👔 Sales

How to Increase Your Cold Email Response Rate [Updated]

Are you there, John? It’s me, Margaret. 

That’s often what sending out emails feels like when you don’t win a high cold email response rate. You hone the perfect message, pull a targeted list, hit send … and then?

At least with cold calls you get voicemail, right? 

But here’s the thing: cold email is still an incredibly effective outbound strategy. There’s a reason email delivers the highest ROI for marketers. With the right approach, SDRs and sales teams can see that ROI too. You just need to start making your cold emails sound more organic. 

Whether you’re hitting a 1% or 10% response rate average, we all have room to improve our cold email efforts.

Tips for creating winning cold emails abound. They range from the vaguely helpful (“don’t sound like a template!”) to the oddly specific (“leverage a trigger event in the prospect’s professional life”). 

But all of these tips tend to boil down to one thing: leads only respond to cold emails that don’t sound like cold emails

So how do you achieve an organic look and feel in your initial email outreach? 

What’s the Average Cold Email Response Rate?

At first blush, the numbers are less than inspiring. 

The average cold email response rate is 1%. That means if you email 1,000 people, you’ll only getting 10 people to respond. 

Not exactly a fast track to filling the pipeline, is it? 

It’s why plenty of sales teams will send out thousands of emails a day trying to beat the numbers. But these teams lose out on tons of opportunities. They “spray and pray” instead of taking time to consider what will get them a reply. 

Here’s the truth: the average cold email response rate won’t tell you much. 

There’s too much of a range. The Wiza team sees a 10% response rate, and some outliers see cold email response rates over 50%. 

Here’s our advice: forget averages. Average is never the metric you want to aim for.  Instead, focus on how you can improve your cold email performance. Measure your success by how well you improve your cold email response rate over time. Here are a few places to start. 

First things first: Boost your open rate to increase responses 

Before you make introductions, you first have to get your foot in the door. 

No one is going to respond to your email if they don’t even open your email in the first place. 

No duh, right? But SDRs and sales teams sometimes bypass critical cold email elements, focusing solely on value prop and personalization. It’s a mistake. 

Industry wisdom says that you shouldn’t expect better than a 30% open rate, no matter what cold email best practices you put in place.

But what if I told you we’ve consistently seen open rates double that?

cold email response rate

To get an open rate of 70% or higher, you’ll need start with:

  1. Highly targeted lists, and
  2. A technical foundation, like a warmed up domain and plain text emails. 

If high open rates are your ‘foot in the door for higher response rates, then qualified, verified email lists are your ‘in’ for getting leads to open your email in the first place. 

Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to build your list of leads, then export your saved LinkedIn leads for your cold email campaign. By starting with a list of verified, company-specific emails we have seen open rates above 80%. 

Subject lines and clever CTAs go a long way, but you have to get in the door first. Your response rate flows from your open rate. You heard it here: the best way to ensure great metrics around your cold email campaign is to start with a great email list. 

Note: you should also make sure you’re meeting the technical requirements for outbound emails. For more info on getting into the inbox, check out our post on email deliverability

4 Steps to a Higher Cold Email Response Rate

Once you get a cold lead to open the initial email, it’s time to win over their hearts and minds. 

There’s no 100% tried-and-true approach to getting positive responses (don’t sound like a template, remember?). But you can put a handful of best practices in place to make sure your cold email lands makes leads want to respond. 

None of these are ideas ‘quick tricks’ — cold email is a balancing act and always requires testing. 

Step 1: Home in on your target audience for better personalization 

We’ve mentioned it before: targeted lists from LinkedIn Sales Navigator have a lot do with the success of our cold email campaigns. 

Once you have targeted lists, you’ll have a lot more to work with. Don’t just personalize your emails with a lead’s name and company. Make them highly relevant with:

  • New job information: “Congrats on your new role at Gong, Matt!”
  • Role functions: “What’s your go-to lead gen tool? I’m reaching out to a handful of BDRs in FinTech to get a sense of what’s working.”
  • Company News: “Congratulations on making that Crunchbase list, by the way.”  

For high value accounts, dig even deeper. Show that you care about their role, their company and their industry.

