Cold Email · · 9 min read

How To Start An Email: Examples and Free Templates

Learning how to start an email is essential for grabbing the attention of your prospects. Here's our guide on how to persuade and engage. 

how to start an email

Prospecting, qualifying, and segmenting all culminate in the first email you send. Impressions last, especially in cold email outreach. You need to learn how to start an email. 

The first lines must be persuasive, engaging, and personalized before prospects consider your offer. That’s a lot to pack in just a few sentences, but it can be done systematically and at scale. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to write persuasive, engaging, and transformative email copywriting right from the get-go. Let’s get started! 

How to Create Strong Opening Lines In a Sales Email at Scale

Every email marketing blog will tell you to “start with a strong opening line.” That’s a pretty vague description. And not every opening line works for all businesses.

If you want to create a strong opening line tailored to your business and audience, consider the following best practices:

Use Personalization Backed with Lead Intelligence

As mentioned, emails with engaging, persuasive, and personalized opening lines help make a great first impression. You can write opening lines like these at scale with lead intelligence

Instead of relying on {{first name}} to personalize, you can include specific company updates, industry news, or pain points common to companies with particular tech stacks. 

You can source this data from lead intelligence tools, CRMs, or forms from surveys or lead capture pages. Then, integrate the data into your email copy.

The standard loop is Prospecting, Lead Intelligence, and automated Email Copy. Instantly B2B Lead Finder gives you all three.

You can find leads that fit your ICP, see relevant data about your prospect, and automatically add the information to your email copy with Instantly’s editor.

Include Your Reason For Emailing

CTAs give your prospects direction on what to do next—but what do you want to do? Prospects can spot a cold sales email even with all the personalization.

The question now becomes: Does your reason for emailing a prospect provide them value? You’re likely emailing a prospect in the hopes of getting a sale.

But why that prospect precisely? Do they have an urgent need for your product or service? Are there undiscovered pain points that prevent them from achieving their goals? 

Ensure you have a strong reason why a prospect is a good fit. Don’t manufacture problems. Use discovery calls to gain a deeper understanding of how you add value. 

Enrich Lead Lists Manually or With Tools

There are ways to automatically scrape relevant prospect information from LinkedIn or their website to enrich your lead list and hyper-personalize your emails.

Technical knowledge is also required to integrate all the automation and enrichment tools into your email campaign. If you want to utilize automation fully, you'll need a developer. 

Instantly users can use our API and play around with custom lead variable sets to enhance lead data for targeted cold outreach. But if you’re just starting, you can always do manual research.

Go to your prospects’ LinkedIn, find the content they interact with, what they post, and any relevant information you can gather.

For example, you saw a potential prospect commenting on a LinkedIn post about XYZ. You can include something relevant to their comment in your intro. Just ensure that it provides value. 

What's the Purpose of the Email?

best way to start an email

Now that we know what makes a strong opening for a sales email, we need to understand the context of the email's purpose.

Are you sending a cold email, a follow-up, or a nurturing email to a prospect further down your pipeline? Here’s a look at the popular ways to start an email in different business scenarios. 

How to Start a Cold Email

Most cold emails fail after prospects read the first few lines. You must write email copy that resonates with what people care about most—themselves. 

Everything from the sales introduction to your CTAs should be relevant and personalized to your prospect, their company, and the problems preventing them from achieving their goals. 

Before writing email copy, consider the prospects’ current and future states. Remember that you don’t know the whole picture. Don’t assume prospects are already looking for XYZ solutions.

Let’s say you start your cold email with “Our product can automate {{daily task}}.” What if your prospect already has an automation tool? They’ll likely ignore your email or say, “No thanks.”

Here’s an example of what you should be doing when you write the first lines of your cold email: 

“Hey, {{first name}}
I saw {{prospect’s company}} just hit {{milestone}}. Awesome work! Always great to see startups breaking through their plateaus.
I'm reaching out because {{your company}} helps startups like yours who just hit {{milestone}} scale to {{goal}} through {{service}}. We just helped {{competitor}} reach {{goal}} in {{time}}. 
I have a general outline of how we could help {{prospect’s company}}. But I’d love to know more about {{prospect’s company}} so I can tailor a strategy to fit your exact needs. 
Do you have time this quick for a quick call? 
Thanks in advance, 
{{your name}}”

In this example, the cold email starts with a relevant introduction (the company milestone). Next, it clearly states your intention to help prospects who’ve hit a certain milestone scale to a specific goal. Finally, the email asks if the prospect has time for a call to understand their needs further. 

How to Start a Cold Email Follow-up 

You’d need several touchpoints before a prospect converts to a sale. Some prospects take at least 3 to 4 follow-ups before responding.

Ensure follow-up email subject lines are optimized. Poor subject lines are one of the main reasons why prospects don’t open your emails.

When starting a cold email follow-up, explain why you’re reaching out. Think of it as starting from scratch.

Cold email follow-ups aren’t an extension of a sales pitch. Follow-ups serve as gentle reminders and reinstate your original request or value proposition. 

Don’t consider your follow-up email copy an extension of a sales pitch. Follow-ups serve as gentle reminders and reinstate your original request or value proposition. Here’s an example:

“Hey, {{first name}}, 
Have you looked into {{service}} to help {{company name}} reach {{goal}}? If you haven’t, that’s completely understandable!
But I wouldn’t be reaching out again if I knew that {{your company}} wouldn’t be a fit with {{prospect’s company}}. I’d love to hop on a quick call to show you {{value proposition from previous email}}. 
Best regards,
{{your name}}”

The follow-up works because it recontextualizes the initial email. It also shows you’re confident your prospect’s company perfectly fits your solution. You also emphasize your original value propositions at the end of the follow-up. 

