Outbound Sales Email: Ultimate Guide for 2024

This is the only guide to outbound sales emails you need to read in 2024. Cold email is at a turning point. There’s more inbox noise than ever. This guide walks you through how to break through it and dominate with your cold outreach.

Dan Moran
2024-01-17

This is the only guide to outbound sales emails you need to read in 2024.

Cold email is at a turning point.

Tactics and best practices that were recently a reliable and predictable way to generate pipeline are no longer viable.

Years of questionable tactics have soured both prospects and the very platforms through which emails are delivered on the practice of unsolicited sending in bulk.

Diminishing results have left many sales teams wondering whether it’s worth it.

Yet when done right, cold outreach can still be a reliable method for growing revenue.

Yes, there is more inbox noise than ever. There’s also a more focused effort to reduce it. But that means there’s also more opportunity for the teams and individuals sending great cold emails to break through the noise.

This guide will explore how to send outbound sales emails that convert in 2024.

You’ll learn why cold email still works despite headwinds, how cold email fits into a broader outbound sales strategy, how to identify and locate good-fit leads, what a great cold email looks like and how to write one, what email deliverability means and how to improve yours, and how to optimize your outbound campaigns.

Let’s dive in.

TL;DR: Key Takeaways

  • Outbound sales emails are still an effective way to generate leads and new business opportunities if emails are personalized and relevant and targeted at the right ICP
  • Cold emails make up one part of an overall outbound strategy that also encompasses cold calling and social selling. A multichannel approach helps most sales reps consistently show up and add value in channels your prospects spend the most time.
  • An outbound sales email strategy works best for businesses with high ACV products that people aren’t actively searching for. Most B2B SaaS companies and some agencies fall into this category.
  • Finding good-fit prospects involves creating a comprehensive ICP and using reputable data providers to locate their contact information.
  • Great outbound emails are relevant, personalized, and authentic. Use simple languages, short sentences, and break up text into paragraphs. Experiment to find a structure that resonates best with your target audience.
  • Email deliverability is critical to outbound sales success—you can’t expect a reply from prospects if they never read your emails. Most deliverability strategies can be implemented by a sales team without specialist outside technical help.
  • Outbound sales strategies are great candidates for optimization due to the high volume of output and the number of trackable metrics. Constant testing and optimization helps you understand what’s resonating with your prospects.

Do outbound sales emails still work in 2024?

The short answer is yes.

The slightly longer answer is yes, cold outreach and outbound sales tactics are still an effective way to generate leads and pipeline. However, the standard outbound processes and playbooks of mass outreach at scale are no longer effective.

Years of shady practices enabled by sequencing tools have destroyed both buyer’s trust in any cold email and the email infrastructure of big brands sending huge amounts of email, much of which goes unanswered or ends up in spam.

The formula for successful outbound is:

Thoughtful, relevant, personalized outreach to people with a genuine interest in the big problem you solve delivered respectfully through solid email infrastructure.

Let’s break that down.

  • Thoughtful, relevant outreach. If your sales introduction emails are going to stand a chance at capturing someone’s attention and getting a response, they need to be hyper relevant and deeply personalized.
  • People with a genuine interest in the big problem you solve. When someone’s looking to solve a business problem, they leave clues. In B2B, these clues are known as intent signals.
  • Delivered respectfully through solid email infrastructure. If outbound sales emails are to be read and responded to, they first need to land in your prospect’s inbox. This is more complicated than it may seem. Successful delivery requires navigating ever stricter requirements from email service providers, and avoiding the mental spam filters of frustrated prospects who ignore anything that’s generic or irrelevant.

This article will explain how to create an outbound sales email strategy that caters to the points above.

How do outbound emails compare to cold calling or LinkedIn?

Email is one outreach method that makes up a broader outbound strategy.

The other channels used to create initial contact with potential customers depends on where those people are typically active. In B2B, communication via email, the first phone calls, and on LinkedIn are most effective.

There is a misconception that one of these methods is better than the others. The reality is that cold calling, cold email, and LinkedIn messaging together are greater than the sum of their parts. It’s about sales reps showing up consistently in the channels in which prospects are active. Cold outreach is more effective when your target audience already knows who you are.

Effective outbound emails

These are often the first point of contact with a new prospect.

High-converting emails are personalized and relevant.The research conducted to make them so can be repurposed to enhance your outreach other channels.

For instance, information that grabs attention in an email can also be a great opener for a cold call.

