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Guide: How to Get Replies From Cold Email
Guide: How to Get Replies From Cold Email
Last updated:
July 27, 2021
Christian Bonnier
Christian Bonnier
Christian is creative director at ListKit and co-founder at Client Ascension.

With thousands of ads being put in front of consumers on a daily basis, it’s now harder than ever to break through and catch the attention of your target audience with your offer.

However, there’s still a tried and tested outreach method that’s extremely effective even today: cold email.

A well written, concise cold email will generate interested prospects, fill your calendar with sales appointments, and lead to new clients.

The Problem with Most Cold Emails

Cold email is a tremendously powerful tool, granted you write emails that actually catch prospects’ attention and prompt them to reply back to you.

The problem, however, is that the majority of cold emails are either:

  1. Too long
  2. Not personalized to each individual prospect
  3. Don’t address major pain points

1. Your Cold Emails are Too Long

When sending a cold email, there’s a 3-5 second window to capture the prospect’s attention before they move onto the next email in their inbox.

To capture their attention, your cold email needs to explain what you’re offering the prospect in as few words as possible. There’s no need for a 1-2 paragraph introduction about you and your business, or a laundry list of your past work.

Keep it simple with a personalized line and 1-2 sentences explaining how your services would be beneficial to their business.

2. Your Cold Emails are Not Personalized Enough

There was a time years ago where a templated email blasted out to hundreds of contacts at a time was effective, but that time has passed.

It’s easy to see when an email is a canned message, which is why the personalized line is so crucial to a high converting cold email campaign.

The personalized line just has to be a one-sentence compliment about the prospect (recent funding, press their business had, receiving awards, expanding the business) to show them that the email you sent was meant for them and only them.

Some examples:

“Congrats on raising $10m in Series A funding for COMPANY – the future is bright!”

“Saw that COMPANY recently expanded into 3 new cities – your growth is inspiring.”

3. Your Cold Emails Don’t Address Major Pain Points

If your cold email doesn’t touch on a major pain point or goal of your target audience, it’s going to fall flat.

For example, asking a company that uses Salesforce if they need a CRM setup for their business won’t work because they’re clearly already using Salesforce.

Instead, ask prospects in this audience: “Have you had trouble using Salesforce as a CRM?” If they have this issue, your email will be extremely relevant to them and they’ll be likely to respond.

The 4 Keys to Getting Replies from Cold Emails

Use a Simple Subject Line

Nearly all of our campaigns use the subject line “quick question”.

because of how consistently we’ve seen 70-80% open rates using it.

Some other short subject lines that work well:

  • {name}
  • question
  • question for {name}
  • question about {company}
  • {name} + ListKit (use your company name)

Personalize Your Cold Emails

As mentioned above, including a personalized first line will give your email a fighting chance in the inbox, rather than it being passed over by the prospect without a second thought.

Personalized first lines are important for a few reasons.

First, the preview text in the inbox will feature this first line, so prospects can see you’ve done your homework without even opening the email.

They’ll likely be intrigued enough to open the email after seeing you’ve done your homework on them, and will be willing to read the rest of the email.

Second, the first line shows you’ve done your homework and are a fan of their company before pitching them your offer.

Once they’ve seen you’re emailing them one-on-one and are familiar with their work, they will be in the right mindset to read your offer and hopefully respond with interest.

Of course, each ListKit comes complete with personalized first lines for each prospect so you’ll never have to worry about writing your own.

Make Your Message Relevant to the Prospect

Focusing your cold email scripts on the prospect rather than yourself makes all the difference in terms of getting replies.

Think about it, if you’re receiving an email from someone you’ve never heard of, you couldn’t care less about their past work or their company. If the entire email is focused on them, you’ll likely just open it and move onto the next.

Imagine receiving this:

“My name’s John Smith, and I’m the CEO of ListKit. My company provides agencies like yours with personalized B2B prospecting lists.Recently, I’ve helped dozens of agencies save time on list building, and we’ve already grown to $X in monthly revenue!Are you interested in learning more?”

