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Cold email outreach strategy we use to generate B2B leads

Precious Oboidhe
Precious Oboidhe
Reading time:15 m

For the vast majority of businesses that use cold emails in their sales outreach strategy, the aim is to generate revenue through high-quality appointments. At Belkins, we’ve been doing this for clients for 6+ years.

When we started as a cold outreach agency in 2017,  our vision was pretty straightforward — to work with at least ten companies monthly.

Fast-forward to 2023, we’ve surpassed that goal by 18X, work with 180 clients monthly, and we’ve grown our revenue by 20X.

Chart About Belkins Monthly Client Growth

Overall, we’ve had a pretty good run and still do. 

In this post, we’ll spill the beans on all-things cold email so you can start generating leads and closing deals. You’ll also get some B2B cold emails and sequences we’ve used for selling to C-level executives that helped us win leads worth thousands and millions of dollars.

Before diving in, let’s see why cold emailing should be core to your sales outreach strategy.

Why do cold email outreach?

As a founder, sales leader, or marketer in a B2B company, there are many reasons to consider using cold email outreach to find leads. Here are some of them:

1. You sell a high ACV product and want to generate revenue fast

If you sell products that have a high annual contract value, waiting to get leads organically may not be your best bet. Why? The B2B sales cycle is incredibly long. 

A benchmark report by Dreamdata shows that leads require about 233 days (1 to 8 months) to go from first-touch to purchase.

B2B sales cycle

Add the time for creating content that attracts these leads and you may need many more months. To top the long sales cycle, you risk losing leads as the days go by.

According to 2,500 respondents in the State of Outbound Report by Belkins, 14.5% say their lead wasn’t a fit because competitors already engaged them. So if you want to get leads, consider acting fast by doing cold email outreach.

2. Potential customers may have a vendor list that doesn’t include you

Bain & Co. recently surveyed 1,208 people who buy software, cloud hosting, hardware, telecommunications, logistics, marketing, and industrial equipment.

Here’s what they found:

  • 80% to 90% of respondents create a vendor list before doing any research
  • 90% of respondents purchased products from a vendor on their list
  • Great experiences increase the odds of patronizing a vendor again
  • Buyers rely on recommendations from their colleagues 

Chart about how b2b buyers buy

Popular companies that get customers through word of mouth may be ecstatic at this data. 

On the flip side, if your company is new or not well-known, people may not recommend your products and you may not make it into your prospect’s list. This can reduce your chances of getting customers and cause sales to decline. Fortunately, cold emails can help you upturn these, reach new customers, and become better known in buyer circles. 

3. You sell products customers don’t search for online

Customers may not be searching for your products online if you’re in a niche B2B market. Even if you write content to rank on search engines, the results may still be abysmal.

Take Sekisui Products LLC, for instance. As a division of Sekisui Chemical in the United States, Sekisui Products LLC is a Japanese plastics manufacturer with head offices in Osaka and Tokyo. The company owns 200+ subsidiaries and is a market leader in the sale of interlayer film, foam products, conductive particles, soundproofing materials, and other products.

Now the question is, will a busy B2B executive search online for Sekisui’s products like its Calmoon sheet (for Architecture), Calmoon sheet (for ships), and Calmoon sheet (for Railway cars)? An emphatic ‘no.’ Semrush keyword research data confirms no one searches for these terms.

keyword research data showing zero for calmoon sheet

So how can Sekisui sell their products? They have to create a sales outreach strategy. In fact, by using cold emails to set up appointments, they booked a call with General Motors, which is one of their dream clients.

📚 Related Post → Sekisui Products LLC seals 21 appointments (6 with dream clients) in 4 months

How to set up an effective cold email outreach campaign

If you segment your audience, personalize emails, avoid sounding like a robot by customizing cold email messages, and place your prospects’ needs over your sales pitch, you've grasped the gist of our outreach strategy. Let’s break it down into the steps we use for creating effective campaigns. 

