Master email prospecting: Templates, examples & more

Posted May 31, 2024

headshot of blog author, woman smiling

By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

If cold outreach is feeling extra chilly these days, you’re not alone. Data from Outreach indicates that sales cycles are 20% longer than they were in 2020. After slashed budgets and mass layoffs, buying committees seem to be getting nervous and want to be certain about their purchases. As a result, sellers are seeing momentum slow across every stage of the sales cycle, starting at the top of the funnel, as buyers become more hesitant to entertain new opportunities. 

At the same time, sellers’ responsibilities are changing too. As teams have restructured and consolidated to match the new buying reality, many sellers are no longer just responsible for managing deals — they’re on the hook for sourcing them, too.

In short: Buyers are putting up more walls, sellers are increasingly stretched for time, and traditional tactics don’t have the same impact they used to. To meet their pipeline goals, today’s sales reps need more personalized, targeted, field-tested outbound prospecting strategies that can cut through the uncertainty plaguing the market. 

This guide breaks down the new reality of email prospecting and what that means for sales teams. Keep reading for step-by-step guidance, common mistakes, and top-performing email templates to help you level-up your approach to prospecting.

Graphic with text: How to master email prospecting, templates, examples, and more

What are sales prospecting emails?

Sales prospecting emails are the digital equivalent of a friendly knock on a prospect's door. They're targeted messages designed to initiate a conversation with potential customers, introduce your product or service, and ideally, spark interest that leads to a meeting or further discussion. Unlike mass marketing emails, prospecting emails are personalized and tailored to the recipient's industry, role, or specific pain points. Effective prospecting emails are concise, engaging, and offer value to the reader, going beyond a simple sales pitch.

Why email is crucial in 2024 & beyond 

Incorporating email into your multi-touch outreach strategy increases your chances of getting your message seen and heard.

The world of sales is noisy and competitive. Prospects are bombarded with messages from competitors across countless channels. When combined with other outreach methods like social selling and phone calls, email prospecting provides one more opportunity to connect with busy decision-makers and cut through the noise. 

3 overlooked benefits of email prospecting

1. Scalability and efficiency 

Email prospecting allows sales teams to reach a large number of potential clients quickly and efficiently. Sales platforms (like Outreach!) make it easy to automate and personalize emails at scale, ensuring that your message reaches the right audience without the need for extensive manual effort. This scalability enables sales teams to focus more on high-value activities and less on repetitive tasks.

2. Measurable, trackable results

Email prospecting gives you the ability to track and measure the performance of your campaigns. Look for analytics and reporting features that allow you to monitor open rates, click-through rates, and responses.

Tools like Outreach’s email sentiment detection go a step further. Sentiment analysis can help your sales reps understand how you’re resonating with buyers. It offers a whole new level of insights — like whether email responses are positive, objections, referrals, or unsubscribes.

These data-driven deal insights help you refine your strategies, optimize your outreach efforts, and achieve better results over time.

3. Personalization and targeting

Email allows you to segment your audience and tailor your messages to specific industries, roles, or pain points. This personalization increases the relevance of your emails, making them more likely to be opened and read.

Generative AI tools play a role here, too — features like Outreach’s Smart Email Assist take the guesswork out of drafting that first message. Using details from the account, plus any previous calls, meetings, or emails, sellers can prompt the AI to draft a personalized message in just a few seconds.

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Quote from Ariana Arcega, Sales Manager at Outreach describing the expanded role of AEs who are responsible for prospecting and closing deals.

How to craft effective prospecting emails: 3 steps to follow (with examples + templates) 

For the best results, sales teams must truly understand what matters to their audience. Knowing what’s most important to prospects is the foundation of highly relevant email subject lines and email copy. Here are a few helpful tips for sending prospecting messages that convert into initial meetings, and ultimately, revenue.

1. Segment your email by persona type

When creating email content, it's important to consider the persona you're targeting: what’s their role, what are their primary responsibilities, and what about your solution resonates with them. 

At Outreach, we segment our audience based on persona, which includes their job function (such as sales or marketing) and level of seniority (such as vice president or director). This information helps us write personalized emails that are tailored to each persona's needs.

