The Outbound Audit: Cold Email Lessons in Clarity and Relevance
Supposedly, the only sure things in life are death and taxes, but if you’re in the business world, you can add “receiving bad sales emails” to that list.
No surprises there. With most professionals fielding 100+ emails every day, a fair few of them must be destined for the trash folder.
At RevBoss, we pride ourselves on effective cold outreach, and we talk a lot about what goes into it, but sometimes what’s “good” is easier to demonstrate with the inverse — so let’s take a second to read this email I got the other day.
What Doesn’t Work
Lack of Relevance
Even if we pretend the targeting was spot-on and I could use the service this email is offering (which I’m not 100% clear about, but one thing at a time), this email does nothing to build relevance.
There’s no nod to my industry, my company, or my title — in fact, the only thing the sender personalized in this email was my name.
We recommend leading with a specific reason for reaching out. Prospects are smart enough to know they’re not the only ones being contacted, but sharing the why behind the email signals that it didn’t go to everyone and their mother — and that you put thought into your list-building.
This sender chose to open with a question instead, which could have been effective if it was coupled with an observation about me or RevBoss. Instead, they played it safe and asked about the importance of adding revenue without any additional context.
No one is going to read it and think, “Actually, I have all the revenue I need.” They were casting a wide net, and it’s obvious.
Generic doesn’t grab attention.
Lack of Clarity
I alluded to it earlier, but this email left me scratching my head about the offer.
A seemingly key value proposition (“…which can save your business time by writing an email proposal to prospective clients”) is buried in the last line and reads like an afterthought.
Up until that point, I thought they were pitching me on a contact database or perhaps marketing help. But then they threw proposals into the mix.
That brings up two things you want to avoid — leaving a prospect confused about what you actually do and waiting too long to tell them what’s in it for them.
Lack of Credibility
Without social proof, I have no reason to trust this sender.
The list of software providers they’ve included could lend some repute if those are formal partners, but that’s not explicitly stated anywhere.
Obviously it won’t always be possible to mention your clients by name in an email or drop in quantitative results, but there are still ways to present yourself as an expert, and this email misses them.
Loose Call to Action
Cold emails can easily come across as pushy or spammy, so I understand why the sender might veer hard in the opposite direction with their CTA. And there is an argument to be made for keeping the call to action loose and pressure-free.
But we think it’s possible to do that while still presenting a very clear next step.
Instead of leaving things so open-ended (“let me know if you want more information”), there’s no harm in suggesting a call. That’s the end goal either way, so it’s better to be direct and give the prospect an idea of what to expect if they reply.
Spelling and Grammar
The errors here are cringe. I could forgive the missing hyphens and commas, and even the odd capitalization at the end of their list, but that wasn’t all.
“How important it is…” should have been “How important is it…”
“We can help you reach out…” should have been “We can help you reach out to…” (or maybe “We can help you reach our…”?).
Senders are human and mistakes happen — but you only get one shot at a first impression.
Not proofreading your email (or using spell check at a bare minimum) sends the message that the conversation you’re asking for wasn’t worth the effort in the first place, and you’ll lose out.
What It Gets Right
This email is short — 108 words start to finish. Even better, it’s broken up and doesn’t look like a wall of text, even when I open it on my phone.
My only complaint is the bullets. It helps that the bulleted items aren’t full paragraphs (we’ve all seen it), but it could easily be shortened or run into a sentence to take up less space.
Conversational is the way to go when you’re sending a cold email, and while this one may not nail it (personalization would have helped with that), it’s not overly stiff, and it doesn’t sound like it was written by a bot.
Little touches, like the use of “anyway” as a transition before the CTA, mimic natural speech and make the sender seem more relatable.
It’s also easy to read. You don’t see a lot of unnecessary fluff or buzzwords, so it doesn’t take much brainpower to process — refreshing when you’re going through a crowded inbox.
What It Could Have Said
Now that we’ve broken it down a bit, here’s the same email with a RevBoss spin.
I’ve obviously made a few assumptions about the sender’s services here, but comparing this to the original, I know which one I’d put my money on.
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