GTM and Sales

How SaaS Founders Can Get More Responses to Cold Emails

Jonah Midanik
Nov 3, 2020
min read

When you're in the early stages of building your customer base for your SaaS business, chances are you’ll be sending a few cold emails. Personal networks only go so far, and it’s a good idea to land customers outside of your personal network to demonstrate traction. Since time and resources are so limited, it’s critical that you get responses to your cold emails. 

At Forum Ventures, we’ve seen a lot of both successful and very unsuccessful cold email attempts. Over time, we noticed some patterns in the emails that got responses versus those that got ignored (or worse, marked as spam).

Whether you’re prepping your first cold email ever or are getting ready to send your hundredth outreach today, it’s never too late to improve. In this blog we’re covering where cold emails fit in B2B startup sales and the three keys to getting a higher response rate. As a bonus, we’re providing an example of a successful cold email pitch that you can emulate. 

If you want more practical tips like these, check out the Forum Ventures B2B SaaS Marketing Playbook.

Where cold emails fit in B2B startup sales

Cold emails are step two of the B2B SaaS direct sales process. When you’re just starting out, warm introductions are critical. When that’s exhausted, it’s time to move onto cold emails. Only after you’ve tried both of those things and discovered a working ideal customer profile (ICP) definition can you move to an MQL strategy.

Key 1: Focus on the problem

The goal of a cold email is simple: to book a call. In order to get that call booked, you need to focus on the potential customer’s program. People spend money to solve their problems. That’s about it. Whether their problem is taking up too much time, harming their image and reputation, or costing them money, it’s still ultimately about solving problems. By the way, at Forum Ventures we refer to that as a “TIM” problem - Time, Image, or Money. If your prospect doesn’t have a TIM problem, chances are they won’t spend money to solve it.

With that in mind, keep all cold emails about the problems your prospect is facing. There are two ways to do that: 

  1. Talk about an issue you already know the company is facing (for instance, if they are hiring for a specific role or put out a press release). 
  2. Show credibility that you know how to solve the problem (through case studies, brand markers, or other facts about your solution delivery). 

If you lead with a lengthy personal intro, your email will probably get deleted. People want to solve their problems, and that’s it. 

Key 2: Keep it short

Key content should be no more than two to four sentences. Copy needs to be clean and to the point. Same goes for the subject line. 

When you’re drafting your copy, try this method: 

  • Write your email as you normally would, then go back and edit it at least in half. 
  • Make sure the subject line and initial copy make it seem like you already have a business relationship. For example, a subject line that reads: “James Murphy (CEO Robly) and Jane Smith (TargetCo) Check in” is better than “Introduction: Hi! I’m James Murphy.”

Remember, the entire email - subject line and copy - is about booking a meeting.

Key 3: Include a question

If the point of an email is to book a meeting, then you need to ask for one. By putting it in the form of a question, you are more likely to elicit a response than if you leave it up to them. 

For example: 

  • Good: “If you’re interested, are you available this week for a call?”
  • Not so good: “If you’d like to talk, let me know and we can book a time for a call.”

If you focus on their problems, the copy is tight, and your subject line is clear, then the question should flow naturally. Once you’ve introduced yourself and proven that you can solve their problem, asking for a meeting is an easy next step.

Cold email pitch example

Can’t read the image? Here’s the email copy

Subject: Can we support hiring at Limelight? 


Hey Jonah, 

I hope you’re surviving this brutal winter!

I noticed Limelight has posted 26 jobs in the last 3 months that are still open. HireRight works with high-growth B2B SaaS companies to help bring on the right people to your team. 

We’ve helped Zapier, Zoom, and Gainsight grow their teams by 15% on average, and saved their HR teams 5 hours a week. 

Do you have sometime this week to start filling those vacant roles?


This email has all of the elements that are necessary for a high chance of response

  • The subject line is short and clean
  • The introduction is friendly, but not too long
  • All copy, including the subject line, is focused on the prospect’s problems
  • There are clear credibility markers in the email (brand name dropping)
  • There’s a clear ROI and benefit-focus for the prospect (again, focusing on their problems)
  • The ask at the end is simple and easy to respond to

ConstantContact and Mailchimp estimate that cold business emails get a response rate between 14% and 23%. If you’re well under that then you’ll definitely want to keep testing and optimizing your approach. Remember that every executive, founder, and enterprise leader is inundated with email - both cold and expected. The key is polite persistence, writing the best emails you possibly can, and, with luck, the right timing.

Write cold emails wisely

In the B2B SaaS world, you can’t avoid cold emails. Even if you plan for an entirely digital sales funnel, cold emails will be a part of your strategy at some level. So the key is to be wise with your cold emails - they could be the difference between high response rates and completely wasted time.

Want more practical tips on early stage sales and marketing for your SaaS business? Download our SaaS Marketing Playbook now.

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