The biggest cold email mistake most people make (no, it's not how it's written)

The biggest cold email mistake most people make (no, it's not how it's written)

A lot of people are quick to notice how a cold email is written, but usually their approach was doomed from the start. Before they even wrote their first word.

In this article, we'll explore practical ways to best tackle cold emails. But before we explore the right approach, let’s first take a look at a cold email Ralph sent. It contains some great examples on how not to go about cold emailing.


My name is Ralph, I work for {{Company}}, a real estate company with over 3 years in the {{City}} market.

I apologize for the cold email but I am reaching out to offer my services as a tenant representative.

My services are free of charge to tenants who are looking to expand their offices or are looking for new space.

I wanted to discuss the possibility of scheduling a phone call with you to discuss how I can be of service and how I can bring value to your organization.

Is Monday or Thursday at 10:00 AM or 1:00 PM a good time? We can chat for a quick 10 minutes.

Yes the cold email is too me-centric. Yes, he didn’t have to apologize for sending the email. But its bigger issue? The overall approach.

Before writing a cold email, it’s important to ask yourself:

  1. Who can I reach out to who would benefit from my product or services right now or pretty soon?
  2. What’s easy-to-find public info that indicates someone would benefit from my product or services right now or pretty soon?

In Ralph’s case, he’s offering to help companies find office space and based on his email, he seems to be targeting any and every company in his city. What happens if they’re ok with their office space right now and have no plans to move? They’ll probably forget about Ralph by the time they are planning to move.

If I was in Ralph’s shoes, before even writing the cold email, I would ask myself "What’s easy-to-find public info that indicates a company may need new office space right now or pretty soon?".

Something that comes to my mind are companies that are hiring for a lot of positions. This indicates their team is growing rapidly so they may need to expand their office soon.


By finding and reaching out to prospects from one relevant source, you can focus your cold email on one of their specific needs or problems that you can help with:

Hey {{Name}},

(1) I saw that you’re hiring for a lot of positions, congrats on growing the team! (2) If it’s looking likely you’ll need a bigger office soon, I can help you find a space your team will love.

(3) I know, why get someone to help when you can search online yourself? Even though ‘office space insider’ sounds a bit dorky, by being one, I know a lot of cool office spaces that simply aren’t listed. For example, I recently helped Jeffy score a high-demand space with a waterfront view because the previous tenant had to leave early.

(4) Would you be open to a 10-min chat so I can learn more about your ideal office? Even if you’re not ready to move just yet, I can keep an eye out for you.

Let's break this email down step-by-step:

  1. By contacting prospects from one relevant source, this lets you use how you found them as your reason for connecting with them. Focusing on one of your prospect’s recently expressed needs gives them a compelling reason to read on and reply.
  2. Briefly describe how you can help them.
  3. Address the most common hesitation your prospects have.
  4. Ask for an initial call framed as a way for you to learn more about what they need so you can further help them.

Here are a few other effective approaches you can use for your cold email and where to find relevant, quality prospects for each.

star-trek-frustrated cold email mistakes

Ask users of competitor products if there’s anything about it that frustrates them

If your competitors are online tools or platforms, you can use Builtwith and Nerdydata to find users. For example, let’s say that one of your competitors is Shopify. Search Shopify on Builtwith and it’ll show you a list of websites that use it.


Builtwith’s free version shows limited results so you can search for the same tool on Nerdydata to get a list of different websites that use it.

Nathan Barry from ConvertKit reached out to potential users back when he first started ConvertKit by emailing Mailchimp users and asking what frustrated them about using it.


Reference an event that’s relevant to your product

Where to find prospects for this approach:

This is is dependent on what your product is so let’s run through an example. Let’s say your product is a CRM like Close. Relevant events Close can reference include:

Trade shows. Attendees spend money going there to connect with potential customers and partners and would benefit from saving contacts they meet to a database and setting up follow up reminders.

A top company releases their annual report on sales statistics. Close can cite 1-2 key stats related to their product features. For example, you can use the statistic “57% of salespeople forget to follow up” to lead into how you can set up automated follow ups with Close.

Referencing a relevant event is how Brian Anderson cold emailed Charlie Liang at Engagio. Brain mentioned Charlie’s upcoming attendance at Marketo Summit to introduce how his product would help Engagio’s sales team follow up with more leads they meet there.

The post-Marketo Summit "follow-up dance" (as you put it):

Hi Charlie,

I know you'll be spending big bucks at the Marketo Summit next month (unless Jon gets you a crazy discount).

I wanted to see if we could help you convert more of that investment into pipeline, by boosting the number of leads that convert into post-event meetings.

To quote your own blog post, poor event follow-up can result in S$$$ of pipeline being left on the table in your best-case scenario, you're only reaching 20% of your leads post-event.

Our app reduces the need for "the follow-up dance" (as you put it) by directly scheduling a meeting into the calendar of your most-engaged prospects (and a hand-picked salesperson), all while on the event floor.

It works something like this:


It's a different approach, but helps filter-out non-leads at the booth. prioritizes your sales team's efforts post-event, and saves your guys from "the dance" with unqualified prospects.

Happy to give you a 15 minute overview if you're interested.


Share data insights the prospect can get from using your product

This is dependent on what your product does so for example, let’s say you’re an influencer marketing platform. You can find prospects who have ran an influencer campaign in the last 3 months.

In your cold email, you can share with them a few influencers who have similar audiences to their customers to show them what your product is capable of and to provide value upfront. We'll annotate the steps we covered earlier.

Subject: These influencers already follow North Star

Hey Prospect,

(1) Congrats on your recent influencer campaigns! (2) Did you know there are also Influential people who already like or follow North Star? Of the people who recently commented on your posts or tagged you in theirs, here are a few of them with the largest social followings (50K+):




(3) I find it's much easier and cheaper to collab with influencers who already know about or like your brand. And their content comes out more authentic. :)

(4) I was able to pull your influential fans using Clout, you can use it to find influential users as well.

(5) Can we find 10-min to chat? Love to learn more about which influencers are delivering the most ROI for you.


Another example. This is how Trey from FullStory cold emailed Kyle from Proposify. Trey recorded himself visiting Proposify’s website using FullStory to show Kyle the insights into user experience you can get from using it.


You made it all the way to the end!
Here are 3 action steps for you:

  1. The first step is not thinking about how to write your cold email, it’s thinking about where to find your prospects.
  2. Ask yourself: "what’s easy-to-find public info that indicates a company may need my product or services right now or pretty soon?"
  3. Find prospects through a relevant source. For example: users of competitor products, users who will be attending a trade show soon, users who ran a specific type of marketing campaign recently. Where you find your prospects sets up your reason for connecting with them, the basis of your cold email approach.

About the author


Sapph Li is an email strategist, sales copywriter, and founder of Art of Emails. She shares cold email and sales email templates using a proven sales system; templates that sound human, provide value, and are super easy to personalize.