How To Ignore What School Teaches & Write Killer Cold Emails

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This is a guest post by Nicholas Kleinhuizen. If you'd like to submit a guest post email me with a few pitches and why you think they'd be good fits. Do you have a story of writing killer cold emails that helped you land a job, earn more, or take your career to the next level? I want to hear it. 

You’ve sent hundreds of cold emails and still haven’t received a response. Your manager is breathing down your neck, wondering when you’re going to close the next deal. It seems like you’ve tried everything but you can’t seem to garner the responses you want. The “foolproof” email templates are of no help and nothing seems to be working.

These situations suck.

But the solution is easier than you think.

Remember college writing courses with those 5,000 word thesis papers that required specific formatting and verbose explanations?

Forget all of that stuff. In fact, you can forget anything you learned about writing prior to 9th or 10th grade. Take that thesaurus and throw it in the dumpster while you’re at it.

Very Busy People like things that are easy to read, straight to the point, and provide value.

Directors, VPs, and C level execs get dozens  -- if not hundreds -- of emails a day. They’ve seen every trick in the book. That Hubspot template you’re going to use? They’ve seen it. That cheesy joke people swear by? They’ve heard it. The canned compliment? Snooze.

You don’t need to be original, everyone else is trying to be original. If you’re looking for responses, you need to show VPs and C suite execs that you’re not here to waste time. You need to show them that you have a game plan and that you’re ready to provide value.

If you want to garner responses, you need to learn how to write clearly and with purpose. The first step in achieving this is forming some new habits.

The Essential Toolbox to Get More Email Replies

Before you send out your cold emails, copy and paste them into these two websites. They’re both free and easy to use. Grammarly is a great tool for catching spelling and grammar mistakes. If you tend to use certain words repeatedly, it offers replacement suggestions. Think of Grammarly as your own personal proofreader.

(Zak's note: I actually don't love Grammarly, but that's because I think it gets in the way of the built-in spellcheck on Chrome. It distracts me. If you have a good grasp of working grammar and more want to avoid typos, I recommend skipping it. If grammar can trip you up, go ahead and use Grammarly. Poor grammar in cold emails can sink you quickly.) Ernest Hemingway was a famous writer known for works such as “The Old Man and the Sea” and “A Farewell to Arms.” His writing style is noted for being short, simple, and concise.

The Hemingway app helps writers keep their work simple and to the point which is essential for email correspondence.

To get the most out of both of these apps, try using Grammarly first to catch any general errors. Once you’ve done that, copy and paste your writing in the Hemingway app to simplify and shorten it.

By using both of these tools, you’ll be able to cut down on a lot of your “fluff” and improve your writing.

After using Grammarly and Hemingway for a couple of months, I learned how to get to the point, write simply, and use catch grammar mistakes that I normally would’ve missed. This came in handy for every form of writing, whether it was a freelance blog post or an email to a VP who I was looking to get in contact with.

Actually Get To Know the People You Cold Email

You’ve got your apps in your toolbox and you know to keep your emails short and to the point. Great!

Now, how do we provide value?

Outbound sales is tough. It’s a constant tug-of-war between reaching your numbers and hitting the most relevant individuals.

If you email 200 people from 15 or 20 accounts across 3-4 industries with the same generalized template, you won’t have much luck as far as responses go. Take note that these “mass blast” emails can work for spreading awareness. Think of it as a billboard or flyer.

If you see a giant billboard for Arby’s on your way to work every day, you may be more inclined to go to Arby’s next time you have a fast food craving. Why? Because the billboard puts them in your headspace at a subliminal level.

But that's marketing, not sales. 

Let’s narrow things down further. The next step in this progression is to reach out to specific companies.

Head over to their website and read everything. Google them. Look them up on LinkedIn and find contacts who will be relevant to what you are offering. The goal here is to become as intimate with your prospects’ company as possible. Be sincere.

Depending on what you’re selling or how open the company is about their operations, it can be difficult to find the information that you need. Regardless, you should do as much ‘mystery shopping’ as you can.

If online research yields no results, smile and dial until you get on the phone with someone who can give you the contextual ammunition you need to write a solid email.

Actually Writing Cold Emails

You’ve found a company you want to reach out to and you’ve gathered valuable information. Now for the fun part: writing an email.

What do they want to see in this email?

1. You’ve done your research

2. The problem area(s) you found while researching their company

3. How their problem is affecting them

4. A solution to said problem

5. CTA

Here’s an example of an email I sent that landed me a next-day meeting with the VP of a multi-billion dollar company. He was so impressed by the email that he asked if he could use the same format/strategy with his own sales reps.


Hi {{name}},

(1.) My name is {{name}} from {{company}}, I gave your customer service line a ring last Friday.

(2.) The first thing I noticed was that your front door had 6 options and no intelligent voice recognition.

I did some more digging and pressed “2” for sales and product information, where I was met with 8 more options.

The readouts alone took me a minute to get through.

(3.) Customers don’t want to spend time listening to 14 readouts. They want a natural experience.

(4.) Imagine if customers were greeted with an intelligent front door that asks “How may I help you?” and then brings them to where they want to be, without all the button pressing.

(5.) Let’s have a conversation about the steps you’re taking to improve your user experience.

How does tomorrow afternoon sound?




1. Write simply and concisely, this isn’t a research paper.

2. Be yourself. Stay away from cheesy templates and jokes.

3. Use Grammarly and Hemingway to perfect your grammar and style

Know your prospects as much as possible before you reach out.

5. Write an email that stings and provides remedy: think good cop/bad cop

I'm Zak. I'm a venture capital professional and writer focusing on how to build a great career. You can find my writings here or reach out to me at

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