Since it doesn’t include anything about how you can benefit, you probably are not interested in learning more.

Now imagine receiving this instead:

“With ListKit, you’ll be able to save countless hours on prospecting by receiving personalized B2B prospect lists delivered straight to your inbox, fully formatted in a CSV file.

We’ll handle the entire process for you, so you can focus on closing deals and growing your agency.


Since this email is relevant to you, there’s a much better chance you’re interested in learning more.

Apply this to your own offer, and make sure the email is focused fully around the prospect rather than you.

Use a Low Barrier Call to Action (CTA)

The Call to Action, or CTA, is the question at the end of your email that prompts the prospect to take the next step if they’re interested in what you have to offer.

Examples of CTAs:

  • Booking a demo
  • Booking a sales call
  • Purchasing a product
  • Signing up for something
  • Agreeing to a free service (audit, media plan, portfolio/examples of work)

In cold email, the best CTAs are low barrier, meaning they don’t ask much of the prospect. Instead of going directly for the sale with a cold email, ask the prospect if they’re interested in learning more, or hopping on a phone call.

Since you’re a complete stranger to the prospect, you’ll have the most success with CTAs like “Open to learning more?” or “Open to a free audit of your website? I’m happy to get that over to you if so.”

Because after all, not many people will be willing to make a purchase without learning more about you and what you have to offer.

As you’ll see in the next section, some of the highest performing emails don’t even include a CTA, and ask a simple “yes” or “no” question that doesn’t come off as salesy.

Examples of Cold Emails That Work

The One Sentence Cold Email

“Hi {name} – {first line}Do you use Klaviyo for email marketing?”

Yes, an email this simple works tremendously well. We aren’t selling or asking for anything here, just simply asking if they use a specific tool (Klaviyo in this instance.)

If they say yes, THEN we go in for the pitch of a “free Klaviyo audit” to see where they’re leaving profits on the table with email marketing.

Since we’re targeting companies that only use Klaviyo for email marketing with this example, we’re assuming that they’ll reply “yes”.

The one sentence cold email can be used for any offer, just figure out a way to ask a simple “yes” or “no” question that will open the conversation so you can eventually pitch your services. In this case, we know they’re in the market for email marketing consulting because they use Klaviyo, an email marketing tool.

The Free Service Offer

“Hi {name} – {first line}

Quick question, would you be interested in a free website audit to see who exactly is visiting your website and which pages they’re most frequently visiting?”

This type of email works very well if you have a specific offer you can offer them upfront at no cost to them.

The idea here is that they’ll be open to your free service, see the value in the free service, and then be interested in working closely with you on a paid basis (retainer, year-long commitment, etc).

As always, frame the free service around how it can help them, which in this example is “seeing who exactly is visiting your website”.

Also be sure to keep the wording very general, and avoid saying that your free service can improve their existing operations.

If this example said “free website audit to see how your site can be improved”, many prospects would reply defensively because you’re assuming their website is bad.

The Soft Pitch

“Hi {name} – {line}

Would you be open to a quick intro call to explore ways we could potentially support each other’s businesses?”

This is the most low barrier email we use in our own agency, and it works especially well for full service marketing agencies.

Since these marketing agencies offer a wide variety of services, it’s best to keep the CTA very open ended and discuss services on the sales call rather than over email.

While it may seem that this question makes it seem like you’re simply asking to network with the person, prospects know very well that you plan to pitch them over the phone.

Most times, they’ll check out your website before responding to you, so make sure your website is optimized.

This strategy will only be effective if you’re good at closing deals over the phone, because with how vague the question is it’ll quickly turn into a networking call if you can’t steer the prospect towards a service you offer.


Cold email still works tremendously well, even with all of the endless noise of paid advertising and social media around in today’s digital age.

As long as you have concise script that’s personalized and relevant to the prospects you’re reaching out to, you’ll have no problem generating replies from prospects in what you have to offer.

Put your own spin on the examples given in this blog, use ListKit for your B2B prospect lists and first lines, and start closing deals from cold email!

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