Cold Email Sales Campaigns: The Complete Guide to Running & Scaling Cold Outreach Emails

How do you make something from nothing?

If you have no sales leads in your pipeline, how do you generate some buzz and start closing deals? If no one is reading your blog, how do you get the first people to click and share?

This is a looming question in the world of startups, sales, marketing, and PR. You often have to start from scratch and figure out how to make something happen.

Enter: Cold email sales campaigns.

Whether you’re bootstrapping a startup or just trying to get the right eyeballs on your latest blog post, cold email campaigns are a common way to make new connections and open up new opportunities.

Not to be confused with generic email spam, the right cold email could open up doors that you never imagined possible.

The key is to run a campaign and learn from its success (or failure!) is to get started.

Write that first email. Click send. Learn. Repeat.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to take the first steps and build a cold sales email campaign from scratch. Using Propeller, it’s dead simple to set up and manage your campaigns. That way, you can focus on all of the opportunities that come from the process.

Step 1: Identify your ideal sales prospects

If you already have a list of prospects or you know who you want to target but don’t have a list yet, check out step 2 for some direction.

Assuming that you’re starting a campaign from the very beginning, you’ll want to start by deciding who you want to target.

To do this, you’ll want to use a process to define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This includes building a customer persona that includes details like:

  • Industry
  • Geography
  • Size (annual revenue, number of employees, number of offices)
  • Budget

You can develop this profile in a few different ways.

For starters, if you have some existing customers, you should look at those first. Look for similarities that may define an ideal customer to target in the future.

Secondly, it’s probably a good idea to interview your best customers and learn more about why they chose to work with your business—get an idea of their pain points, what other competitors they considered, and what ultimately drove them to do business with you.

Use all of this information to formulate a target market that you want to pursue.

Ideally, try to segment this group as narrowly as possible so that it’s easier to identify and target very specific contacts. This makes it simple to build your list and send out your campaign.

If your audience is huge—like say, all marketing directors for companies with annual revenue of $10mm or more—it can be difficult to know where to start. But if you segment that to define a specific market/industry, geography, or other defining characteristics, you’ll have an easier time pinpointing your target contacts.

Read: A B2B Startup’s Guide to Creating an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Step 2: Build your list of sales prospects

If you already have a list of customers, then you can just import it directly into Propeller, which features powerful cold email software.

First, save the list as a CSV file. Then head over to your “Contacts” tab and import.

Step 2: Build your list

If you’re building your list from scratch, you’ll want to start by creating a spreadsheet. In the sheet, create separate columns for specifics about each target—first name, last name, title, company, email address, etc.

Then, set out to source and compile the contacts. You can also work with a VA or web researcher to help build the list more quickly.

If you’ve identified your ideal buyer persona, then you can compile your contact list by starting with the company profile and identifying the target buyer within that company.

There are many tricks for how to quickly and efficiently compile a list of sales prospects for your cold email outreach campaign. But, the basic workflow would be something like this:

  1. Search LinkedIn or Crunchbase for companies that fit your buyer profile
  2. Find the company page on LinkedIn
  3. Click the link that shows employees at the company
  4. Skim through the list, looking for the individual that most closely fits your buyer persona (e.g., marketing director, VP of technology, etc.)
  5. Do some research on the individual, compiling their contact details and their work email address
  6. Add the sales prospect to your outreach list

You may also want to add custom fields.

The custom fields could include things like a pre-written message that’s customized to reach sales prospect on your list.

When writing your emails later, you’ll be able to merge in any column that you create as part of your contact list. So, for example, if you want to have a custom-written paragraph as part of the message, you can add it as its own row and then import it as a contact attribute in Propeller.

Read: The Complete, Step-by-Step Guide: How to Find (Almost) Anyone's Email Address

Read: 9 Steps to Building a Lead List with an Outsourced Web Researcher

Step 3: Set up your sales outreach campaign

Once you have your contact list imported into Propeller, it’s time to build your campaign.

The first step here is to define the sequence of emails that you want to send. There are different approaches to this process, but a popular campaign structure would look something like this:

  1. Initial outreach
  2. Follow-up email (3 days later)
  3. Follow-up email #2 (5 days later)
  4. Breakup email (7 days later)

In this example, the full campaign would include 4 emails sent over the span of 15 days.

For the moment, we will ignore the specifics of each message and cover those in the next few steps.

Create your campaign in Propeller:

Step 3: Set up your campaign

(Note: If you haven’t enabled the Campaigns feature, you may need to do that first.)

Then, create your email sequence to define each step:

Then, create your email sequence to define each step:

Now that we have all of the steps in place, let’s talk about crafting the right message.

Step 4: Write a great subject line for your cold outreach email

The first step to succeeding with any cold email campaign? Getting your emailed opened.

Choosing the right subject line is one of the most critical components of your email. Remember that chances are this person has no idea who you are. That means that crafting the right cold email subject line is everything.

You want to choose something that:

  • Generates interest
  • Sparks curiosity
  • Doesn’t seem too salesy
  • Won’t get flagged as spam

Examples include:

  • Hello from {YOUR COMPANY NAME}
  • John, is this right?
  • About your sales funnel

Try to get creative, but don’t overthink it. The ideal subject line will catch the reader’s eye without immediately seeming like a sales pitch.

Short and punchy subject lines usually perform best—and ones that seem more natural/casual tend to catch people’s attention more than something that looks like it’s a generic email blast.

Read: 39 Battle-Tested Cold Email Subject Lines That Will Help You Get Anyone’s Attention

Step 5: Craft a killer sales pitch

Email’s opened? Now’s your chance.

But in order for your cold email to be effective, you need to craft a compelling pitch.

The first thing to answer: What action do you want the person to take?

