Sales Prospecting with Cold Email Outreach

Ciara Byrne

Tracking and improving your cold email outreach is key to long-term marketing success. Though it is relatively easy to set up a basic email outreach process, optimizing it to generate a high response rate and maximize your sales leads requires a deeper understanding of how to effectively communicate with your prospects and customers. You also need to know which tools and metrics you should use to measure cold email outreach performance and create more effective campaigns in the future.

To help you improve your cold email outreach response rates, we will highlight which emailing habits you need to break and caveats you have to be aware of so your cold emails receive a higher response rate.
Stephen Phillips via Unsplash

What is cold email outreach?

Cold email outreach is a prospecting strategy where you reach out to people you do not know and initiate a conversation with them. It leverages email marketing automation by reaching out to new prospects in a scalable fashion, and by progressively sending sales follow-up emails to those who respond to your cold emails. Cold email campaigns are inexpensive, lead to higher conversion rates, and work on any business model.

How to track the performance of your cold email outreach campaign?

Before you send a single cold email, you have to have good marketing automation software in place to increase the efficiency of your campaign. This software can help you track the prospects’ journey to conversion. Once you know how many prospects responded to your outreach, you can make informed decisions about who to contact next and when.

Here are six metrics that you should track:

1. Bounce rate.

The bounce rate shows you how many of your emails were not delivered to the end-user. Your emails might be getting flagged as spam by the recipients’ mail services or your email list might contain inactive or nonexistent email addresses. Your recipient’s inbox might also be full, thus rejecting new messages.

2. Open rate.

The open rate calculates how many recipients opened an email, but it does not necessarily tell you why they did it. The open rate shows you how effective your subject lines are and whether your timing is on point. Knowing which subject lines are compelling and which days and time frames are the best for sending cold emails can help you create cold email formulas for lead generation that work long-term. Open rates can provide helpful information when paired with other metrics like click-through rate and response rate.

3. Click-through rate.

This metric lets you know how many people clicked on an embedded link in your email body from the total number of recipients who saw the email. A high click-through rate proves that you have identified the right prospects and are offering them something of interest. It also means that your calls to action (CTAs) are effective.

4. Opt-out rate.

Sometimes, people do not want to hear from you anymore. Having recipients “opt-out” means that they unsubscribed from your email list. This could either mean that you do not have good leads or that you are sending too many emails. It could also mean that your messages are not relevant to your prospects and that you have to find a better way to engage them.

5. Response rate.

The response rate shows how many people replied to your email from the total number of prospects who received it. By using a combination of behavioral triggers and targeting prospects at the right time, you can increase the likelihood of getting a reply. It is very important to have email management software in place to help you track and reply to responses.

6. Conversion rate.

Ideally, after responding to your emails, prospects would “convert”. The conversion rate is the percent of recipients who completed an action that your email suggested to them - made it to the sales funnel.

How can you improve your response rate?

Here are five tips that can help your cold email outreach campaign regardless of whether you are trying to sell a product or looking to convert leads. But before we get to them, let me pass on two helpful tips for two distinct groups.

  • Note to Nonprofits: While the outreach response techniques and strategies we talk about here are directed toward for-profit businesses, many of them apply to nonprofits as well. Even so, wooing donors is something of a specialty, so if your organization is not centered on profit, please look into additional tips for successful nonprofit email marketing.
  • Note to marketing managers: One of your chief concerns is how your potential clients handle their email, so it will benefit you to try some of the email management tools they use to control their overflowing inboxes. It’s a discipline that will give you more insight into where the email bar is currently set.

1. Define your goals

Every marketing manager knows the importance of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Setting your email marketing KPIs ahead of time will help you generate productive new leads and boost sales.

For example, set a KPI that defines how many conversions your cold email outreach campaign should bring each month. Based on that KPI, decide what would be a good open rate and response rate. That way, once the month ends, the data you have collected will show you whether you have reached your goals and which part of the campaign can be improved to secure conversions.

2. Get to know your ideal prospects

Avoid purchasing lead lists and, instead, create your own. Sending out cold emails to a bunch of random contacts can lead to bigger opt-out rates. Not to mention that your emails might start ending up in spam folders. The best way to stand out in people’s inboxes is to offer something they are interested in. For example, e-commerce businesses can engage prospects on a more personal level and increase sales by offering product recommendations based on their browsing history on their websites.

After you find your ideal prospects, learn about their needs, wants, goals and struggles before you shoot that cold email. For example, you can look for information on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) and read posts, threads, or comment sections where your prospects are discussing things of value to them. Referencing something personal in your email subject and opening lines can significantly boost your email open rate.

Tie this into your overall marketing approach, including your customer journey mapping. By understanding where your prospects or leads are in their relationship with your company or product, you’ll be halfway to understanding how to personalize your emails with content that is relevant to the person receiving the email.

3. Personalize each email

Just because it is called “cold email outreach”, it does not mean that you should sound like a robot. Personalizing your outreach email will encourage the recipient to reply. The simplest way to personalize your emails is to address the recipient by their name or reference something that shows you have taken some time researching them.

For example, you could mention an article you read about their company or a detail from their LinkedIn profile that would show them how they would benefit from your products or services. Make sure you keep this part short to avoid coming off as creepy. Using different types of cold email templates can help you test what approach works best.

4. Implement A/B testing

Test everything: subject lines, opening lines, CTAs, body copies, timing, etc. Finding what works best will be a long process of trial and error, and tweaking emails. Pick one variable and test multiple variants of it during the same period to see what works best. For example, test two different CTAs by dividing your contact list into two groups and sending them different emails. Do not test multiple variables at the same time because you will not be able to determine the real trigger behind your conversions or the lack thereof.

5. Write catchy but honest subject lines

Do not lie or over-promise in your subject lines. Click-baits might increase your email open rates, but if the body copy does not deliver on the promise made in the subject line, people will opt-out. Subject lines should be exciting, promising, and have a sense of urgency, but they should also be short, personalized, and relevant to the receiver.


When it comes to cold email outreach, sitting back and hoping for the best is not an option. You have to be proactive. Techniques that work for one campaign might flop for another. Keep diversifying your approach but always base your cold email outreach on data. Track the right metrics and focus on narrowing down your contact lists to specific buyer personas. A well-paced and personalized cold email outreach can also help you improve your customer mapping journey by putting the focus on the customer.

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