Step 1: Do thorough ICP research

Before using cold emailing in your sales outreach strategy, you need to answer this question — “Who are my potential customers?” A vague response, such as ‘software companies’ or ‘companies that sell real estate services’ won’t cut it. You must get specific by creating an ideal customer profile.

An ideal customer profile is the foundation for a successful sales outreach strategy. Creating one helps you make the best use of your time because you’ll be finding leads most likely to convert.

To find your ICP, get clear on details like:

  • Lead location: Identify the region or country having leads that suit your business
  • Company size: State the employee count of companies suitable for your product 
  • Revenue: Note the revenue range of businesses that can buy your product
  • Industry: Name the specific industries you work with

This list is non-exhaustive. However, it’s an excellent starting point for finding your ideal customer. When creating your ICP, collect data from sources like your CRM, social media platforms, and customer interviews.

Here’s an example assuming you’re using a CRM.

  1. Open your CRM
  2. Get the email of a customer or prospect (e.g. precious@customercompany.com)
  3. Google the location of ‘customer company’
  4. Search for the revenue of ‘customer company’
  5. Search for the company size of ‘customer company’
  6. Check LinkedIn to know the job title of the customer/prospect from ‘customer company’

Following this process for other customers or prospects will help you identify patterns. For instance, if 80% of your customers are based in the USA, you can create an ICP profile that targets USA-based leads. If you find that most of your customers are enterprise companies with 100+ employees, this should go into your ICP as well.

Step 2: Find and verify contact data

After preparing your ICP, you need to find their contact data. Here are three ways to do this:

  • Use web scraping and email finding tools

Web scraping and email finding tools are great resources for finding and verifying the emails of leads. Tools like Aeroleads let you find leads from LinkedIn or conduct a bulk lead search.

VoilaNorbert, Hunter, Snovio, Wiza, and Lusha are similar tools that function the same way. You can also use these tools alongside the LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

  • Sales intelligence platforms

A more sophisticated, but pricey approach is to subscribe to a sales intelligence platform like ZoomInfo, Visual Visitor, LeadFeeder, Overloop, and UpLead. These platforms are huge databases with advanced search and filtering features.

With the profile of your ideal customer behavior at hand, prospecting time will reduce thanks to buyer intent data, website visitor ID, and extensive website analytics features.

  • Outsource the process

If you lack the time to use the above tools, you can outsource the finding of lead contact data to third parties. But… be careful who you partner with! 

Buying an inaccurate email list from a shady vendor will make your salespeople waste time on unqualified leads that won't close. So if you’re working with an agency or a freelance platform like UpWork, ensure you choose vendors who work with your ICP and can customize your B2B lead search.

Stay away from those with questionable data collection methods so you don’t breach the Terms of Service of your email service provider. If you do, some contacts may mark your emails as spam, you’ll damage your email reputation, and your future emails may keep entering the spam folder of your contacts. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

Step 3: Do lead segmentation

Sending personalized cold emails to a few tens of leads is practical. But if you’re emailing hundreds or thousands of leads, individual email personalization won’t work. What you can do is to segment your lead contact list.

Lead segmentation lets you group contacts based on criteria like age, gender, job title, industry, seniority level, past purchases, buyer intent, or geographical location. This is a part of what the Belkins team did to generate a closed lead worth $1.5M for Driveline.

The managers of Driveline’s account — Alisa Rassadina and Maria Filimonova — puts it this way: 

“To achieve the best results while delivering a personalized offer, we split Driveline’s ICPs into 2 segments: retailers and brands. We then drilled down again and divided each segment into previous and new clients before sending them customized messages.”

By creating custom messages, you have multiple email sequences that could perform better than one generic email that doesn’t distinguish between titles, software use, website visits, and so on. 

Put another way, if you segment your lead list, your emails have a better chance of converting and you could make bank.

Step 4: Nail your value proposition

Your value proposition makes you different from others. It provides leads with the logic they need to take action or trust you to deliver. Let's say the Belkins team is targeting sales leaders who are hiring SDRs. One of the pain points of these sales leaders is the time-consuming hiring process.

alue proposition for sales outreach with pain points and solutions

A cold email with a value proposition that tackles this pain point can look like this:

Subject line: Does {{Company}} have capacity for new paid users? 

