How you start a cold email and what intro line you choose will have a huuuuge impact on your result.

In a way, along with the subject line, the intro line is your first impression. It's a factor based on which your prospects decide whether or not to give your cold email a chance.

Therefore, if you want to get more replies, you need to pay serious attention to how to start an email.

In this article, we're going to give you a lot of ideas. You'll find intro lines tactics and examples that, hopefully, will help you grab your prospect's attention and ramp up your reply rate.

How to start an email?

I'm a big advocate of investing time to craft the perfect introduction. In reality, how you start a cold email will vary based on your target audience, cold email strategy, and type of industry you're in.

Nevertheless, intro lines have an enormous impact on the campaign outcome. Here's how...

  • They influence whether or not your prospects will read the email
  • They're your first impression in somebody's inbox and they help create an initial bond with the prospect
  • They impact your open rate as people see the intro line next to the subject

Think of it like this.

You're walking around your city and suddenly stumble upon an ice-cream stand. You see your favorite flavor smiling at you. You end up buying a scone. Hell, make it two... we only live once, right?

That smile in the cold email world is your intro line. It has the exact same effect on the prospect.

Now, let's see a few ways on how to start an email.

I've organized them across 7 categories and I do have one from-the-trenches tip that's going to help you pick the best variation in any given scenario.

Let's crack on.

Small talk opening lines

You know when we start conversing with someone, there are all these "small talk" questions we like to use.

"What's up", "How's life", "What's the weather out like there", "How you doin' in these crazy covid times"...

I mean, take a pick, small talk is everywhere.

The same principles apply to cold emailing.

Small talk opening lines are decent when you're not feeling creative, lack info about your prospects or just wanna make a quick transition from the greeting to the point that you're making.

As a general rule, it's a good idea to leverage real-time stuff that's happening in the world, like the current pandemic for instance. You'll see a lot of cold emails that start by asking you how you're doing in these crazy times.

A polite ice-breaker gets the job done. On the flip side, I'd steer clear from overenthusiastic and completely meaningless openers.

That said, I'm also not a big fan of introducing yourself in the first sentence. Unless your name has a reputation to back it up, it's not really a "first impression weapon". The flow should go like:

INTRIGUE > WHO'S THIS AWESOME DUDE/GIRL > OH, IT'S [NAME]

So, how to start an email to someone you don't know using small talk? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hope this email finds you well
  • I hope you’re doing well
  • Hope all is good at your end
  • How you doing {{firstName}}
  • How is [REAL LIFE SITUATION] treating you
  • I know you’re busy, so I’ll be quick
  • How's this summer treating you? Vacation time yet
  • How are things in [CITY]

At the end of the day, by playing with word order and adjectives, you can have 1000s of variations + keep it formal or informal, depending on your style.

Tiramisu cold email intro

I'd use the Tiramisu tactic over small talk any day now. You heard me raving about my fancy-name strategy before 😅, but I'm going for it yet again.

The point here is to have ONE UNIQUE INTRO for EVERY PERSON in your email list.

Here's how to set it up:

  1. Add a column in your .csv file called Tiramisu
  2. Research your audience and write intro lines for everyone
  3. Put {{Tiramisu}} tag in your cold email template

Once done, lemlist (my cold email tool), will automatically update every email.

Tiramisu can become a genuine compliment, a podcast episode your prospect was featured on recently, an article they wrote, common ground between you two... it can be anything.

But, it has to be personalized individually. Does it cost time? Yes. Is it worth it? You bet.

Tiramisu Cold Email Strategy That Scored 91% Reply Rate
In two campaigns where I used Tiramisu cold email strategy, I got 45% and 91% reply rates. You have to try it out.

Btw, if you're prepping a cold email campaign and you have several prospects you already have a connection with, a good idea is to use this feature in lemlist called the manual review.

In short, before you press send, lemlist wants you to review your cold emails. You can use this stage to make last-minute changes and additionally personalize copy individually.

Cold email campaign example

Making sales introductions

Instead of broad intro line examples, let's use actual cold email templates and analyze them, starting with too-hard-to-decline example.

Come up with a really irresistible offer and back it up with your craftsmanship. Notice Romain's intro for instance...

Cold email template

Next, sometimes your sales team will receive inbound leads from their marketing peers. Those are leads that have already expressed interest in what you're selling.

You can leverage that, like Nicolas did.

Video ebmed into a cold email

Recommendations are a no-brainer. Like Carlsberg, probably the best sales cold email out there. I'll leave you with a straightforward intro line...

  • [Mutual Contact] recommended we should get together and talk

Another tactic is to play on the existing needs of your prospects and combine them with the outcome that you're selling. Here's an example from Arul...

