How to get a 52-percent reply rate on cold emails

Posted August 28, 2017

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By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

Whenever people talk about cold emailing, it's often in the context of sales or marketing. Unfortunately, thinking outbound cold emailing is about selling a product won't produce success. Instead of approaching emails from a sales point of view, it's critical to focus on relationships, instead.

Recently, Jason Vargas, MD of Outbound Sales at Datanyze, enjoyed a 52-percent response rate in 340 emails sent with Outreach. How can you achieve the same? Today, we're going to talk you through it.

5 Steps To A 52-Percent Open Rate

If you'd like to significantly increase your cold email response rate, follow these five steps:


To choose the right prospects, you'll want to evaluate things like the company's revenue, the number of employees it staffs, the technologies the company uses, the funding they receive, the site's Alexa Rank and the type of business. This makes account-based sales much easier.

With these things in mind, niche your prospects down as much as possible. The more specific you can get, the easier it will be to drive an outstanding open rate. Once you've done that, use the following considerations to identify the right time to send your campaigns:

  • Look for the start of new trials. Identify prospects who are trying your competitor's solutions by monitoring sites that have added competitor technology. Various marketing automation service providers provide such services to make your job easier.
  • Look for new leadership. Use the "Save to Contacts" feature on LinkedIn Premium to stay on top of your customers as they transfer between companies. When a new leader enters the company, it's smart to pay attention to leadership signals that could indicate a new campaign will be successful. For more information, check out our post on how to send cold emails to CXOs.
  • Identify leads using a complimentary product. One great way to identify the ideal start period of a campaign is to look for customers using complementary products.


Authentic content helps you connect with your pre-determined niche persona, and makes it more likely that you'll enjoy a positive ROI from your campaign. Here are a few actionable steps for creating more authentic campaigns:

  1. Create a human connection. Here's an example: if you're sending your buyer persona a contact request on LinkedIn, send a short, personal note along with the request. Once you've done that, include reference to this note in the first email you send your prospect next day.
  2. Draft a personalized email. If you sent a contact request yesterday, it's time to follow up. Be sure to reference the connection request in your email and conclude with a recommendation. Never write a pitch in the very first email you send to your prospect.
  3. Self-Test. Before you send the email out, self-test it. Would you respond if you received the same email? If the answer is "no," adjust it accordingly.
  4. Friend-Test. After you've tested your email for yourself, ask a friend to do the same. What would he or she do if they received such an email? Would they respond? Do they have any feedback to offer? Do you sound like a person writing to another person, or do you sound like a robot?
  5. Templatize & Scale. To make your email campaigns more effective, create a template around your buyer persona. And then, test, test, and test!


A great outbound sales communication platform relies on a framework of approaches and a smart, multi-step sales plan. Here are a few considerations.

  • One touchpoint is never enough. You should have no more than seven touch points and no less than three. Following up 3-4 times will earn you the large reply rate you're looking for. No matter what, you should alwaysfollow up after your first email.
  • You can enhance your apply rate by mixing approaches. For best results, combine phone calls and emails (or LinkedIn Mail) whenever you can.
  • Optimize your send times. For best results, identify which times of day your prospects are most active and send your emails when they're most willing to read them. Ask yourself when you would read an email like this.
  • Space your touch points. Have a certain time difference between various touch points.


Before launching a full-fledged campaign, you need to test different things to gain insights that can enhance your campaign. For best results, analyze the following metrics:

  • What are your prospects are opening and not opening?
  • What are they replying to?
  • When (and why) are they opting out of your email?


A/B testing is simple yet essential. A simple A/B test looks like this: write two emails, send half to your first group and the other half to the second group. A/B test things like personalized subject lines, etc. Include at least one A/B test per sequence.

Tools To Help You Along The Way

Here are a few sales engagement platforms and tools that you can leverage in your cold marketing campaign and enjoy a better response rate:

  • LinkedIn to access professional profiles of your prospects
  • Datanyze to uncover targeted accounts and contacts
  • Upwork to find a third-party to your sourcing
  • Rapportive for us in verifying email addresses
  • Boomerang for Gmail to follow up reminders and send emails later
  • Outreach for end-to-end sales and automation

Today, cold outbound emailing is all about how you connect to your prospects. When you follow these guidelines, it's easy to enjoy a large email reply rate and produce a better ROI.


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