Chart representing example segmentation plan by persona seniority and department.

Early in Outreach’s history, we found that our database contained approximately 50 million unique job titles. With so many titles to consider, our sellers struggled to determine whether they were precisely targeting the right people with their emails.

As a result, we built a machine-learning model that classifies every job title into one of five levels of seniority and one of 12 job functions. This allows sales teams to target an audience by persona, making it easier to send the right email to the right people every time.

Persona-based messaging naturally lends itself to personalization. And the more you personalize, the better engagement.
Rawan Missouri, Customer Success Engineer Manager, Outreach

2. Write winning email subject lines

About 35% of recipients open emails based on the subject line alone, making subject lines critical to email prospecting success. Consider these three best practices:

  • Keep it short, sweet, and human 
  • Be creative, helpful, or bold enough to drive intrigue 
  • Include one simple call to action
3 examples of winning subject lines with open rates over 50%
3 examples of winning subject lines with open rates over 50%
3 examples of winning subject lines with open rates over 50%
3 examples of winning subject lines with open rates over 50%
3 examples of winning subject lines with open rates over 50%
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3. Use a framework to create personalized body copy

Sales teams need a blueprint for repeatable results. It doesn’t have to be a word-for-word template. It can simply be a framework.

For example, reps could follow this structure:

Intro: Hi [person’s first name], 

Truth: I read that your company has just expanded to sell apparel online.

Pain Point: Clothing and shoes bought online typically have the highest return rate, with 30 to 40 percent getting sent back (source: CNBC).

How you can help (value proposition): How are you ensuring that returns are handled properly so they don’t eat away at your profit margins?

Relevant third-party proof: Our logistics company, [X company name], helped [name of biggest client] process its returns with greater speed and accuracy.

Close and call to action: Want to learn how we did it? 

All the best, [salesperson’s name + contact info]

When should you send a sales prospecting email?

As a starting point, consider prospecting mid-week (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) during the late morning (between 9 am and 11 am). This time frame tends to have the highest open rates and click-through rates.

However, the optimal time for your specific audience might vary depending on:

  • Industry: B2B emails might perform better during traditional work hours, while B2C emails might see more engagement in the evenings or weekends.
  • Target audience: Consider the demographics and habits of your ideal customer. When are they most likely to be checking their email?
  • Email type: Initial outreach emails might do well in the morning, while follow-up emails could be sent later in the day.

Consider testing the timing of your email sends to further refine and optimize your email prospecting strategy. 

Why sales emails get ignored: common challenges and solutions

The average cold email response rate is less than one percent. That low response rate indicates that something about the traditional initial email isn’t working. So, how can sellers stop getting tuned out? By writing relevant, personalized emails to prospects. 

In a recent analysis of over 360,000 Outreach prospecting emails, our data science team confirmed what savvy sales already know to be true: Compared to high-volume “spray and pray” email tactics, highly personalized emails lead to better outcomes — including higher positive reply rates and more meetings booked.

Prospect emails with a degree of personalization consistently achieved higher positive reply rates and led to more meetings booked compared to less personalized emails. However, it's important to strike a balance, as there's a point where the returns on personalization start to diminish.

Focusing on two key areas for personalization is most effective for Outreach prospect emails: the introduction/hook and the value proposition. These are the areas where tailored messaging can make the biggest difference.

Low personalization email 

A low-personalization email is a generic email that lacks specific details about the recipient or their situation. It often uses a template or form letter approach with little to no customization. Low-personalization messages are best for higher-volume or lower-value persona lists.

Example: Low-personalization email

“I noticed you’re [taking X action] and thought we could connect…”

High personalization email

A high-personalization email goes beyond basic personalization like using the recipient's name. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the prospect's specific situation, pain points, and goals. It often references recent actions or behaviors of the prospect, showing that the sender has done their research. We recommend drafting highly personalized emails for your most valuable personas. The extra time it takes to write more detailed emails is more likely to pay off if they respond.