You may want them to book a meeting, buy a product, or just take some kind of next step. Whatever the case, you need to start with a clear call to action. From there, you can work backward to construct an email that gets to the point and goes for the close.

Most successful cold sales emails follow an incredibly simple structure:

  1. Intro
  2. Brief pitch
  3. Call to action

An example message might be something like this:


My name is Emily with Propeller CRM. I read your blog post about {X Topic}. It was amazing!

It’s great to see the sales team at {COMPANY } is growing.

Are you looking for ways to accelerate your sales process?

Propeller is a CRM that’s built for startups and sales teams using Gmail to sell. It integrates directly with your G-Suite account and lets you track every interaction and campaign without leaving your inbox.

The really nice thing is that data entry is almost nonexistent.

If you think having a streamlined CRM would be helpful for your team, I’d be happy to give you a 30-minute demo.

How about next week?



P.s. - Check out what some of our customers like LogDNA and GrowthX have to say.

Now, of course, crafting the perfect sales pitch is probably the most difficult part of the whole process. You want to provide enough detail to get your prospect interested, but you don’t want to write an epic treatise in your first message.

If you’re not a salesperson by trade, this can feel like an especially tricky thing to master.

Probably the most important piece of advice here is to focus on the prospect, not what you’re selling. You can rattle off a hundred different bells and whistles from your product, but if it doesn’t address their specific need or pain point, it just won’t resonate.

Go into the conversation with the desire to open up a genuine dialog—see if your product or service can help them.

This requires you to shift away from thinking about what you’re selling and instead focus on who you’re talking to. Ask questions and understand what help they need, then offer a solution if it’s a good fit.

When you’re ready to write your pitch, you can click on each email in the Propeller sequence to edit the message and add in custom merge fields.

cold email Write a great subject line

Read: 17 Proven Cold Email Templates

Step 6: Craft the sales follow-up and breakup emails

The key to a successful email campaign is consistency and follow up. In fact, studies have shown that most sales take up to 5 follow ups to close, even though most people give up after just one try.

In our example, we created a series that includes 2 follow up messages and a final breakup email.

Follow-up emails are a whole art unto themselves.

You want to add some extra bait—give the person a reason to respond. Ideally, make it something timely or urgent that prompts a response without seeming desperate. If possible, it might make sense to link your follow up to some kind of external trigger like an upcoming event, a new blog post, or a recent company announcement.

Use email follow-up software to send 2-4 follow up emails after your initial cold sales email.

Lastly, a breakup email is a last-ditch effort to catch the attention of someone who hasn’t responded to any of your previous emails.

The idea is pretty simple. You want to try one last time to make contact, but let them know that you won’t be contacting them again if they don’t respond.

Try something like this:


I’ve been trying to get in touch about streamlining sales operations at {COMPANY}.

So far, no response.

Just wanted to send one last email to see if you’re interested. If I don’t hear anything this time around, I will just assume that you’re all set on sales tools and you won’t hear from me again.

But, if you’d be interested in a 30-minute demo just let me know what time works for you.



Be careful, though. It’s easy to write a breakup email that seems angry or judgemental. That’s not the point. Instead, you just want to make it clear that the onus is on them to make contact if they were at all interested in what you have to offer.

Keep in mind that it’s possible the person has just been genuinely busy—or forgetful—and did actually intend to respond. This will hopefully spark a reaction from them, but not make them feel like you’re scolding them for not replying sooner.

Read: How to Write Sales Follow-Up Emails that Close Every Time (With 10 Templates You Can Steal)

Step 7: Launch the cold email outreach campaign

Once you have all of the contacts and the campaign sequence created, it’s time to launch your sales campaign.

The first thing to need to do in Propeller is to find your list of contacts and add them to the campaign that you created.

Step 7: Launch the campaign

Now, they are primed and ready to go.

All you need to do now to begin is click the send button and Propeller will automatically send the first emails out.

All you need to do now to begin is click the send button and Propeller will automatically send the first emails out.

Then, once the specified time has passed, your prospects will be “Promoted” to the next step. At this point, it’s just one click again to send the next email on your campaign.

Propeller will also keep track of targets who have responded so you can pull them out of the workflow and discuss with them directly. These will show up under the “Replied” section in your campaign.

If you’re managing the process manually or using another tool, you’ll likely need to queue these emails up manually. You can do that one-by-one using Gmail or another third-party mail merge tool that will pull in the prospects from your spreadsheet.

Step 8: Measure and test your sales campaign

One huge benefit of using a CRM like Propeller with automated email sales campaigns is that you can easily organize and track each campaign.

Using a CRM with email tracking, you can see the percentage of messages that get opened, which links get clicked, and which emails get a response.

The truth is that no one crafts the perfect email on their first try.

It takes trial and error, persistence, and testing.

There are many different factors that play a role in the success of your sales campaign, so it’s important to have a systematic and methodical way to test and tweak.

Create alternate campaigns to test different messaging, tactics, or timing and improve your results as you go.

With Propeller, you can do this by simply creating a new campaign, making some adjustments, and sending the new one to compare performance versus your original version.

If you’re running this campaign manually, you’ll want to create a separate spreadsheet that you use to track your campaigns side-by-side. Without any kind of email management tool, you can probably only track the responses that you get. This won’t allow you to see when your email is opened or when a prospect clicks a link. But, it’s still important to put together some kind of basic tracking for your campaign.

At the end of the day, the success of your cold email sales campaign hinges on 3 factors:

  1. Quality of the prospects
  2. Quality of the pitch
  3. Volume

Two of these factors--your targeting and your messaging--depend on your ability to track, measure, and test. The third factor is based on your ability to create a repeatable, scalable system for running campaigns consistently and effectively.

Happy prospecting.

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