Starting an Email Intended to Build Rapport

Building rapport and establishing a relationship results in prospects trusting you more. The nurturing cycle is longer, but the pay-off is highly interested leads ready for conversions. 

Instead of reaching out as a salesperson, you’re reaching out as a potential advisor. You’re sending emails to prospects to provide value and help solve pain points, not to sell.

This leads to genuine connections. Relationships with prospects built on authenticity create more loyal customers willing to recommend your product or service to peers. 

To build rapport in your email, start by sharing anecdotal stories contextualized in a way relevant to your prospects’ needs. Here’s an example of it in action:

“Hey {{first name}}, 
Congratulations on hitting {{milestone}}! We were in that exact position a couple of years ago and have since scaled to {{goal}}. Just wanted to share a couple of articles and guides that helped us reach our goals in just a few years. 
{{article 1}}
{{article 2}}
{{article 3}}
{{article 4}}
{{article 5}}
These gave us a good outline of what to do when we hit {{milestone}}. I’m hoping these will help you as well! Let me know if you want to ask anything specific about how we achieved {{goal}}. I’m more than happy to help! 
Best regards,
{{your name}}”

The email builds rapport because it starts with a personalized introduction. Then, you’re relating to something relevant and vital to your prospects. Finally, you’re not asking for a meeting to sell. Instead, you’re opening the doors for further conversations about how to achieve a goal. 

How to Start an Email That’s Friendly and Professional

You don’t want to sound too robotic in your emails. That’s why your email copy needs to strike a balance between friendly and professional.

This applies to your subject lines, salutations, and value propositions. Here’s an example email you can use as a template:

“Hey, {{first name}}, 
Hope you had a great weekend! Just wanted to circle back with you on our proposal for {{service}} for {{propsect’s company}}. I’m confident that we’re a perfect fit. 
{{your company}} has helped {{competitor}} get {{benefit 1}}, {{benefit 2}}, and {{benefit 3}} using our systematic approach to {{pain point}}. If you have the time, I’d love to show you our exact process and how it can be tailored for {{prospect’s company}}. 
Are you free to chat this week? 
Thanks in advance,
{{your name}}”

The Best Start to a Persuasive, Short Sales Email

The consensus for sales emails is to keep them short and sweet. But how can you be persuasive and engaging in just a few lines? You use the QVC formula. Start with a question, present your value proposition, and finish with a strong CTA. 

“Hey, {{first name}},
I was wondering if you already have an automated prospecting solution for {{company name}}? 
{{your product}} lets you find prospects that match your exact ICP, gather timely, relevant info on them, and send personalized emails at scale. 
{{competitors}} already used {{your product}} to grow to {{monthly revenue}}. Do you think you’d be interested in a quick demo? 
Best regards, 
{{your name}}” 

How to Start a Hyper-Personalized Sales Email

Email marketing is full of generic, spammy, cold sales emails. The not-so-secret key to getting above the fold is hyper-personalization. Go beyond first, last, and company names. 

Visit your prospect’s website. Look at their LinkedIn. Find who they follow on social media. Gather all the information that you could use to help position your value proposition. 

This takes a lot of time and effort. However, it can be automated with the right tools and done at scale for a relatively low cost. 

For example, you can source pre-verified leads with Instantly B2B Lead Finder. Then, enrich those leads with information from web scrapers like Clay. Here’s what that email would look like. 

“Hey, {{first name}},
I stumbled on you while reading your guest article on {{topic}} on {{website}}. First of all, great insights! {{article quote}} will definitely be a mantra of mine! 
I’m reaching out today because after reading your article, I checked {{prospect’s company}}’s website to read more of your content and noticed {{pain point}} that may be affecting site speed. 
It’s something your developers could easily fix! Just giving a heads-up! If you don’t have developers on your team, {{your company}} focuses on {{service}} and can help with that. 
Hit me up anytime if that’s something you’re looking into soon. 
Best regards,
{{your name}}”

Starting an Email With an Icebreaker

Starting with email icebreakers can be tacky. But if they're relevant to your prospect, they might work! You can be complimentary, lead with a joke, or comment on shared interests. 

An effective icebreaker requires a lot of personalization. So, before writing your email copy, ensure you’ve researched your prospect. For example, if you find a prospect on LinkedIn and they also have links to socials like Twitter, go check it out. 

Their recent tweets might include something you can work with. A recent sporting event, a reply that caught your attention, or a thread they created. Here’s an example:

“Hey, {{first name}}, 
{{prospect’s favorite sports team}} might’ve lost the {{event}}, but {{prospect’s company}} shouldn’t lose the chance to connect with high-value leads. 
{{your company}} provides {{service}} that helped {{competitors}} create more sustainable, automated sales pipelines.
Would this be something you’re looking into? 
Kind regards,
{{your name}}”

Key Takeaways

Learning how to start an email ensures high open and reply rates for outbound campaigns. Emails, regardless of their purpose, should have strong opening lines.

It helps your email be more persuasive and engaging. To recap, here’s how to start an email optimized for conversions:

  • Leverage lead intelligence, enrichment, and personalization
  • Always include your reason for emailing
  • Provide value in every part of the email, especially in the introductions
  • Try out the QVC method (Question + Value proposition + CTA)
  • Use automation tools to streamline and automate email copywriting at scale.

Start your emails strong through hyper-personalization with Instantly and B2B Lead Finder. Try it out today! 

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