Example: High-personalization email

“Saw you’re [taking X action]. Are you worried about [X challenge]? We’ve helped [X type of company] like [similar example customer] create [outcome]. Would you like to learn how?”

How to implement a winning, repeatable email prospecting strategy 

Personalizing prospect emails isn’t a new strategy. However, many reps either don’t do it or don’t do it effectively, due to the time it takes. But it’s not for lack of trying: Hubspot claims that salespeople already spend 21% of their day writing emails.

Developing a thoughtful, tailored message takes time, and staring at an empty text window can feel daunting for any seller. Reps need the right tips and technology to get started so they can focus on crafting the message that buyers want to hear. 

Fortunately, the advent of generative AI allows sellers to quickly and easily generate a first draft so that they can focus on customizing, tailoring, and personalizing. 

People want to feel seen, heard, and understood in the emails reps send, even if they’ve never met before.
Angela Garinger, VP of Business Development, Outreach

Here’s how reps can use technology to streamline the personalization process.

1. Surface the right personalization points with sales tech and generative AI

A sales execution platform helps you gather data about your audience (i.e., the latest company news, social media, and essential details from the prospect’s personal LinkedIn page) without manual research, all in a single view. This information helps reps personalize emails with relevant facts about the prospect, company, or industry. 

Platforms that include generative AI allow reps to focus their time on personalization rather than drafting, allowing them to be more productive. That way, sellers act as editors rather than authors.

2. Create a playbook filled with sequences for email prospecting 

Sequences are a series of touchpoints built to drive deeper engagement with a prospect. Your Sales playbooks consist of best practices, common sequences, scenario-based workflows, and contextual messaging that salespeople need to create and close more deals faster. 

9-step example sequence that includes sending emails, making phone calls, and following up

The sequences within a playbook give your team specific actions to take, like sending prospecting emails so that reps can convert leads into customers.

Use data to measure success and scale best practices

Track and monitor foundational email metrics such as reply rate, open rate, and conversion rate. While every company’s benchmarks will look different, these are the industry sequence best practices we share with customers who want to bring more rigor to their prospecting efforts: 

  • Top line reply: ≥12% reply rate (cold prospecting sequence): 
  • Email open rate: ≥27%
  • Email reply rate: ≥2.9% (the average sequence email reply rate)
  • Bounce rate: <2.8%
  • Opt-out rate: <1.1%

Beyond the basic email metrics, buyer sentiment can help sales reps truly listen to what the prospect is telling them in their email response, whether the replies were “positive,” “objections,” “referrals,” or “unsubscribes.” 

Rather than relying solely on reply rate to determine if a message is working, sales teams can analyze the buyer’s reaction to gauge the likelihood of the sales process moving forward or even the next best step to take.

The best buyer sentiment analysis should help sales teams dig even deeper. Sellers should be able to see:

  • The number of prospects who are willing to meet, schedule a conditional meeting, or want more information.
  • Any “objections” with clear breakdowns like “already have a solution” or “financial” reasons.
Optimizing your sales funnel? Start here.

Tap into the metrics that stand between you and your revenue goals. Get our checklist of basic and advanced KPIs that best-in-class sales organizations use to measure success. Use these slides as the framework to anchor your sales team meetings, training sessions, strategic planning, forecast calls, or executive briefings.

Now scale it 

Notice a high positive response rate on a particular email? Take that email, turn it into a template, and make it part of a sequence that the entire team can use. Now sales teams can fine-tune the messaging for even more success.

We have collections of sequences and templates our reps use to break through the noise and book that initial meeting. Sellers don’t have to analyze what to say or when to say it because Outreach does that for them. Customers are actually receiving better content as a result.
Ghali Bennani Laafiret, Business Strategy and Operations
Is your business meeting Google and Yahoo’s new bulk sender requirements?

Email clients are enforcing new bulk email sending requirements starting in 2024. The good news: Outreach has been helping customers send more targeted, personalized emails for nearly a decade. And these changes are nothing we can’t handle. Whether you’re a long-time Outreach user, new to the platform, or using another sales engagement solution — we’ve got your back. 