{{FirstName}}, we saw you’re hiring SDRs at {{Company}}.

As a lead gen company with 50+ SDRs, we know how time-consuming the hiring process must be for you.

To keep your lead pipeline full and enable your new hires to focus on closing, we’re curious if you’d like to leverage the expertise of our SDRs who have generated over [number] qualified leads in the {{Lead industry}}.

Would this be useful to {{Company}}?

You see that. In two paragraphs, this cold email shows instant value, uses industry-specific terms, acknowledges the pain point, focuses on what the lead wants, and quantifies previous results of the vendor.

When using your value proposition, ensure you reflect outcomes. Don’t say how brilliant your tool or solution is and describe its great features. Instead, explain the outcome of using your product. This way, you build a connection with your leads and they may want to respond to your cold email.

Step 5: Write valuable cold emails that can convert

No one likes to read boring and salesy emails. An email that adds no value. An email that requires too much effort from the lead. But guess what? Busy people always get such emails. And yes, they trash them, too. To ensure leads open and respond to your cold emails, here are some things you can do:

  • Use an excellent email subject line

Email subject lines are often under ten words or 60 characters. Yet, they play a key role in convincing leads to click your email — meaning, generic subject lines are a non-starter. To write a captivating subject line, you can personalize it using the lead’s name, company, and so on.

While you are at it, avoid email spam words like cash, deal, miracle, free, etc. These words can cause your emails to land in spam folders. To confirm your subject line is spam-word-free, enter it into the Folderly free spam checker.

Folderly email spam words checker

  • Employ social proof

Cold audiences are like rocky ice glaciers. Sending them a basic cold email is like trying to break a glacier with two liters of gas. It won't work. But if you turn on the heat with social proof, the defenses of your cold audience could melt and you may get a response.

For instance, in the example I mentioned earlier, there are two social proof elements. The first: we have 50+ SDRs — meaning we have deep expertise in what we do. The second: we’ve gotten results for another company in the same industry.

social proof example for sales outreach strategy with cold email

  • Leave pitching for the next time

A cold email outreach is an attempt to contact an unknown prospect and a total stranger. Instead of pitching your solution in the first email, focus on being empathetic, concise, and valuable. This can mean a personalized remark from you, a snappy introduction of your company, or a quick explanation of the value the prospect can get from your solution. The point is to show that you can help.

📚 Related Post → Best Cold Email Templates for Sales Teams

Step 6: Set up your cold emails for success

So your cold email is locked and loaded. You want to send it with your marketing automation tool. Before hitting send or schedule in your marketing automation software, ensure your email ticks these boxes.

  • The ‘From’ line

We recommend you use personal names in the ‘From’ line. The reason? They appeal more to people and make it easy for customers to connect with your brand. Think about it: are you not likely to open an email from michael@company.com opposed to ‘info@company.com? Your cold audience will likely do the same.

Also, ensure you use a business email account with your company’s domain name. Using a popular and free email service provider like Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL looks amateurish.

  • The first line

Email apps and desktop mail clients tend to show the first sentence of your message in the recipient’s inbox. That’s another opportunity to catch a prospect’s attention and keep the interest you ignited with your subject line.

So, don’t open your email by raving about your company and product. Hook the attention of leads with whatever the god of personalization lets you find about your lead segment.

  • A/B testing

Doing A/B tests is a smart way to know and optimize what works for your campaign. With marketing automation software like HubSpot, Sendinblue, and Mailchimp, you can test different elements of your email, identify the best variant and get better conversions. So what should you be testing? Think subject line, from name, email content, call to action, and sending times.

  • Mailbox warmup

Not warming your email can cause your messages to deliver into the spam folders of leads. This means a high number of leads won’t read your email, your lead pipeline shrinks, and you may not hit your quota.

How cold email tanked when our clients neglect email warmup

To prevent email deliverability issues, use a tool like Folderly to confirm where your cold emails will land.

