7 Steps to a Killer Cold Email Sequence

Endless ways exist to start a cold email campaign.

You can target a lead, find their email, and send a message in less than 10 minutes.

However, generating consistent, measurable results with cold email is a different story. So many variables go into whether your emails resonate or bust.

In addition, buyers receive more emails than ever before and are numb to the amount of outreach they have to navigate.

To make a bigger impact with your cold emails, aside from making sure your prospects or leads are qualified, you should also take the necessary steps to prepare and construct a cold email sequence that aligns with your situation.

With this 7-step walkthrough, you can go from targeting to sequence to launch with the right processes to ensure your approach is personalized for your situation.


Step 1: Target Account & Buyer Personas

Before emailing anyone, you should have an understanding of the types of companies that make good customers and the stakeholders involved in the sale.

If you target the wrong accounts, you risk reaching out to irrelevant companies or those that are too large or small for your solution.

If you target the wrong leads, you’ll struggle to generate sales conversations, gain traction, or connect with the right deal stakeholders.

To make sure you’re spending time wisely, think about the types of companies you’d want as a customer and understand who you need to target in order to win the deal.


Step 2: Market & Account Research

Once you’ve identified one or more target account personas, you can move to the research process to get an up-to-date look at the selling environment.

There are 2 parts to this research: one focused on your market sizes while the 2nd part is dedicated to the use cases, challenges, and buying processes of your target accounts.

For market size, your goal is to understand how many potential companies fit into your target personas. A campaign targeting 10,000 companies is different from one targeting 100 accounts.

To do this, use a network like LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and Yelp or a database tool like LimeLeads to get a big-picture overview of the accounts available to you.

For account research, your goal is to enter the world of your buyer and understand their environment: what business models, organizational structures, competitors, market environments, and situations describe your target accounts?

To do this, choose a handful of accounts you’ve identified as good fits and dive into their organization. Look at the employees, departments, solutions, testimonials, reviews, and anything else you can find on your target accounts to get an idea of their environment.

With these 2 phases of research, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how to sell to these target accounts, what stakeholders need to be contacted, and how they buy.


Step 3: Buyer & Messaging Research

Account research gives you insight into the organization, but your cold messaging will be reaching out to people with specific lives, behaviors, and roles within the company.

To ensure your cold emails are relevant and resonating with recipients, you need to spend the time understanding the use cases, priorities, and challenges of your target stakeholders.

To do this, grab a handful of relevant people for each type of stakeholder and do a deep dive: review their terminology, interests, complaints, management styles, hot topics, and tendencies.

With this information, you can construct cold email messaging that connects with real, authentic people in the space while giving you an understanding of how to differentiate your emails.


Step 4: Cold Email Outreach Strategy

With the right account & buyer research, you should have a full roadmap on who to contact, how to resonate with them, and what needs to happen to win the deal.

A cold email outreach strategy is a journey you create within your overall outbound sales process to generate leads and win deals.

If cold email is the only channel in your strategy, then you need to understand how emails will be used throughout the sales process: from outreach and response to nurture and follow-up.

However, most companies leverage multiple channels and teams to grow their outbound sales pipelines. For these situations, cold email needs to fit into and be aligned with the big picture.

Look at your current system for generating outbound revenue for these target accounts and identify where, how, and why cold emailing can help improve your situation.

This strategy is used to guide your goals, cold email messaging, and how cold email is used in conjunction with your existing efforts.


Step 5: Cold Email Themes & Messaging

Messaging is the art of the cold email game: buyers are overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive and it’s harder than ever to stick out in the modern inbox.

To get noticed and motivate action, you need to keep your messaging clear, focused, and personalized around your research.

To do this, brainstorm a list of focused email themes from the trends, situations, pains, opportunities, insights, or benefits that you identified in your research.

These themes will be used as the basis for each cold email: one might be focused on a specific pain while another might be highlighting the competitive advantage of a particular technology.

Once you’ve listed as many as you can, it’s time to identify the top 5 – 10 themes to use in your cold email sequence. Keep in mind the remaining themes can be used later in your testing.

Each theme should be used to create a cold email that aligns with your outreach strategy and can help achieve the goals you have set out for your cold email campaign.


Step 6: Order a Cold Email Journey

It’s unlikely you’ll capture attention, resonate, and motivate buyers to take action on your first email, which is why a cold email campaign should be constructed as a multi-step sequence.

Similar to cold calling and other outbound sales channels, you’ll need multiple sales touches over a period of time to generate opportunities with qualified buyers and the right time.

To create the most compelling cold email experience for your buyers, order your top 5 – 10 themes from best to worst. Use this order as the journey of your cold email sequence.

From here, adjustments might need to be made to the cold emails based on their position in the sequence. While it might make sense to ask for a call in the first few emails, collateral, resources, and testimonials are more effective in later steps in the sequence.


Step 7: Set Cadence & Add Follow-Up Emails

At this point, you should have 5 – 10 themed emails ordered and customized into a cold email journey for your target buyers.

A great way to capture attention and generate higher response rates is to send a follow-up email that’s aligned with a themed email you previously sent.

For example, a themed email might focus on a specific challenge for your buyer while the follow-up email might add more detail, share stats, or re-angle the call-to-action.

Follow-up emails are effective when used properly, but they can become annoying and counterproductive if used too often or if it doesn’t provide any value.

To prevent your sequence from being too repetitive with follow-ups, you can create a follow-up for every other themed email in your sequence (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th).

When should you send themed emails versus follow-ups? How long should you wait in between emails?

To finish the journey, you need to design a sales cadence for your cold email campaign that sends each step of the sequence at specific times.

You can send follow-up emails at a much faster frequency than you can themed emails because they’re focused on capturing attention and re-focusing buyers on a specific theme.

For example, a standard cadence for a follow-up email is 2 – 4 business days while themed emails can range anywhere from 4 – 10 (or more) business days apart.

Your cadence should be designed so that you could map out the days/times that a buyer receives every step in your sequence and the overall length of your email journey.

With a cadence designed, you can warm-up your campaign and then launch your campaign with cold email automation software or manual sending.



Buyers read, click through, and respond to cold emails every week.

However, time is limited and only the right emails will often be prioritized.

In such a competitive sales environment, it’s a continuous battle to stick out, stay relevant, and keep top-of-mind in modern inboxes.

Because outbound outreach is unpredictable, sellers need a solid, repeatable process that can be used to keep their strategy up-to-date, measure performance, and improve outcomes.

With this 7-step guide, you can build a measurable targeting strategy, get real-time research on buyers, and translate those insights into compelling messaging for your cold email sequence.

[Generating outbound leads? Check out our new free video series The Cold Email Playbook to get insights and content from 7 outbound & cold email experts!]