7 free best sales email templates to use

To get you started, here are example templates of the types of emails you’ll want to include in your prospecting sequences — from initial contact to re-engaging a lukewarm lead. Remember: personalization is key. 

First-touch email template

The success of an email sequence often hinges on the first email and its replies. A strong first email sets the tone and grabs the recipient's attention, making them more likely to engage with later emails. Like compound interest, early engagement builds momentum, increasing the effectiveness of your entire outreach, even without an immediate response.

Example: first-touch email

Subject: [Personalized subject line based on prospect's pain point or interest]

Hi [Prospect Name],

I know your inbox is probably overflowing, so I'll be brief.

I recently came across [mention something relevant to the prospect's company or industry] and it reminded me of the challenges that businesses like yours face when it comes to [mention prospect's pain point].

At [Your Company], we've helped numerous companies overcome similar obstacles and achieve [mention specific results or benefits].

Are you open to a quick chat sometime this week to discuss how we can help you as well? Even if it's not a perfect fit right now, I'm happy to share some insights that might be valuable to you.

Let’s chat soon, 

[Your Name]

What this email does well:

  • Personalized subject line: Grab the prospect's attention by addressing their specific pain point or interest.
  • Concise and direct: Keep the email short and focused on the value you can offer.
  • Offer value upfront: Show that you've done your research and understand the prospect's challenges.
  • Clear call to action: Invite the prospect to a conversation, but don't be pushy.

Follow-up email template

If you don't get a response on your first email, don't get discouraged. We recommend a minimum of 12 touchpoints across multiple channels — and continue to test the number, order, and steps that are most successful. The team at Avanan, for example, found that 18 attempts their average. When following up over email, consider writing a message that is generic enough to be used with all prospects, make your value proposition clear, and ask for a meeting at a specific time at the end. 

Example: middle email

Subject: How [Your Product/Service] can help [Prospect's Company]

Hi [Prospect's Name],

I wanted to see if you've had any thoughts about how [Your Product/Service] can address the [specific pain point you identified in previous email/research].

We've helped companies like [similar company] achieve [quantifiable result]. Would you be available for a 15-minute call on [date] at [time] to discuss how we can do the same for you?

Best, [Your Name]

What this follow-up email does well:

  • Reiterates value: It reminds the prospect of the specific problem you can solve.
  • Social proof: It mentions a similar company and the results they achieved, building credibility.
  • Clear call to action: It directly asks for a meeting with a specific date and time.

Social touches

The more unique channels you use to get in front of someone, the better. If your prospects use LinkedIn, it’s a great channel. Sellers can send messages via a LinkedIn Connection Request, LinkedIn InMail, or LinkedIn profile view. 

Example: connection request message

Hi [Prospect's Name],

I enjoyed your recent post about [topic from their LinkedIn activity]. I'm [Your Name], and I lead [Your Title] at [Your Company]. 

We help companies like yours [brief company description]. 

Let's connect!

Example: InMail

Hi [Prospect's Name],

I noticed we share some connections and your experience in [industry/skill] caught my eye. 

I'm curious to learn more about [specific aspect of their work] at [Prospect's Company]. 

Would you be open to a quick chat sometime?

What these social touches do well:

  • Leverage multiple channels: It uses the prospect's preferred platform, increasing visibility.
  • Personalized and relevant: It references the prospect's activity or experience.
  • Less formal: It creates a more casual connection than a standard email.
  • Expands the conversation: It opens the door for further interaction beyond email.

Break-up email template

If previous emails haven't worked, it’s time for a break-up email. The goal is to provoke a reaction — ideally positive, but any strong response is better than silence. A funny email can charm, while an unusually direct one can spark curiosity or even a bit of healthy confrontation.

Example: funny break-up email

Subject: You're breaking my heart...

Hi [Prospect's Name],

I'm starting to think you're deliberately avoiding me. 😔

Maybe it's my witty emails or the fact that [Your Product/Service] could really help you. 😉

If you're ready to give me another chance, let me know. Otherwise, I'll just cry into my coffee.

