How to Write Cold Emails That Earn a Response: Lessons From Cold Emailing Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and More

Intro to Cold Emailing: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Here’s the issue: People have less time and attention span than ever before. They’re Slacking with colleagues, checking stuffed email inboxes (both personal and professional), and are in and out of Zoom meetings all day. The fight for attention is real, with the average person receiving over 120 emails every day, and a total of over 124.5 sales emails sent daily.

Enter you: You’re hungry, in sales, and eager to make contact with a cold prospect. But, how do you captivate your prospect with a cold email that’s so enticing that prospects can’t help but say “yes, yes, yes” straight out of “When Harry Met Sally?” In this blog post you’ll be able to answer questions like “what is cold email?”, learn how to write cold emails, and also send cold emails. But we’re going to take it one step further than that: you’ll also gain cold email writing tips from pros who pitched and received responses from execs like Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Elon Musk.

What is Cold Emailing and Why Does it Have Such a Bad Reputation?

According to Wikipedia, “a cold email is an unsolicited email that is sent to a receiver without prior contact. It could also be defined as the email equivalent of cold calling.” In short, a cold email is emailing someone you don’t know asking them to do something.

Now, here’s why cold email has such a bad rep… because most cold emails are just plain bad and feel spammy. You know them when you read them because you generally hit delete or worse—the spam button. They feel like the person wants to waste your time, sell you something or use you for something that leads to their gain—not yours.

So, What Makes a Good Cold Email, Anyway?

A good cold email is one that’s so personal and relevant that it feels like it was meant for you. It’s clear in what it’s asking, its tone is humble or somewhat deferent, and it’s short and sweet. If you have a mutual acquaintance, colleague, or point of contact—mention it. It’s the best form of social proof to make cold contact.

Cold email has a bad rep because it usually feels like spam, impersonal, irrelevant, intrusive, or just outright manipulative. 95% of salespeople are doing the same thing—sending a tired old template that feels “salesy,” spammy, and begs to be ignored.

Cold Email Can Be Successfully Used to Reach Top Execs
(Think: Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, and Jamie Dimon)

The beauty of cold email is, if you play your cards right, you can send cold emails and receive a response from top execs like Tim Cook and Elon Musk.

Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) is known to directly reply to customers by cold email about their issues with Apple products within hours. Even if an executive doesn’t reply to you, about 80% of executives read their inbox carefully.

How to Write Cold Emails: The Cold Email That Won Steve Jobs Over

Katia Beauchamp, CO and co-founder of Birchbox, is someone who successfully cold emailed and received a response from Steve Jobs in less than 24 hours.

The year was 2008, and she was a student in Harvard Business School, looking to receive a student discount on an Apple computer. You see, IBM was offering a student discount and she was an Apple girl, through and through. She emailed Jobs to see if he would provide her with the same discount that IBM was offering.

Incredibly, Jobs replied to her cold email in less than 24 hours and gave her a discount…

The Four-Step Cold Email Formula that Worked on Steve Jobs

According to Beauchamp, there’s a four-step process you should be following when you send cold emails.

  1. Use a “compelling subject line.”
  2. Make sure the email is so short you don’t need to scroll down on a smartphone.
  3. Don’t attach a business plan, or something that seems “overwhelming.”
  4. A one-pager attached to your (short) email should do the job.
  5. Ask for something “that’s hard to say no to.” Don’t ask for big favors, a small ask like “do you have 5 minutes to give me advice?” is a great example.

How to Write Cold Emails That Earn a Response: Examples from Mailshake

We love Mailshake’s blog post on 15 cold email templates to test, because it shares winning cold email templates to get you started and on your way.

What I personally like about this blog is that you can see the author of each template and the company they work for—so you can see if the text matches your use case.

The templates are short, sweet, and to the point. Which is perfect when you’re trying to break the ice with Mrs. Hot Prospect.

Go the Extra Mile When Writing Cold Emails: Make It Personal and Relevant

Take these Mailshake templates and use them as a starting point for your cold email text. Now, take a look at your cold prospect’s LinkedIn. Maybe they recently hosted a webinar that they rocked. Or wrote a recent LinkedIn post that garnered tons of controversy. Or you even have a mutual colleague. Start with that. What can you say that will draw the recipient in, in a way that’s truthful, authentic and relevant to them? Is there a cause that they care about that you love? Speak to that.

Now, find a business pain that your prospect is looking to solve. Maybe they’ve mentioned it on LinkedIn, or even in recent comments on a LinkedIn post. Can you somehow connect your offering to this? The key in your outreach is—find a way to make your prospect care, make the message relevant, and make sure that your offering makes sense to them.

Ok, But I Don’t Know My Prospect’s Email Address…

Ok, so you know how to write a cold email that begs a response from Steve Jobs. Now, how do you find your prospect’s email address?

Whether you know your prospect’s email address or you have no idea what it isthere’s an easy, free and legal way to find it. Lusha is a B2B contact database that’s free to sign up for (no credit card required.) Every month you get 5 free leads which let you find B2B prospects, their direct dials, and email addresses (if Lusha has the information in its database.)

Just install the Lusha web browser extension and open a contact on LinkedIn. Click the “show” button, and in one-click, Lusha will reveal your prospect’s email address and phone number.

Or, let’s say you prefer to prospect at scale. You can log into Lusha Prospecting and quickly find thousands of qualified prospects according to smart filters, based on company name, industry, size, location, revenue, department, seniority, job title, and more. Once Lusha Prospecting generates a list of prospects, click “Show Details” and that’s it—you have your prospect’s contact details like their phone number and email. Lusha is used by over 800,000 B2B companies like Google, Uber, Dropbox and Snowflake, as well as GDPR aligned, CCPA compliant, and ISO 27001 certified for legally compliant prospecting.

Find a Cold Email Template That Works For You with Mailshake

The beauty of cold emailing is that you can keep testing your messaging until you understand what approach to sending cold email works and what doesn’t.

Mailshake’s automated sales outreach tool lets you A/B test email templates and automate responses with ease. It’s also perfect when you have that winning cold email, because you can send thousands of personalized cold emails with automated responses for maximum responses and results.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Cold emails get a bad rep because they’re usually pretty bad—irrelevant, long, rambling and they usually feel like spam. Make sure your cold email doesn’t get sent to spam by ensuring your messaging is short, sweet, to the point, respectful and feels like an easy ask. If you’re afraid of cold email, don’t be. The biggest execs in the world are usually glued to their email inboxes, and will respond if your email is compelling enough.

If you don’t know where to find your prospect’s email address, Lusha is a free B2B email finder that will find anyone’s email in seconds. When you’re ready to test your email messaging, Mailshake makes it easy to A/B test and iterate your cold emails, and mass email thousands of prospects through automation. And, that is a formula for cold email success.

Vanessa Perplies is the External Communications Lead at Lusha and a former salesperson of 5+ years.

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