Want to write better cold emails? Stop listening to experts, and ask your customers for help

by Steli Efti

talktocustomers.jpgYou know email is one of the most powerful tools you have for bringing in new customers, but you just can’t seem to hit the mark. Your open rate is tanking and your responses are non-existent. So what do you do?

You read blog posts, attend webinars, download cold email templates. And sure, they help with the little tweaks and hacks. But there’s one resource you’re forgetting that I guarantee will blow your response rate through the roof.

Better yet, it’s dead simple: Just ask your customers.

I’ve explained this tactic to hundreds of people in private, but this is the first time I’m talking about it publicly. Yet it’s one of the fastest, most foolproof ways to increase the success of your cold emails.

No one will teach you more about how to write winning cold emails than your customers and prospects

But how many people are actually talking to their prospects about this?

The problem is, you jump on a call and before you know it it’s pitch, pitch, pitch. Sell, sell, sell.

I won’t fault you for wanting to close the sale and bring in the money. However, you’re missing a massive opportunity by skipping the foreplay and jumping right into the sale.

Most companies never think to involve their customers and prospects to help them improve their sales process. They only think of them as opportunities to make money. But you’ve already got your prospect on the phone. Now, don’t you want to know why?

So slow down. Take a breath. Thank them for their time. And then before you jump into your pitch, ask this simple question:

“When you received the email from me, what made it stand out to you? Why did you decide to open it and respond?”

And then listen. Take note. And learn.

What you’ll find out by talking to your customers

It sounds too easy. But this one simple question will uncover everything you need to know about how to write a killer cold email.

From what your prospects say, you’ll start to understand:

  1. The best time to send emails: Did you hit them when they first woke up? At the end of the day? Right after an important meeting? Try to get inside their mind and ask them when they saw your email and what they were doing.
  2. The right language to use to get a response: What words and phrases do your prospects keep using when they talk to you? Lead your email with them and see what results you get.
  3. What are their priorities? What was it that got their attention? Was it the features you mentioned? Your pricing structure? Or something less concrete, like how you nailed your description of their pain points?

It won’t always be pretty. And more than a few of your customers and prospects will give you negative feedback. But this is just as important. What parts of your email did they hate? What language felt fake or spammy?

Whatever they tell you, you’re going to learn. And then you’re going to be able to change.

Great. Now what do I do with all this information?

Ask, iterate, analyze, and adjust.

Don’t just talk to one customer and change your entire outreach strategy. You’re looking for patterns in what people say. Once you hear the same thing 5–10 times, you know you’ve got a winner.

Gathering this information creates a never-ending improvement loop where you're never just blindly seeing success. Instead, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing that’s working (or isn’t).

Here’s what that loop looks like in practice:

  1. Send cold email
  2. Get response and schedule call
  3. Ask prospect what worked/didn’t work about your email
  4. Identify patterns
  5. Iterate cold email templates
  6. Repeat

Each pattern you pick out is a chance to get closer to the perfect cold email template for your customers. Keep asking. Keep iterating. And keep improving.

It doesn’t stop there. Ask the people who didn’t respond to or open your emails “why not?”

The people who opened and responded to your emails are the easiest group to try this tactic on.

But you don’t have to stop there. Go a step further and reach out to people who didn’t respond to your email or even those who didn’t open it.

But wait, why would anyone who didn’t open your email want to talk to you?

Sure, it sounds like a lost cause. But here’s the thing: Something magic happens when you ask people for advice.

If you approach people as experts and ask them for help, they know you’re not trying to sell to them right now and will let down their guard. This is when you get the most unfiltered, honest advice that can change the trajectory of your business.

Here’s how that conversation should go:

You: “Hey! I sent you a few emails over the past week. You’re probably not interested, otherwise your would have responded, right?”

Them: “RIGHT!”

You: “I understand and don’t want to waste your time. But we’re a small startup. We’re trying to make it happen. You’re an industry expert, and I was hoping to get some quick advice from you. What was it about my email that made you decide this wasn’t for you? If you were my mentor, what would you tell me to improve in the way I reached out to you?”

Don’t think of a negative response to your cold email as a closed door. Frame the conversation around asking for help and see what happens. These are the people you want to sell to in the future and hearing their needs and opinions now will be invaluable as you grow.

Use this strategy for all your communications. Not just emails.

I’m sure you get the idea by now. But the last thing I want to say is that this strategy works for all sorts of things. Not just emails.

For example, let’s say you ran a webinar and asked people to sign up for a trial at the end. You could contact the people who didn’t sign up and say:

“I saw you didn’t start a trial after our webinar. I just wanted to ask what it was that interested you about the webinar? What about our messaging made you not want to look into this more deeply?”

All you have to do is ask the question and listen.

Let me know if this works for you

This is a powerful strategy that I’ve been personally using for years and I want to know how it’s working for you.

Give it a try on your own customers and prospects! Remember, your customers and prospects are a rich source of information. All you have to do is ask.

 

Want to create cold emails that generate hot leads? Download our free, customizable cold email templates right now:

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