🎥 Related Video → Why Should You Care About Email Deliverability?

Step 7: Appointment setting

After getting a positive response from prospects, it’s time to book an appointment with a sales rep. Use appointment scheduling tools like Calendly and Chili Piper to automate this process.

Chili piper scheduling experience

Be sure to email prospects a confirmation of the meeting. Include information like the call agenda and a link to the meeting location. To ensure prospects remember the meeting, set up auto-reminders to send a few days and a day to the call.

📚 Related Post → Appointment Setting in B2B: A Start-to-Finish Guide

Step 8: Follow-up leads 

Some leads may not respond to your first cold email because your subject line wasn’t catchy. Others don't because your email landed in their spam folder or got drowned in the sea of messages they receive. Don’t give up on these leads. Reach out to them by duplicating your list and sending the same first email to those who didn’t open.

If you still don’t get a response, follow up once every two or three working days. It's a great idea to arm follow up emails with potent social proof elements such as your customer testimonials and niche-relevant case studies. For example, not to miss a single lead, we established a sales enablement process in HubSpot, which empowered us to send timely follow-ups and resulted in $5M new revenue.

When leads respond to your follow up, ensure you personalize your future messages so they recollect what you’re talking about. For instance, a lead may reply that they are interested, but too busy and can't book any meetings. When following up, your message should remind them of the period of your last conversation and the details of your offer.

In contrast, if any lead doesn’t respond after four or five follow-ups, call it quits. Put such unresponsive leads on a do-not-contact list so they don’t mark your email as spam. After a while, re-engage them and see if they convert.

Here’s an example of a re-engagement email we used for one of our clients:

Subject line 1: {{Company}}<>{{Your Company name}} follow-up

Subject line 2: {{FirstName}}, are you focusing on a bigger picture?

Hi {{FirstName}},

I hope things are going well. We previously touched base on leadership development at {{Company}}.

I thought you might enjoy my recent {{Post link}}.

If the article piques your interest, I’d be happy to share additional information on how polarity thinking can help your leaders and teams navigate complexity in the workplace. We incorporate it into all of our work and leadership development programs around building strong teams and organizational culture.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Also, explore our best B2B email templates that we used for specific industries.

2 B2B cold email sequences for sales outreach

Though you’re equipped to set up an effective cold email campaign, getting inspiration from those that worked for us will give you a leg up. Below are two cold email sequences we've used for a couple of clients.

#1 Cold email sequence: Consulting and training

Open rate we reached (average per campaign): 42%
Reply rate we reached (average per campaign): 7%

Wave 1

Subject line 1: {{Company}}<>{{Your Company name}} follow-up

Subject line 2: {{FirstName}}, are you focusing on a bigger picture?

Hi {{FirstName}},

I hope things are going well. We previously touched base on leadership development at {{Company}}.

I thought you might enjoy my recent {{Post link}}. 

If the article piques your interest, I’d be happy to share additional information on how polarity thinking can help your leaders and teams navigate complexity in the workplace. We incorporate it into all of our work and leadership development programs around building strong teams and organizational culture.

Looking forward to hearing from you,


Wave 2 - same thread

Hi {{FirstName}},

Did you have a chance to review my previous email and the post on polarity thinking?

I’d be happy to jump on a quick call to share how we help leaders shift from an either/or mindset to a “both/and” mindset to help them become more effective leaders.

Just let me know if that’s of interest.



Wave 3

Subject line 1: {{Company}}&{{Your Company name}}: useful leadership insights

Subject line 2: Company culture at {{Company}}

Hi {{FirstName}},

I’m following up on your interest in leadership development programs. Many of our clients are experiencing tremendous growth but want to preserve their culture as the company grows. Does that resonate with you?

In my recent LinkedIn {{Post Link}}, I shared a few best practices to consider when designing or rekindling a great corporate culture, especially when your business is scaling.

Have a look at the post, vote in a poll, and let me know if you’d like to learn how {{Company}} could foster its culture.

Best regards,


Wave 4 - same thread


Do you think of your role as the keeper of the culture at {{Company}}? 