LinkedIn engagement

Since most B2B buyers use LinkedIn, engaging them there is crucial.

It’s tempting to extoll the benefits of your product or service with a new connection the second you get that notification. But this approach won’t get you far: no one likes being pitch-slapped.

Genuine engagement, the kind that naturally leads to buying conversation, stems from real connections that are forged through non-salesy conversations and by liking and commenting on their posts.

Showing a prospect you’re meaningfully engaging with them earns you the right to ask for a conversation.

Cold calling

Calling prospects can have an exceptionally high meeting rate thanks to the immediacy of the conversation—you can ask for the meeting and get a response right away.

It helps to have developed some rapport with your prospect before making the call. This could be some back or forth over email or on social. It makes you a little more familiar and the cold call a little warmer.

RELATED READING: 2024 Guide to Cold Calling Lead Generation

What businesses does cold email best work for?

Outbound sales or cold outreach isn’t a sustainable growth strategy for all businesses.

Despite common misconceptions, it isn’t free. The labor time, and resources required to run an outbound sales email strategy may not be worth the investment if your product or service can’t support it.

But if it can, outbound emails are a great way to drive leads into the pipeline. Companies with:

  • A high average contract value (ACV) that can support the cost of running outbound.
  • Products or services that are commoditized or that people aren’t actively searching for
  • Early stage businesses acquiring their first customers to get off the ground

Most early stage companies should test cold outreach to validate whether it’s a channel worth committing to. It can be relatively cheap to test a manual outreach process that doesn’t scale and ramp it up and automate it if it works.

💡Tip: Outbound sales emails are most effective for B2B SaaS companies because margins are typically higher. It’s also an effective strategy for other companies with high ACVs and small customer bases, like agencies.

How to find prospects & potential customers

One of the primary benefits of outbound sales emails is that targeting is extremely precise.

Outreach efforts can be focused on specific individuals who fit a given criteria. That criteria, which is made up of characteristics that indicate someone will have long-term success as a customer of your business, is called an ideal customer profile, or ICP.

Defining your ICP is a critical first step in a successful outbound sales strategy.

How to identify your ICP

Painting a clear picture of your ideal customer requires understanding who they are on several levels.

The most basic characteristics are demographic, things like:

  • Job title: Their jobs to be done and key responsibilities.
  • Industry: The segment of the economy they operate within.
  • Location: Where they’re physically located in the world.
  • Company size: How many employees work at the prospect's company.

These are essential criteria to include. But demographic and firmographic factors alone only get you so far in defining a specific target audience. To really nail down who it is you’re selling to, you must consider factors that get to the heart of the pain points they are experiencing and how your product or service can help alleviate those pain points.

The following checklist is a comprehensive list of factors to consider when defining your ICP.

A checklist of factors to consider when defining your ideal customer profile (ICP).

There are two important considerations to keep in mind concerning your ICP:

  1. Your ICP isn’t static. It evolves over time as the market changes.

Companies can often find themselves sticking to a rigid and unchanging ICP even as new data emerges that should lead to adjustments.

The best way to ensure your ICP is still relevant is to regularly review it to ensure it aligns with your most successful customers, company-level objectives, and broader market trends.

  1. The more specific your ICP, the more relevant your outreach.

The purpose of your ICP is to understand the challenges faced by a similar group of people who could, theoretically, benefit from your product or service.

The deeper you understand these common factors, the better you can resonate with them.

While no two VPs of Marketing or Directors of Customer Success will have precisely the same challenges, it’s a safe bet to assume that there are pain points that they share. Speaking to these shared pain points in your outreach goes a long way to resonating with prospects.

How to find email addresses

Armed with a clear profile of who you’re targeting with your outbound sales emails, it’s now time to find their contact information.

For B2B outbound sales strategies to be successful they need to be done at scale. While there are ways to find a prospect’s email address like checking their website & social profiles and even guessing, there’s only really one way to find prospect’s email addresses efficiently at scale, and that is through data providers.

The upside of data providers is that they’re easy to use, and the accuracy of the data is generally pretty good; especially from the more reputable providers.

The downside is they can be pricey. Despite this, it's pretty much the only way to get this information at scale.

Top providers include:

  • Apollo: Boasting 275 million contacts at 73+ million companies, Apollo is one of the largest providers of email data out there.
  • Zoominfo: Generally lauded as the provider with the highest accuracy, Zoominfo lets you search for contact’s email addresses, phone numbers as well as detailed info about the prospect's company.
  • Hunter.io: Hunter is used by 4+ million people, including folks at leading companies like Microsoft and Salesforce. They also have a generous free plan for trying it out.
  • OneShot.ai: Unlike the alternatives above, OneShot.ai pulls data from multiple sources to ensure the highest accuracy. Plus you can also define your ICP, create lists, generate messaging, and reach out—all on one platform instead of bouncing between tools.