Cold email best case

If you don't know who is the right person to talk to in a company, it's not a bad idea to ask.

Pierre is one of the guys who was thinking about this prior to sending his campaign.

Great cold email campaign

You will often see salespeople start talking about their product in the intro. Good ones connect it with their prospect's pains and problems, and then make it work that way.

I also think that the "sexyness" of a product plays a big role. Nothing is easy to sell, but some products and services require more thought on how you're going to speak about it (e.g. selling new office chairs vs. selling the world's fastest WiFi, not the same thing).

For instance, Martin has a pretty sexy product, that allows him to be a bit more direct.

Cold email example

When you connect your subject line, introduction, and your prospect's need in one clear pitch, now that's a nice cold email to send.

What do you see in Nick's email?

How to start cold email campaign

Last but not least is when you're playing on the prospect's competitive spirit. Check the intro line:

  • I saw that {{competitor}} is {{X}}

If you demonstrate that you know the market and own your research, you can build credibility. And the fact that someone is better at something, in reality, it awakens our inner beast.

Using Social Media to write intro lines

How to start an email to someone you've never met? By using one of the most typical intro lines we see nowadays.

You go to someone's LinkedIn profile and leverage a recent post or the overall "coolness" of their profile.

I won't detail these extensively because the situation is clear as a day. So let's move to the examples...

  • I stumbled upon your LinkedIn profile and saw that [REASON]
  • I was on your LinkedIn profile and I wanted to congratulate you on [MILESTONE]
  • Just finished watching your video on YouTube about [INFO]
  • I saw we're both members of [FB GROUP], so thought it would be cool to connect

Here's how a lemlister that goes under the name of Maxime Peri, played this card beautifully.

Start cold email

Prospects' milestones as opening lines

A typical example is when a startup raises a Series A round and I see that they're planning to expand their sales team. I can congratulate them on the milestone and try to put lemlist on their radar.

Salespeople utilize different styles when writing compliments. Me, I prefer to send congratulations without sales hooks... at least in the first email.

Focus on genuine congratulations and connecting with the person. I will sell later, once I get to pick their brain. But that's just me.

How to start an email to a company and what milestones can you use?

  • Closed investment rounds
  • Revenue milestones founders write on their Medium profiles
  • Beta launch, official launch or new feature
  • New hires that you're mutually connected to
  • Successful exits
  • Business wins (good SEO, great content, awesome videos)

Intro lines:

  • Congratulations on {{Achievement}}
  • How did {{Project}} turn out?

Here's an interesting example by SpotOn, how you can mix "business wins" and transition good in the sales momentum.

How to start email - template

Intro lines for follow-ups

Finding inspiration for follow-up intro lines is perhaps easier as you have context.

With that in mind, let's jump into the examples:

  • As promised, I’m sending [XYZ]
  • As we discussed on the call…
  • {{firstName}}, did you get a chance to see the email I've sent you earlier?
  • A short and sweet (or at least just short 😅) reminder about my previous email
  • Thanks for the quick response
  • It was great to see you at {{Event}}

It all comes down to your strategy. Are you following up after an event, meeting, or webinar? Or you have yet to meet your prospect?

Here's an example of a webinar follow-up from our dear friend, Andrei Zinkevich.

How to start cold email example

How to start a business email using humor?

Our final category is for laughs.

How well you execute this will depend on how funny you are as a person. You can borrow opening lines, that's for sure. But I'd suggest you keep them close to the way YOU make jokes.

It can go a long way.

Here are a few funny lines I saw, starting with the ones from Ilya. He's seeing fantastic results with the "Hi {{firstName}}" greeting.

How to write an intro line in cold email

More and more people have started using this, so it will die eventually. But for the time being, I think it's a really cool, attention-grabbing intro.

The final example is the one I saw in our community - The Sales Automation Family. In my opinion, it's a brilliant play of words by Nenad Pavlov.

Start cold email template

Best tactic: A/B test your intro lines

Have two really good intro lines and can't decide which one to use?

Need stats to make data-driven decisions?

Don't overthink it. A/B test it!

It's super simple and offers such a wonderful way to let the audience tell you what they prefer.

Once you know, you can double down on what works.


Bottom line

The answer to how to start an email depends on various factors. Number one is your style, then comes your audience and the cold email strategy of your choice, finishing with the type of industry you're in.

If you're not sure, test and use A/B tests to tell you where to double down and what to avoid.

And always, but ALWAYS, spend time understanding what your audience is about. That's the most important thing.

P.S. Apologies for all the Lucifer GIFs, but even though the quality if the series is seriously declining with every new season, I'm still a fan of the show and the new season just dropped.