How to improve your cold outreach
Insights from analyzing 50 cold outreach sequences
In the past 3 weeks, 53 vendors have done cold email outreach to me at Ethena. That does not include the further 75 that went into my spam folder.
Given how incredibly competitive a channel email has become, I thought it would be helpful to examine which of those vendors got my attention, and why.
As a recap, the best practices for a cold outbound email are:
A subject line short enough to get your prospect’s attention and not get cut off on mobile.
An opening that demonstrates relevance—by showing you have researched the prospect and have a reason for reaching out.
A body that provides a reward—by sharing unique insights from your business that are relevant to the prospect.
A closing that requests engagement—by asking your prospect what they think of the insight, or how it aligns with what they see in their own business.
To analyze the emails, I simply gave each one a score of 1-3 points for each of the 4 best practices, resulting in a total score out of 12.
1. Subject lines that got my attention
All but one of the vendors kept their subject lines short enough to avoid getting cut off. The median length was 31 characters, with the cut off happening at 60.
The two best subject lines that stood out to me were, “Website Prospect Report for Ethena” and “Is Your Sales Team Struggling to Reach your ICP by Phone?”, both of which scored 3/3.
The biggest mistakes were overly generic subject lines like, “Can we schedule a call to discuss?”, “Congrats on Funding”, “Direct Mail”, “Question about Ethena”, none of which created a curiosity gap.
2. Openings that demonstrated relevance
None of the vendors scored 3/3 for demonstrating relevance :(
The most common mistake vendors made was pitching, selling features or talking about their company straight out of the gate, instead of focusing on my likely pain point. As the recipient of a cold outreach, my first thought is always WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), so messages that jump straight into pitching tend to fall flat.
The closest anyone got was this, “I was researching people looking for your service, and just last week [XXXX] was searching for Compliance Training.”.
I gave it 2/3 because it got straight to the point, however it could have been better to say something like, “As CRO of Ethena, you need to find predictable ways to generate opportunities for your sales team. A proven way is to identify prospects who are currently looking for compliance training solutions.”
3. Messages that provided a reward
2 of the vendors scored 3/3 for providing a reward.
They were, “Here’s a sample report which shows the kind of data we can deliver” and “[XXXX] is looking for compliance training. I would highly recommend having someone on your team reach out to them. If you don't have any contacts there, let me know, and I can send you a direct dial/mobile.”
Both of these reward statements work because they are focused on my business needs. By contrast, most of the remaining messages made the mistake of listing out their features, often using their own jargon, which causes me as the reader to quickly disengage.
Finally, offering gifts like Doordash certificates, cookies or Starbucks cards instead of unique insights simply sends a signal that your product has little value.
4. Messages that requested engagement
None of the vendors nailed it but there was a clear separation between the 1’s and 2’s
The 1’s all made the same mistake of asking for a meeting straight away. A key benefit of email is that two parties can have an asynchronous conversation and gather information. So it’s surprising how many salespeople want to spend their time meeting with prospects before qualifying them.
The 2’s all did better by asking me what I think instead of asking me for a meeting, “What are your thoughts on your top prospects receiving personalized gifts?”, “Let me know if you have any questions”, “Want some new ideas?”, “Would you say this approach could help meet your ROI goals?”
While nobody got a 3, a simple way that I’ve seen work elsewhere is to close with something like, “Do you think something like this could have value at Ethena?”
What’s working for you in your cold outreach? Let me know in the comments!
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