💡Tip: If you’re considering buying a list of emails, this post explains why why you should never buy email marketing lists (and how to build yours for free).

Elements of a great outbound email

No two great cold emails are the same. But they all check these three key boxes. Every successful outbound sales email is:

✅ Relevant

✅ Personalized

✅ Authentic and human

Let’s dig into each.

Great outbound emails are relevant

It seems obvious, but one look at your junk folder will reveal the extent to which most cold outreach has no relevance to you whatsoever.

Relevance means addressing and appealing to a challenge, need, or interest that is applicable to your prospect. An effective way to achieve relevance is highlighting recent trends affecting their industry or others in similar roles.

Example: "As Gen AI takes the world by storm, most sales directors I speak with struggle to get their sales reps using AI productively."

If relevance helps capture attention then personalization gets them interested.

Great outbound emails are personalized

Personalization means incorporating elements into your cold email that only apply to the person reading it. The email wouldn’t make sense to anyone other than that specific prospect. It’s one level deeper than relevance as it’s custom and personal to them.

Details like their name, position, and work history are good starting points—it shows you’ve done your research. True personalization stems from an understanding of their unique challenges or interests.

Example: "As the sales leader at a medical technology company, having your team productively use Gen AI while maintaining strict data security and privacy standards must be a top priority for you."

Great outbound emails feel like they’re written by a real person

No one wants to talk to an uptight corporate robot. Excessive use of overly stiff, formal language in your emails makes them seem robotic and impersonal—even if all the right personalization elements are there.

It’s okay (and possible) to be relaxed and conversational while remaining professional. Write the way you speak.

  • Formal: “I noticed your LinkedIn post on effective supply-chain management, which prompted me to reach out.”
  • Conversational: “Your post on warehouse efficiency was spot on.”

💡Tip: Read your emails out loud before you send it. If you wouldn’t say what you’ve written to a prospect in person, change it.

How to write cold emails that convert

Writing good outbound sales emails can seem daunting. But it’s not as intimidating as it appears once you master a few fundamentals.

If you take one thing from this blog, it’s this: keep it simple. There’s no need to use big complicated words or fancy copywriting when clear language will work. Use short sentences and lots of line breaks. And remember, the people reading your emails are human, so write like one!

You have a couple seconds at most to convey your message to a busy prospect. Simplicity is your best chance at doing so. This section delves into the craft of creating effective outbound sales emails that lead to conversations and conversions.

Optimize your subject line

It’s hard to impress the importance of a good subject line. It’s the single most important factor that determines whether or not your email is opened and read.

To help optimize your subject line, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Keep subject lines short; extensive research suggests 1-3 words is optimal. This not only enhances readability on mobile devices but also makes the topic of your message clear and simple which can pique a reader’s interest.
  • Make it sound like an internal email. Style your subject line to resemble an email that might come from a colleague. This makes the email feel more personalized and less like a sales pitch. For instance, use straightforward subjects like "response rates issue" or "end-of-year goals."
  • Clarity and relevance is key. Don’t leave your prospect guessing what your email is about. It’s far easier to just ignore and delete it.

A/B testing is critical to identify the subject line that work best for you. Don’t just assess emails based on a catchy subject line, either—gauge effectiveness by how many people complete the intended action. This ensures you don’t optimize for flashy subjects that get the email opened but don’t actually produce conversions.

Write compelling body copy

A good subject line piques the curiosity required to get the email opened. But the body copy—what you say in the email itself—is where the real work happens.

The words you select here must move the reader to take an action that they otherwise wouldn’t take—like replying to set up a meeting. They must be relevant, personalized, and convincing enough to compel your prospect to do the thing you want them to do.

When writing your emails, keep the following elements in mind:

  • Include a relevant observation that pertains to them, the prospect's company, or others like them with similar roles and responsibilities. These are uncovered during research.
  • State a hypothetical problem that stems from this observation. When done right this problem is either one your prospect knows all too well or may not have thought about before—both outcomes demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.
  • Briefly explain your value proposition. One sentence, maximum. And a short one at that. You need to keep these initial touches focused on them and their pain points. Don’t give into the temptation to pitch your solution in depth yet.
  • Include social proof to show how someone like them is addressing the problem using your solution. Relevancy is key here, as are numbers.
  • Extend a clear call to action. Asking whether they’re interested in learning more, rather than asking for time, has been shown to increase reply rates.

