The ultimate guide to great prospecting emails
Learn how to write great sales prospecting emails with our top tips on crafting these messages, and get a free email template.
Published July 9, 2019
Last updated January 24, 2022
There’s a common myth among salespeople that prospecting emails are a waste of time these days.
The theory is that today’s buyers would rather research products themselves than have a sales team push something on them using email outreach. And it’s true that in 2019, email open rates were only 22 percent.
However, a recent survey by the RAIN Group found that 80 percent of buyers prefer communicating with sellers via email.
The fact is, email is still one of the most popular and profitable ways for sales reps to reach out to leads. And it can be hugely effective – if it’s done well.
To help you get responses from prospects, we’re breaking down the best practices for writing, sending, and perfecting prospecting emails.
What are sales prospecting emails?
Email prospecting is the process of identifying, researching, and qualifying for cold emails. It’s a way of ensuring that you’re emailing people who fit your product or service.
Email outreach also gives you valuable info that you can use to personalize current and future messages. It’s one way to find people (or prospects) that would make great customers. Email prospecting is similar to cold-calling, but using customers' preferred method of contact – email, not phone.
The main goal of prospecting emails? Get recipients to respond so you can start building a relationship.
Sales prospecting email templates
Using tried-and-true cold email templates can help you start your email prospecting process on the right foot.
If you’re looking for templates for your first email, download our motherlode of sales email templates ebook. Customize and adapt the templates based on your specific use case. Here’s an example from the ebook.
Say, for example, you’ve received an email address for a potential customer through gated content. Take that email address, research the contact’s company, and compose an email that speaks to the prospect’s problems. Your subject line could be “Available for a chat?” and you might politely request a 15-minute meeting.
Hi [Contact First Name],
Love what you guys are doing at [Prospect’s Business]! With all of the startups you work with, do you need assistance with [Pain Point]? Better Bookkeeping Software has helped companies just like yours, including [Example Company], organize and track customer payment info, even on the go.
Would you be available for a 15-minute chat this week?
Thank you for your time,
[Your Email Signature]
Remember that templates are meant to act as guidelines. Form emails can’t take the place of learning about each prospect and weaving that info into your emails.
3 keys to successful prospecting emails
Amazing prospecting emails all share a few traits. You need an eye-catching subject line to convince a reader to open the email, and you need a personalized message inside with an actionable call to action. To know if you’re on the right track, you also need a solid way to capture and evaluate how your emails are performing.
1. A strong email subject line
The difference between a good subject line and a bad one is the difference between an initial email that’s read and one that’s ignored.
Talk like a real person. If a subject line sounds like spam, it will be treated like spam. Be careful not to use any of these words or phrases that often trigger a spam filter.
- Best Price
- Click Here
- Double Your
- Money Making
- Why Pay More?
Another good way to show you’re not a robot is to use a conversational tone. No need to overdo it, but “Hey! Any time to chat about […]?” makes for a friendlier subject line than “Requesting time to discuss […]”
Be on a first-name basis. When possible, personalize your subject line with the prospect’s name, company name, or both.
Our eyes are naturally drawn to our own names, making personalized subject lines stand out more than generic ones. According to Campaign Monitor, personalizing email subject lines can boost open rates by 26 percent.
Keep it nice and short. Email readers are more likely to pay attention to a subject line that’s short and to the point.
An email analysis by Leadium concluded that subject lines with no more than four words performed best. While not every subject line can be that brief, it’s helpful to have this benchmark as a rough target.
The perfect subject line should be friendly, authentic, addressed to the prospect by name, and as short as possible.
2. An engaging email body
A strong subject line is the key to boosting your open rates. But getting a prospect to read your email and complete your call to action requires high-performing, strategic messaging.
Make it personal. At a minimum, the body of an email should include the prospect’s first name, job title, and company. But a good prospecting email should also touch on specific details of the recipient’s life.
For example, you might mention the prospect’s employer or something specific to their business to show interest. Look up news about the company, or check the blog posts on their site to find a good conversation-starter.
You could also check out a prospect’s LinkedIn profile or social media accounts. Find a way to reference their alma mater, their geographic region, a mutual connection, or shared interests.
Tell recipients what’s in it for them. When it comes to your pitch, don’t focus on how your product or service works. Instead, use the classic marketer WIIFM (what's in it for me) model. Make your pitch all about how that product can work for the prospect and their company.
This focus makes a prospecting email feel more personalized. It also helps the potential buyer see exactly how your product would make their lives easier.
Make it clear how your product or service could specifically benefit the customer you are emailing. Instead of saying, “Our software helps large companies organize important documents,” give your reader a concrete example: “You’ll never have to waste time trying to track down missing contact info or a misplaced memo.”
You could also try linking case studies in your email. Explaining how you can solve a prospect’s pain points makes your product appealing. Linking to case studies documenting similar successes gives it credibility.
Hit the word-count sweet spot. The body of the email, much like the subject line, shouldn’t be too long. But you also don’t want it to be so short that the reader doesn’t have all of the information. The key is finding that perfect “Goldilocks” length that fits between two extremes.
A commonly quoted stat from a Boomerang study says that the perfect email length is 50 to 125 words. But a Prospect.io article points out that most Boomerang users aren’t sending sales and prospecting emails.
According to Prospect.io’s study specifically on cold sales emails, the highest response rate (8 percent) was generated from emails with 1,400 to 1,500 characters. That equates to around 300 words.
In short, prospects respond best to emails that are much shorter than the average blog, but longer than the average tweet.
The body of a prospecting email is where you want to connect with the prospect. Keep the length of your message manageable, and make it all about the customer.
3. A way to measure success
The tips we’ve provided are a good starting point for prospecting emails, but you may find that some approaches work better than others. Determine the best practices for your messages by tracking the performance of your emails with software and testing.
If you use a sales prospecting tool or CRM system like Zendesk Sell to send your prospecting emails, you can monitor the performance of messages through the tool. And use killer email automation features.
Sell lets you track key metrics, like open rates and email counts, to gauge messaging performance. It also features a Communications Center, where you can review sent emails to see which ones have been opened and which haven’t. You can also see exactly when and how many times an email was open or clicked on. It's also a full-service lead management system with lead gen tools in Reach.
Turn cold emails into warm leads with follow-up emails
Despite all the effort you put into your prospecting message, industry averages show that most cold emails are still met with a cold shoulder.
But don’t let disappointing response rates deter you from following up. In fact, you might be surprised by just how much your persistence can pay off. Check out our guide to sending follow-up emails to learn what to do after you’ve sent your prospecting email.