How to start a cold sales email (besides «hope you are doing well»)

Email openers (preheaders) play one of the key roles in your campaign's open and reply rate. These are the first lines that recipients read opening an email. 

Statista states that email recipients spent around 10 sec on reading each email on average in 2021. And often, they have just 3-5 sec to scan the email and determine its fate. At the same time, 74% of the web page time is spent on the first two screenfuls. 

The best ways to start an email are evolving. Some of them become overused and, hence, don’t capture the recipients' attention anymore. That’s why materials such as this one are evergreen. 

The piece will cover possible tactics to start your email and how to choose the right intro for your audience.

Tips for using subject line and opener together

  • Opener should flow organically from the subject line. For example, 

Subject line: Is the Company in need of the Job?

Opening line: I have some teams for Job that are on hold for now…

  • Don’t repeat your subject line in your preheader. Don’t rewrite it. It doesn’t make any sense and may create the perception that you are lazy.

  • Use cold email intro lines as an extra space to explain what’s inside and catch attention.

  • Some users won’t see your opener because there is a mailbox setting that allows turning it off. So make sure your subject lines are clear without email starting lines.

If you haven’t checked our walk-through on email subject lines — we recommend starting with the piece

Since an opener and a subject line work closely together, some tactics will overlap. 

What should I say in an email opening?

An email opening line typically consists of a short greeting such as «Hello» or «Hi» and the reason for outreach — a sentence about your message. The greeting may be very casual such as «Whats poppin» or very formal such as «I am pleased to extend my warmest greetings to…». Experiment to understand the better way to start your email.

How to start a formal email

  1. Make sure the formal email style is a fit for your audience. Otherwise, you may sound boring → people simply skip your email. 

  2. Pick a formal greeting: Good morning/day/evening, Dear, Hello.

  3. If applicable, use their titles such as Doctor, Professor, or any title of respect as Mister/Miss / alternative to their country.

  4. Formal email opening lines may include the reason you are contacting them, your introduction, and a short description of your company.

Best email opening lines: tactics and samples

  • Tactic 1. Great opening lines based on buying signals
  • Tactic 2. Proof of why you should be taken seriously
  • Tactic 3. Referring to a person they know
  • Tactic 4. Good opening lines based on social engagement
  • Tactic 5. Zero info about the recipient
  • Tactic 6. Acceptable click bate

Tactic 1. Great opening lines based on buying signals

Depending on your potential customers, you can track publicly available info such as their ads, job postings, executive changes, acquisitions, key employees' social engagement with posts on specific topics, funding rounds, etc.

By the way, there are already many tools that do it automatically. So you can go to G2 or Capterra and search «buying intent».

Some samples of such catchy opening sentences:

  • When I talk to {department} leaders growing their teams, they typically struggle with…

  • Looks like you are hiring {job}. 

  • Noticed that you are interested in {problem you solve} — e.g, automating prospecting.

Bonus sample: explain how you relate to the technology they use
Use GetProspect technology filter to have a list of prospects using software you integrate with or your competitor software

Tactic 2. Proof of why you should be taken seriously

I hope any of our readers have something to be proud of. Yet, social proof is more about your recipients.

Consider what facts will command respect, making them interested in checking your email. For instance, large corporations might want their competitor among your customers, some companies would like to see reviews from their industry, or the quantity of the reviews matters.

Here are email opening sentence examples for the tactic:

  • As a Co-founder from your industry…

  • Get to know how {big brand among your customers} solve {problem}

  • {your client} improved its {process} by {relevant metric number}

Tactic 3. Referring to a person they know

It is a perfect situation if you can get a reference or you really had relationships with the person from their company.

Ways to use the email opening line tactic if you don’t have mutual connections

  1. contact 2 and more colleagues simultaneously,

  2. first contact one employee (even if ignored) and then mention that you contact them in the message to another, 

  3. reach out to the less loaded employee from the decision-maker team first and then refer them in the message to the decision-maker, 

  4. ask a decision-maker about their team member, 

  5. refer to the content of their colleague, etc.

  • After speaking with {employee}, he shared that…

  • {colleague} post about…

  • I imagine {employee} can be 2x efficient with the tool.

Tactic 4. Good opening lines based on social engagement

You are lucky if your prospects are socially active. You can leverage their posts, and engagement with your and other users’ posts. Though if you contact them for the first time, a good way to start an email is to focus on professional topics (not how they spent their family vacation this month). 

Don’t limit yourself to Linkedin and Twitter. There may be places with less competition or more common among your targets. For instance, YouTube comments, Instagram, Facebook groups, podcast platforms, even Clubhouse and TikTok. Email opening sentence examples:

  • Could you elaborate on {their opinion from the comment or post}?

  • {catchphrase from the post they’ve engaged with} — e.g. «Just shut up, will ya?»  (from the post telling to shut up and listen to customers on calls). A guy who sent it had 100% opens out of 30 emails.

