A Cold Email Formula That Gets Responses and Generates Leads

Being the founder of a company that specializes in cold email, we have seen everything that works and all that doesn’t. By “works,” I mean emails that generate responses and leads.

We have several different formulas for cold emails, but one in particular we call the “QVC” formula.

  • Q = Question
  • V = Value prop
  • C = Call to action (CTA)

Related Article: The Magic Formula That Takes Leads to Sales

Example of a Cold Email That Works

Start With a Question

Don’t worry about introducing yourself or explaining why you are contacting them because the first sentence in a cold email is what people will read in their preview panes and if they’re looking at it on mobile.

If you are introducing yourself, they know you are trying to sell them something and this can decrease your open rates significantly. We have seen anywhere from an 8 to 15 percent drop in open rates when using introductions.

Instead, get right to the point and ask a question which pertains to what you offer.

A Short Value Proposition

You absolutely cannot give a detailed description about how great your company is. You need to nail this in one sentence (two at the absolute max).

This is the point where most people lose the prospect because they ramble on about all the features and benefits of their solution. Don’t be that person.

When appropriate, try to replace “we” with “you” and phrase things that way. If you do need to include “we” try and use “I” instead so that it feels more personal.

Close With a Simple Call-to-Action

Often times, I get a gold email and I have no idea what they want me to respond with.

When you close out your email, it needs to be blatantly obvious what to do next. Instead of saying something like, “Do you have any time to chat?” You could say, “Do you have 10 minutes in the next couple of days so I can further discuss this with you?” 

You could also take it a step further and say, “Does 10:45 AM tomorrow work for you?” However, if you are doing any cold email at scale, putting a specific time won’t work very effectively and so I typically advise against doing this. 

Related Article: Ninja Sales Tactics: Showing the Sales Funnel Who’s Boss

Best Practices

  1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Imagine your customer just received an email from your competitor and immediately received your email next. How are you going to differentiate yourself?

  2. Don’t Use an Introduction: This goes against what you’ll hear most people say, but unless you were referred by someone on their team, then skip past this. Smartphones and email preview panes capture that first line of your email to show them so you need to nail not only the subject line, but also that first sentence.

  3. Put All Contact Info in Signature: You need to include your address when sending cold emails, so you might as well use your signature block to do this. This keeps it professional and complies with CAN-SPAM laws.

  4. Close with a Question: In the example above, I asked them if there were any types of businesses they were looking for. Their response to this question allows me to get to the next level of the discussion.

  5. Include a Way Out, But Not an Unsubscribe Link: You have to provide a way for people to opt-out of receiving more email, but this does not mean it needs to be an unsubscribe link. This takes away the personalization so I don’t recommend using a link, but instead just let them know they can reply and ask to be removed in a P.S. below your signature.

  6. Test Your Messages: The three important metrics to look at are open rates, response rates and leads generated. Low open rates, means you need a better subject line. Low response rates means your message is not resonating. No leads could be a number of factors outside your control, but you will want to start with your value proposition.

  7. Consistency: Sending 50 cold emails isn’t enough. Sending 500 cold emails isn’t enough. You need to try and send out at least 25 to 50 per day over a month in order to have enough data to make the adjustments mentioned above in #6.

Related Article: Cream of the Inbox: Small Businesses Doing Email Marketing Right


Quick, to the point, cold emails will win out.

Response rates start decreasing if you go beyond 5 sentences—in your whole email. So I recommend 3 to 4 sentences for your cold emails. If you follow the QVC formula, your emails will fall right in line with best practices.

One sentence for your lead in question. One to two sentences for your value proposition, and then close it with one question which leads the recipient to an obvious next step.

Follow the QVC formula to increase your response rates and generate more leads.

What strategies have you employed in your cold email outreach?

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