you at a bad time?"

Mike: "Yes" or "No"

Me: "I just got your email about {the question he asked} and I figured it would be better to just give you a call to make sure there's no confusion."

Me: {Answer the question directly}

Me: {I then ask Mike the first qualifying question}

Mike: {Starts answering the question}  

With this strategy, you got what you wanted. A quick call to qualify the prospect and set up next steps in the sales process.

10% Response Rate

The ideal response rate for all cold emails is 10%. Out of 100 emails you send, you should get a human response from 10 people. Not all of them will result in a call, but that's what you should expect. This does not include out of office notices or bounced emails.

I don't have a scientific reason why the response rate should be 10%, but it has always been a good indicator of lead list quality. If you are getting lower than a 10% response rate, you should evaluate the lead list and look for other sources to compare them with.

In the exciting event where you've got a response rate over 10%, be wary of how many leads you qualify from those responses. Just because they are eager to talk does not make them qualified.

Put It To The Test

At the end of the day, the above tactics are my opinion. These type of cold emails have worked well for me. If you're not convinced, let's put it to the test.

Try sending 100 cold emails using the above email structure and post the results below. Let's see how it stacks up to the current cold emails you send. Can your cold emails perform better?

Need help crafting cold emails for your startup? Let's talk or shoot me an email.

Profile of Nick Persico

Nick Persico

Director of Sales at Close.com. Previous: Co-Founder of Smart Host (acquired), VP of Ops at Krossover (acquired), and sales at Sysco. Travel nerd, Baltimore Orioles and Ravens fan, and GIF enthusiast.