  • Listening to you on {social media} and understand that I need to share it with you.

Tactic 5. Zero info about the recipient

Sometimes you have no time to research, and sometimes your recipient has no online presence. Still, you may want to prepare a curiosity-arousing preheader. 

  • hope you're enjoying {any activity or phenomenon relevant to current times} — e.g. pumpkin season. 

  • Hope this email finds you sitting next to your plant — pandemic times email opening lines sample.

  • What tools do you use to make such a fantastic website? — show genuine curiosity by asking questions related to their potential problem.

  • This is how I resolve {problem} — share a personal story relevant to your offer.

  • Hi, first name — just kidding I am a real human :) — jokes.

  • Rumor has it you run a small business.

Tactic 6. Acceptable click bate

The tactic involves little curiosity manipulation. Use the email opening line tactic if you have problems catching a prospect’s attention. And use it very carefully.

  • Think this new industry data will be useful. (With some of the numbers in the subject line)

  • It was such an honor to get to meet you both last week. Ok, we don’t meet, but I watched your interview…

  • {their competitor} uses this for {their job}...

Email opening line technical details to take into account

Configure what recipients will see in the snippet of an email from you. Each email provider may have different snippet default settings. I mean, they may show text different from what you expected. 

We recommend checking what is actually included in your snippet when you create your sales email. You can also use the feature to add email opening sentences different from the actual beginning of your email.

Opener length. Most users will see around 50 characters of the opener. 

In the Gmail web app, the longer the subject line, the shorter will be the space for your opening email lines. The space for the subject line and opening in the Gmail mobile app is pretty much the same.

By contrast, the Apple mail app shows your recipients as many as 2 lines (around 100 characters). The number of symbols recipients will see also correlates with the screen size. The users with bigger screens will see more text.

Scale good openers. In case of limited resources or a large market, you can use email automation tools for sending emails this way. Create a variable such as {preheader}, make it unique for each recipient, and leave the body the same. Ensure that the openings relate to the body.

What a good opening sentence for a cold email is

A good opening sentence for a cold email is a short description of how you can resolve a prospect's pain point and what value you can bring. 

In case you work with large deals, research the target company thoroughly and mention how you resolve their specific challenges and what numbers they can potentially have with your product.

Important! Don’t confuse the solution to their problem and your product or service description.

If you put the solution in the email opening line, it is a good idea to specify the problem in the subject line. For example:

Subject line: need another writer? 

Opener: I am a B2B content writer helping companies like yours. 

Here are some examples of good opening lines:

  • We help support teams treat all customer support in one screen

  • I assume {company} needs to gather third-party data for services. Sometimes this requires a proxy server network.

  • We've helped similar online communities {their names} cut the time and cost associated with extracting data, transforming it, and loading it into your data warehouse, all in real-time.

  • We have a platform allowing Team Building agencies to create their own Team Building / Remote Game.

How to begin a cold email for your audience

For sure, we recommend testing various options. Even so, it is a good idea to pick the ways to start an email smartly first of all. Base your choice on your case and audience. Consider the points when choosing the email opening tactic and writing your first sentence of an email:

  1. Tone of voice. Examine how people communicate within the industry you are targeting. E.g. the tone will be more formal with local authorities, more informal in the startup community, and probably very casual among artists and designers. The tone will also be more relaxed if you have a mutual connection with the recipient. Besides, consider how you’d speak with them in an offline setting and keep in mind your brand tone of voice.

  2. Goal. Create the opening sentences for email based on your goal. By this, you set realistic expectations for the recipient and increase the chances of achieving the goal. You may want to sell your product right from the first email, start a conversation, book a meeting, get feedback, etc.

  3. Context. The time of the year, momentous world and industry events, and the recipient company events. All this should influence your opening line because it will make it relevant and urgent → motivate opens and positive replies.

  4. Recipient job factor. Assume how often they get cold messages. I mean, more busy guys with loaded inboxes, such as CEOs, founders, and VPs of successful companies, face too much of popular email opening sentences and see them as «yet another sales email» or spam. At the same time, the options such as «Hope you're staying safe…» might work for people who get far fewer emails. 

  5. Relevance to the email body. Try to keep your openers related to the body. Otherwise, if the message won’t meet their expectations, it may raise negative emotions.

  6. Important words at the beginning of the opening sentence for cold email. Put effort into constructing the sentence that way, so the most catchy words delivering the idea of your outreach are the starters of your sentence.

Summary

  • Create an email subject line with an opener in mind

  • Make sure the recipients will see what you prepare them to see in your email opener → check your snippet settings and the number of characters.

  • Offered opening phrases for email tactics: based on social engagement, buying signals, your social proof, mutual contact, jokes, personal story, and news about their competitor

  • When choosing from offered tactics or brainstorming your own, keep in mind these things: tone of voice, the message goal, recipient context, job factor, relevance to the email body