The best outbound sales emails are simple, clear, and concise—typically less than 100 words. The goal of a cold email isn’t to book a meeting or make a sale, it’s to start a conversation.

RELATED POST: Cold Email Copywriting: How to Write Sales Emails That Convert

Sending cold emails

Now you know how to write a killer cold email, it’s time to get them in front of your prospects.

Sending outbound emails can seem like an afterthought, but it’s a critical part of an effective strategy that requires some setup and know-how. This section will explain the concept of email deliverability and why it’s so important, plus how to build an optimal sending cadence.

Understanding email deliverability: How to land in the inbox

Email deliverability is the capacity of your outbound sales emails to successfully arrive in your prospect’s inbox.

What seems like a simple process on the surface is actually quite a complex operation. Email service providers (ESPs) perform hundreds of checks in the microseconds it takes an email to leave an outbox and (if all goes well) arrive in someone else’s inbox. These checks are critical to preventing harmful spam. Deliverability is your ability to successfully pass these checks.

Two factors have outsized influence on deliverability: sender reputation and email authentication.

  • Sender reputation is a score assigned by ESPs that determines an email's deliverability. It's influenced by factors like email volume, bounce and spam complaint rates, recipient engagement, and spam trap hits. Maintaining a good reputation is critical to successful outbound emails.
  • Email authentication is determined by the presence (or absence) of certain validation certificates. These certificates validate the legitimacy of a domain. SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are the main ones, you can read more about them here.

Deliverability can get quite technical and may require expert assistance. But a lot of the best practices are well within the capabilities of sales teams to handle.

  • Send from an alternate domain: If you do incur penalties, this way it won’t affect your company’s primary domain.
  • Monitor your spam rate: Spam rates that exceed 0.3% will result in more of your emails going to spam. Aim to keep spam rates below 0.1%.
  • Warm up mailboxes: Gradually increasing email activity from a new mailbox helps build a good sender reputation. This is known as email warming, and should be done for the first 30 days.
  • Don’t exceed daily send limits: ESPs set sending limits to help prevent spam. Good practice is to send no more than 30 emails per day per mailbox.
  • Plain text only: Images, videos, and links all increase the chance of an email being snagged by spam filters. For optimal deliverability it’s best to leave them out

For a more comprehensive look at deliverability strategies and best practices, check out our ultimate guide to email deliverability for sales pros.

Developing effective outbound sales email cadences

While the effectiveness of automated email cadences has diminished over the past few years, the underlying principle still remains: following up is important.

But there’s a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. The potential for reputational damage to your company and brand by pestering your prospects isn’t worth pushing the envelope.

At OneShot.ai we see the results of hundreds of emails sent through the platform by our customers each day.

A 3-email cadence tends to be the sweet spot for one campaign.

  • Any fewer means your campaign may not be successful simply because your prospect didn’t see your emails
  • Any more can come off as pushy and aggressive. If they haven’t replied after three emails it’s probably because they’re not interested.

Here’s how to maximize the effectiveness of each email:

Add value in each touch

Don’t reply for the sake of replying with pointless messages like “thoughts on my email above?” or “bumping this to the top of your inbox.” This will accomplish nothing other than annoy your prospect and maybe even get you marked as a spammer.

Instead, write each email so it could stand on its own. Test different pain points and value propositions. If you set emails to reply to your fist message, build on the value proposition you develop. Include new elements like case studies and interesting data to make each follow-up to the previous email new and interesting.

Mix up the offer and call to action

Don’t end with the same offer each time, mix it up a little to see what works.

If you asked for interest in your last email, try asking for time. For example: “What’s preventing you from taking 15 minutes to explore this further?”

Don’t give up leads who didn’t respond

They can be recycled and contacted again a few months later. A lot can change, and you may find the timing of your next attempt to be better for them.

Tools for sending emails

The market is awash with email sequencing and automation tools.

Our advice? It’s not worth the risk.

Yes, they give you the ability to operate email outreach programs on a huge scale. But they also promote irresponsible activity that can do serious damage to both your domain and brand reputation.

The mass mass sending of generic emails through automated sequences enabled by these tools simply doesn’t work with modern buyers anymore. Personalization and relevance is table stakes for good outbound. Email sequencing tools allow you to get rudimentary personalization at best.