If so, I’m sure you work hard to create an inclusive environment for your employees. 

This {{Post link}} sheds some light on handling “subtle acts of exclusion.” to create a work environment where people feel safe but also a place where people aren’t walking on eggshells. If this feels relatable, I’d be happy to share my insights on how to apply these practical tips to your workplace.

Let me know if you’d be willing to connect for a discussion.



Wave 5

Subject line: {{FirstName}}, your invitation to our business book club

Hi {{FirstName}},

Would you like to stay on top of all the trends in leadership, psychology, business, and neuroscience but don’t have the time to read all of the latest books and articles?

If so, I’m encouraging you to participate in our business book club that meets once a month. There’s no need to pay, and, get this, there’s no expectation to have read the book in advance!

{{Books library link}} we’ve covered in the last few years.

Let me know if you’re interested in attending, and I can share more. 

Best regards,


#2 Cold email sequence: Fintech product

Open rate we reached (average per campaign): 48%
Reply rate we reached (average per campaign): 8%

Wave 1

Subject line 1: Contact info: {ReferralName}

Subject line 2: Touch-free payments at {Company}?

Hi {{FirstName}},

Has {{Company}} considered accepting PayPal & Venmo payments at your physical locations? 

More than 50% of all consumers stated that they would continue to use contactless payment after the pandemic. Big brands are taking action to adapt to the changing behaviors as well as full advantage of PayPal’s launch campaign support, such as CVS. We would love to help {{Company}} gain a competitive advantage in your market and get ready for the holiday season to hit. 

Being the most trusted {{Company’s specialization}}, we provide a full-stack {{Company’s product}} that can be seamlessly and cost-effectively integrated with your existing merchant environments.  

I’d love to schedule a brief call with you or {{ReferralName}} to learn more about your current payment configurations and see if {{Company’s product}} solutions would be a good fit.  

Would next Tuesday work?



Wave 2 - Same thread


Just a quick follow-up to my previous note. 

Would next Tuesday work for a 30-minute call?


Wave 3

Subject line 1: {Company} follow-up

Subject line 2: Re: Touch-free payments at {Company}?

Hi {FirstName},

Just following up again. Have you had a chance to review my previous notes?

To recap — we at {{Sender’s Company}} are interested in helping {{Company}} provide more {{Company’s product}} at your physical stores without altering your existing payment infrastructure since we are already partners with over 20 top POS and gateway systems.

Our {{Company’s product}} methods will enable {{Company}} to offer PayPal & Venmo support at the point of purchase via {{Company’s technologies}} transactions and attract younger consumers with their preferred payment method. 

If that sounds right to you, could you provide me with a few time options to pencil in a call?



Wave 4 - Same thread


Have you had a chance to review my previous note?

Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. 



Acing your sales outreach strategy using cold emails

To gauge the effectiveness of your cold email campaign, you need to watch out for your response rate. If many leads are responding, it means you are sticking to the cold email best practices we’ve outlined and vice versa.

Now I know you’re curious about what a good response rate is. Well, it varies. 

According to Ajay’s analysis of thousands of email campaigns, some response rates were under 1% and others over 25%. Backlinko’s analysis of 12 million outreach emails pegs the average response rate at 8.5%.

Our case studies show similar results, and sometimes, a lot higher. See some examples:

The bottom line is: As Norman Vincent Peale says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.” Aim to have a high response rate and don’t settle for one that’s under 4%. If you’re trending below 4%, evaluate your strategy to uncover why that’s happening. And if the entire process is too difficult to keep up with, consider outsourcing your sales to a proven agency like Belkins.

Over 1,000 leads signal interest in our outbound lead generation services every month. We close 10% on average because we're picky. So if you like to work with us, contact us early.

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Precious Oboidhe
Precious Oboidhe
B2B Content Strategist & Writer
Precious develops content marketing strategies and frequently blogs for the well-known B2B players. HubSpot, CoSchedule, EngageBay, and Foundation Inc. — this is only a small part of the MarTech brands Precious collaborated with.