How effective are your prospecting emails?

Learn how to write great sales prospecting emails with our top tips on crafting these messages, and get a free email template.

By Josh Bean, Director, Marketing

Published July 9, 2019
Last updated December 2, 2020

Consider this opening line of a prospecting email: “XYZ Company is a digital marketing company dedicated to providing solutions for startups.”

Now compare it to this example: “I was excited to read about [Prospect Company]‘s product launch.”

The second opening line contains elements of an effective prospecting email:

  • Hints at prior research of the company
  • Sounds friendly/upbeat/human
  • Starts with “I” but focus is on the recipient’s product launch news

Having trouble with your own prospecting emails? Check out the following tips to determine where you need to improve and increase that response rate.

What is email prospecting?

Despite the fact that we’re living in the age of texting and other messaging apps, 8 in 10 prospects prefer communicating with reps over email. Take advantage of this preference through prospecting emails.

Email prospecting is one way to find people (or prospects) who would make great customers; it involves the identification, research, and qualification of prospects for cold emails. It ensures that you’re emailing people who fit your product/service. Email prospecting also gives you valuable info that you can use to personalize current and future messages.

Follow these steps to start your own email-prospecting process:

  • Find email addresses. Marketing is likely sending contacts your way — align with your marketing department on what constitutes a quality lead (it’s helpful to review your buyer personas). Fewer emails sent to qualified recipients are better than blasts of generic emails. In addition to marketing’s efforts, find contacts through places like LinkedIn.
  • Research your prospects. Learn more about each contact through social media, blog posts, press releases, and websites. This research provides another way to qualify the recipient. Thirty-one percent of sellers believe that sending one-to-one emails manually after doing research and customizing the message is extremely effective.
  • Consider the timing. Timing matters when cold emailing contacts. Different studies have shown that Tuesday is the best day of the week to send an email. Also, refer to your research to find an excuse to reach out. If your contact’s company just announced a new product, use the launch as an opening for your email.
  • Use your CRM. Not only does your CRM allow you to keep prospecting emails organized, but it also lets you track their progress. Integrate your email account with your CRM so all conversations are logged and recorded by account.

The main goal of prospecting emails? Get recipients to respond so you can start building a relationship.

Anatomy of a successful prospecting email

While it’s not difficult to compose a prospecting email, it’s just as easy to get it wrong. Although similar to a regular sales email, there are certain parts of prospecting emails that require a bit more TLC. You first need the right framework before composing your email.

Sales Hacker refers to this four-step framework as SP3O — Situation, Problem, 3rd-Party Success, and Offer. You’ll have to rely heavily on your contact research for this.

  1. Situation. First, identify the contact’s buying situation. For example, are competitors of a digital marketing company creating amazing product videos?
  2. Problem. Next, what problem does this situation cause? Maybe the digital marketing company doesn’t have the budget for product videos.
  3. 3rd-Party Success. Outline how you’ve helped other companies overcome the same problem (e.g., your software helped startups create product videos at half the cost).
  4. Offer. Finally, provide the contact with an offer that will help solve their problem — affordable video software to stay abreast of competitors.

Got it? Great. Below are elements that apply to any business email but are especially important for cold outreach when you’re first trying to capture the recipient’s attention:

  • Subject line. Don’t overlook the power of the subject line. Include the word “you,” use no more than 50 characters (Marketo found that using 41 characters is most effective), and customize based on the prospect. Even including the recipient’s name in the subject line can increase your open rate by 22.2%.
  • Opening line. Remember the opening line in the intro? Provide a personalized opening that proves you’ve researched the company and understand their problems. And don’t talk about yourself (e.g., “My name is . . .”) — jump straight into the purpose of your email.
  • Body. Personalized emails are more effective than a one-size-fits-all message (and can double your response rate). Offer something of value that addresses the recipient’s pain point. That said, not every prospect is created equal. Assign prospects different scores (i.e., their value) to determine how much time to spend on their email.
  • CTA. A call-to-action can be simple (e.g., “Click my calendar to set up a quick chat”), but you need to provide the recipient with clear direction on what to do next.
  • Signature. Give the reader one more thing to remember you by, including what you do and who you are. Also include a link your professional social profile.

Also, keep your messages short and sweet (your prospect should be able to read your email in 30 seconds or less). You’ll need to tweak the SP3O framework based on the context of your prospecting email, but the underlying idea and elements stay the same — the email is about the contact, not about how wonderful your product/service is.

Prospecting email templates

If your prospecting emails aren’t performing as well as you would like, customize and adapt the following templates for the use cases suggested to become an Email Prospecting Expert.

Use Case: You’ve received an email address for a potential customer through marketing, gated content, etc. Take that email address, research the contact’s company, and compose an email that speaks to the prospect’s problems. Your first request could be a 15-minute meeting.

Subject Line: Available for a chat?

Hi [Contact First Name],

Love what you guys are doing at [Prospect’s Business]! With all of the startups you work with, do you need assistance with [Pain Point]? Better Bookkeeping Software has helped companies just like yours [Example Company] organize and track customer payment info, even on the go.

Would you be available for a 15-minute chat this week?

Thank you for your time,
[Your Email Signature]

Use Case: If you notice a prospect asking questions online, such as on Quora or LinkedIn, make contact and outline what you know and how you can help. Offer a free trial of your product/service.

Subject Line: Free Trial of Bookkeeping Software

Hi [Contact First Name],

I noticed your question on [Social Media Platform] about the most easy-to-use bookkeeping software and thought I would reach out. [Your Company Name] recently helped [Case Study Company] with [Solution to Pain Point].

Better Bookkeeping Software offers a free trial that can give insight into your current payment operations. Please let me know if you would like to give it a try!

Best regards,
[Your Email Signature]

Use Case: Use this template when you haven’t received a response to your previous prospecting emails. Rather than just “Checking in,” offer resources or answers to common problems; provide value in every email you send.

Subject Line: X blog posts about [Pain Point]

Hi [Contact First Name],

I wanted to share these blog posts that I believe would be really helpful for [insert prospect pain point such as digital invoices].

Resource 1
Resource 2
Resource 3
Resource 4

If you have a minute to check out these posts, I think the info gives great direction on [topics listed in the blog posts]. Let me know what you think.

Best regards,
[Your Email Signature]

Remember that these three templates are meant to act as guidelines — they can’t take the place of your learning valuable information about each prospect and weaving that info into your prospecting emails.


But don’t stop here! Recipients might not respond to your first email — sometimes it takes as many as four follow-ups for a prospect to hit that reply button. Send a series of follow-up email templates!

When the prospect does respond, carefully compose valuable messages as you go through each stage of the sales pipeline. While email is just one part of sales prospecting, it’s an effective method (if done correctly) for driving both sales and customer relationships.

This post originally ran on the Base blog. Please visit if you’d like to learn more about Zendesk Sell.

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