That’s why we built OneShot.ai, so sales reps can send hyper-personalized messages to every prospect at scale. Check out how we’re building the future of outbound sales right here.

How to measure and optimize results to increase responses

As far as sales and marketing channels go, outbound email is one of the easier ones to measure, test, and optimize. This is due to the high frequency of output and the number of metrics that can be tracked.

The ultimate goal of measurement is to determine if more revenue is generated via a channel than was spent operating it. At the highest level this means comparing the cost for a company to run an outbound strategy or team against the resulting revenue that strategy brings in.

Here are some metrics you’ll want to track when considering the ROI of outbound sales emails.

  • Cost per demo: For ease of calculation for this example, assume it takes an SDR with an annual salary of $60k (which comes out to roughly $30/hour) an average of 10 hours of work to book a demo. That puts the cost per demo at ~$300 (you’ll also need to factor in tools, insurance, and other expenses to get a more accurate figure).
  • Demo to sale conversion rate: On average, one out of every ten demos makes it through the sales cycle to become a customer, giving you a 10% conversion rate.
  • Customer acquisition cost: Following the numbers above, it costs you $3k to acquire one customer. If that customer will pay you $30k over the course of their business, then this is an ROI-positive channel that you can scale up. If they’ll pay less than it cost to acquire them, you’ll need to rethink your acquisition strategy for sustainable growth.
  • Revenue sourced via outbound: How big a contribution to overall revenue does your outbound strategy deliver compared to other acquisition channels? This will help you gauge how important your outbound is to overall new business acquisition.

Key email metrics

Open rate – the number of emails opened compared to the total number sent, shown as a percentage. This metric is key because it reveals how many emails were actually opened and (hopefully) read by your prospects.

Reply rate – The number of responses received compared to either the number of emails sent or the number opened (after all, it’s impossible to respond to an email you haven’t opened).

Spam rate – The number of spam reports submitted by your recipients compared to the total number of emails sent, shown as a percentage. For example, if 3 people out of 3,000 report your email as spam, your resulting spam rate is 0.1%

Action rate – Perhaps the most important metric, the action rate is the number of people who took the desired action. The action is the goal you set out to accomplish by sending these emails such as responses and meetings booked.

How to test and optimize performance

One mechanism serves as the gold standard for optimizing the performance of outbound sales emails.

A/B testing.

A/B testing is the process of taking one variant (A) and comparing it to another (B) in a controlled test. To keep results accurate, it’s important to only test one variable at a time.

For example, an A/B test can be designed to determine which subject line leads to higher open rates.

One email with subject line A is sent at the same time as an identical email with subject line B to the same number of recipients. Because the subject line is the metric being tested, the email with the higher open rate after a given amount of time wins.

This is just one example of how to optimize campaigns with A/B testing. You can also test to find optimal openers, offers, value propositions, calls to action, and pretty much any other factor you can think of—as long as it’s a valid test i.e. you only test one variable at a time.

As you run more and more of these experiments you’ll begin to see patterns emerge. These patterns are now your best practices and can be recorded in your playbook as the standard to which all subsequent campaigns must be run.

💡Tip: OneShot.ai’s advanced machine learning algorithms continually run background experiments to automatically optimize outbound sales email campaign performance. Learn more here.

Send better outbound sales emails with OneShot.ai

Despite the many shakeups affecting how sales teams run outbound sales email campaigns, they are still an effective way to generate new business in 2024.

Yet perhaps the biggest outbound disruptor is the technology whose tremors are being felt across the entire economy: artificial intelligence.

AI has the power to fundamentally reshape how revenue teams run outbound.

The emails that land in prospect’s inboxes are the final step in a very long process. And while human ingenuity is essential to making those emails as compelling as possible, many of the steps that lead up to that end outcome are tedious, dry, and ripe for automation.

That’s where OneShot.ai comes in.

OneShot.ai removes all the manual work of outbound sales so sales reps have more time to craft thoughtful outreach that appeals to modern buyers. Our advanced AI and ML technology reduces the time it takes to:

  • Find high-fit, high-intent leads
  • Conduct account and prospect research
  • Generate hyper-personalized messaging

From hours to minutes.

In short, OneShot.ai helps sales teams combine human creativity with the superhuman efficiency of AI to engage the right person with the right message at the right time, every time.

See how OneShot.ai can help you ditch the manual work slowing you down so you can start prospecting smarter, not harder. Grab your personalized 1-1 demo right here.

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