Best (and heartbroken),

[Your Name]

Example: direct break-up email

Subject: Last chance to [Benefit from your product/service]

Hi [Prospect's Name],

I understand you're busy, but I haven't heard back about [previous discussion/offer]. I wanted to give you one last chance to see how [Your Product/Service] can specifically help you with [pain point].

If you're not interested, no worries — just let me know.

Best,

[Your Name]

What these break-up emaisl do well:

  • Creates urgency: It implies the opportunity might be missed.
  • Clear call to action: It clearly asks for a response, even if it's a "no."
  • Offers a graceful exit: It doesn't pressure the prospect, allowing them to disengage politely.
  • Can be tailored: Both the "funny" and "direct" examples can be adapted to your brand's voice.

Re-engagement email template

A re-engagement email is sent to prospects who've shown initial interest but gone quiet. Its purpose is to reignite their interest and move them down the sales funnel.

Example: re-engagement email

Subject: Did something change?

Hi [Prospect's Name],

I know things can change quickly. I'm checking in to see if [specific pain point you identified in previous email/research] is still a priority for [Prospect's Company].

If so, I'd love to discuss how [Your Product/Service] could help you [quantifiable benefit].

If not, no sweat. Just reply and I'll stop bothering you. :)

Talk soon, [Your Name]

What this re-engagement email does well

  • Acknowledgement: It recognizes that the prospect's situation might have changed, showing empathy and understanding.
  • Refocuses on value: It gently reminds them of the potential value your product/service offers.
  • Open-ended: It invites a response, whether it's a positive one to re-engage or a negative one to clarify their lack of interest.

Full email sequence template

Every sequence has steps that predetermine how and when a prospect should be engaged:  usually a mix of automatic or manual emails, phone calls, or tasks. Your team can rely on unique sequences for different types of leads, such as a no-show sequence, referral sequence, follow-up sequence, or re-engagement sequence. Here’s an example of an outbound prospecting sequence. 

15-step example cold outbound prospecting template

Advance your sales success with the right prospecting email every time 

Successful email prospecting starts with workflows that help you build a quality sales pipeline and organize your book of business. If you’re searching for a better way to build, measure, and scale winning prospect emails, Outreach can help. 

Outreach helps sales teams get more from their outbound prospecting activity. To see more of what Outreach can do, take a quick product tour of our account planning and management workflows. Or, for a more personalized consultation, request a demo.


Additional FAQs about email prospecting:

How do I find prospects' emails?

Prospect emails can be found on LinkedIn profiles, company websites (contact pages, team pages, "About Us" sections), company databases, or enrichment tools such as Zoominfo or Clearbit. 

How long should a first cold email be?

The ideal length for a first cold email should be concise and to the point. Aim for around 50-125 words. This ensures that your message is brief enough to hold the recipient's attention while still providing enough information to convey your value proposition. Focus on personalization, a clear introduction, a relevant value statement, and a straightforward call to action.

How long should prospecting emails be? 

Prospecting emails should provide enough information while maintaining conciseness — it’s a balance. Typically, that means between 100 to 200 words is ideal. This length allows you to cover essential points: the email's purpose, the prospect's benefits, and the next steps, without overwhelming the reader. Ensure each sentence adds value and encourages the recipient to take action.

Is it better to call or email a prospect first?

This will depend on your audience and we recommend testing both approachs. But ultimately, personalized messaging, consistent follow-up, and an omnichannel approach will make a bigger difference. Making multiple attempts to connect over emails, phone calls, voicemails, and social media engagement will drive better results. 

How do you end a sales prospecting email?

At the end of your email, clearly specify what you want the prospect to do next. This could be scheduling a call, replying with specific information, or visiting a link. For example, you could say:

  • Scheduling a call: "Would you be available for a 15-minute call next week to discuss how we can help [Prospect's Company] achieve [specific benefit]? Please let me know your availability."
  • Replying with information: "Could you please reply with the best point of contact for [specific purpose] or provide a time that works for a quick discussion?"
  • Visiting a link: "For more details, please visit [link] to see how our solution has helped companies like yours."

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