Even if your inbound marketing is helping you spark warm conversations with qualified leads, you still want to be sending carefully targeted cold emails to convert your ideal customers.

This checklist is based on a guest post we received from Forster Perelsztejn at; an essential part of Forster's job is helping customers craft cold emails that get clicks and replies. He's seen a lot of them in his time. There's one thing he can say with certainty:

Most cold emails are terrible. Only 1.7% get a response.

And that's because sales people don't follow best practices.

In this checklist, you'll work through a series of proven steps that will help you optimize your cold email to get the best chance of conversion before you hit send.

Write a clickable subject line

The first thing a recipient sees is your email's subject line. If you don't write a good one, it'll be the last thing they see, too.

According to's Forster Perelsztejn, you have two choices:

  1. Very short and to the point (3-25 characters)
  2. Longer but specialized (86-111 characters)

See this list of 39 battle-tested cold email subject lines for inspiration.

Check your subject line against the following criteria:

  • 1
    Be direct and let them know what's inside
  • 2
    Avoid all caps, exclamation points, and dollar signs (stay classy)
  • 3
    Avoid spam trigger words (but beware of context)

There are hundreds of spam trigger words. While they usually depend on context and email platforms are very good at figuring out what is and isn't spam, be careful. Phrases like "limited time", "order today", and "this isn't spam" can get land you in the spam box.

See this list of 455 spam trigger words for more information.

Check the sender field

Any legitimate business will send cold sales emails from a custom email address like — not something like

Check you are sending the email from your work account, not your personal account. This helps you look professional and avoid the spam box.

Keep it under 130 words

According to a study on the full sales outreach sequences of the top 281 SaaS companies, the average length of a sales email is 129 words.

Would you read a massive essay from a sender you don't recognize? The main point of a cold email is to get a response. Once you and the recipient are familiar with each other, you'll get more of a chance to share richer information and send longer emails.

For now, keep it brief.

A short sales email from Base. See the rest of their outreach sequence here:

Be specific and attention-grabbing

This is the part where it really pays to have done your research.

To make a cold email enticing, it should instantly seem relevant to the reader. Since it's possible to blindly blast impersonal emails to thousands of prospects, prospects will assume that's exactly what you have done.

Show them otherwise and include at least one of the following:

  • 1
    Data you know they'll be interested in
  • 2
    A mention of content they recently published
  • 3
    A milestone the company has recently hit
  • 4
    A benefit directly related to their business

State why you're reaching out

This prospect made it on your list for a reason.


This relates to the previous step where you will have stated something specific and relevant to the prospect, like how you saw they recently secured Series A funding.

Why, with that information as context, are you emailing? Tie the context to the benefit.

In Process Street's Inside SaaS Sales study, all emails studied were sent in response to a demo request. Most emails included some reference to that context, to remind the prospect and give a good reason to be emailing:

Instill trust

At first contact, the prospect has no idea who you are. A fast-track to trust is to show some kind of third-degree connection.

Can you include:

  • 1
    The name of a mutual connection
  • 2
    The names of widely recognizable customers
  • 3
    The names of customers you know the prospect also has a relationship with

Include a single call-to-action

The #1 goal of a cold email is either:

  • Get a reply
  • Get a click

The best way to get a reply is to ask a question and indicate you would like to hear back.

The best way to get a click is to include a single, focused call-to-action link.

Make sure you:

  • 1
    Include only one call-to-action
  • 2
    Ask directly for what you want
  • 3
    Reduce friction (don't link your call-to-action to an 80-step form)

Make sure the email is personal

Don't make it look like you're mass-emailing a list. Show that you've taken the time to handpick relevant prospects, and share your prospecting research to hook them in.

Use their name and company name, and include a reference to something hyper-specific and personal to them or their company.

  • 1
    First name
  • 2
    Company name
  • 3
    Mention of something specific to them


Let's assume everything went well and your email made it into the main inbox of your prospect...

But, if it didn't, there are a number of things to check.

  • Is your email service provider (ESP) reliable?
  • Have you updated your SPF setting, thus authorizing your ESP to send emails through your IP?
  • Have you tested your email with
  • Have you checked if your IP is blacklisted with MXToolbox?
  • Have you validated the email address is recent and correct?
  • Have you removed attachments? They are red flags for spam filters.


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