For example: reference them in your first email. Instead of including a link to your content, link to their content with a brief comment on why you found it valuable. This isn’t viable for thousands of leads, but should prove effective for larger opportunities. 

Step 2: Craft (and test) your subject lines

Great subject lines can make or break your cold email campaigns. 

Subject lines are about more than getting your leads to open the email in the first place (though they help). Once their interest is piqued by a great subject line, it will likely remain piqued — especially if you make the CTA straightforward (more on that in the last section). 

Your leads’ first impression of you is not your first line (“hope you’re staying safe and sane during these unprecedented times”). It’s your subject line. Make it warm and interesting to turn your cold leads into intrigued (not quite warm) leads before they even open the email. 

In a recent cold email campaign, we received an open rate over 80% and a response rate over 10%. It was almost completely due to the unique subject line we used.  

Read More: 3 Letters That Gave Us 22x More Cold Email Replies

Most importantly, your subject line — and your subsequent email — shouldn’t focus on you. Cover your value proposition too many times and you’ll make it sound like the cold email it is. 

Instead, make it about them. Make the initial email seem like you’re continuing a conversation between colleagues. To frame it this way, use subject lines like:

  • Quick question for you
  • What are your Q1 2020 goals re: ___________?
  • How do you ___________? 
  • Brooklin x Wiza
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Question about Wiza 

Read More: 10 Ideas for the Best Cold Email Subject Line 

You can (and should) personalize your subject lines with the lead’s name or company name. Use Advanced Search on LinkedIn Sales Navigator to narrow your list, export the info and personalize accordingly. 

Step 3: Work — and rework — your copy

Writing in sales is just as important as writing in marketing. 

Sales reps tend to go for the short and snappy. We have to; outbound sales reps have about 8 seconds (3 seconds? 1 second?) to convince a cold lead to respond or click. 

But ‘short and snappy’ often turns into ‘short and choppy’. To make sure your sales emails are convincing, you should start giving them the same treatment your SEM specialist gives PPC ads. Namely:

  1. Never stop at a first draft of an email template. Write your template, sit on it, then come back to it with fresh eyes. 
  2. Never stop testing. Test your subject lines, your first lines, your CTAs, your variables and your wording. Over time you’ll have a much clearer idea of what works and what doesn’t for getting cold email replies. 

Want a deeper dive? We learn a ton from Good Sales Emails and Eddie Shleyner’s ‘Micro-Interviews’.  

Finally, personality is just as important as personalization these days. To add personality to your cold emails, start with why you’re writing the email in the first place (hint: “to make a sale” is not sufficient). Then you can start pinpointing the message that will work for your new set of targets. 

Step 4: Create a less demanding CTA 

Don’t scare interested leads away with an overeager call to action. 

Nobody wants to hear “Do you have 15 minutes to jump on a call?” in a cold email anymore. 

Warming up a cold lead will mean engaging with them at least a few times. Why not take it easy the first time around? 

The decision-makers you’re contacting don’t have a lot of time. Make the next step as easy as possible for them. Here are a few ideas for a CTA within your cold email: 

  • Share something truly relevant to them. “I thought you’d find this interesting.” Sending over a case study or white paper is a great way to open up the conversation, especially in a follow up email. Better yet, send a piece of their content and mention how it impacted you. Again, you can use Sales Navigator to determine their interests. 
  • Ask a simple, interest-based question. “Is this something you’re interested in?” This does a couple things: it makes it incredibly easy for them to respond to your email, and it opens it up for them to say ‘no’. Gong found that this approach received twice as many replies as a specific CTA. 
  • Add your value prop to your CTA. “Do you want to hear more about how x can do y for you?” It’s not a demo, but it does tie your messaging into your question, moving the conversation right along. 

You don’t have to transform your entire outbound strategy overnight. Choose one of these ideas to start with. Spend a week focusing on your lists. Then another week on your subject lines. In no time, you’ll start seeing the average response rate to your cold emails improve. 

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About author

Hey, I'm Brooklin, Head of Content for Wiza. I used to create content for tons of B2B SaaS clients. Then I saw the beauty of Wiza and had to jump on board. Use Wiza to quickly create email lists from LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Use GIFs to win my heart.
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