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Inbox Triage: A Cold Email Mindset
Inbox Triage: A Cold Email Mindset

Cold email or not, we have to recognize the mindset of the person reading the email. Try this for writing personalized cold emails.

Will Allred avatar
Written by Will Allred
Updated over a week ago

We've all gotten this cold email. It's got the "whiff" of personalization. They pulled a fact about hobby you like or your alma mater. Then...

BAM! You're being pitched.

Double BAM! They want 15 minutes of your time.


You need to write emails that you'd want to read. That is easier said than done. This article breaks down how your prospect is going through their inbox, how to personalize your emails, and how to approach "conversion".

Your Prospect's Inbox Process: Inbox Triage

Think of your prospects inbox as a glorified to-do list. They scan the inbox for:

  1. Names and threads they recognize or expect to see

  2. Things that look relevant to what they're working on

  3. Everything else

When you dump your feature set into their inbox, you're setting yourself up to be a bottom priority.

This is why in the article on subject lines and preview text, we denote the importance of using a name they know. It stands out.

When they're reading "everything else" and to a lesser degree 1 and 2 they aren't actually reading. They're skimming.

The average reading time per email is less than 12 seconds. That's a very short email if they're actually reading.

This is the Triage.

They skim. They categorize. They decide what action to take. They take it.

This is also why Pattern Interrupts work. If they can't categorize the email as a sales email out of the gate they're more likely to read it for fuller comprehension.

Sometimes we don't have a name that stands out. A great next place to look is, "what's on their to-do list".

This requires a good understanding of your buyer and a discussion on effective personalization.

Quick Notes on Personalization:

A good question list for relevant personalization:

  • Is the time of year relevant?

  • Is their company working on something you can immediately help with?

  • What are the top priorities for their role?

  • Do their past experiences show that they'd approach the tasks relevant to your product/service differently than the norm?

  • Are they hiring?

  • How do they go to market? Is it mostly sales or marketing driven? What's their average deal size?

  • Do they use a particular technology?

  • Do they share commonality with a case study?

You're looking for hints that show their strengths and weaknesses. You're looking for what they're focused on.

You want to craft the outreach to fit with this. Here's an example:

Senario: It's the end of March. You're reaching out to a sales vp about Lavender.

The Opening
Subject Line:

Q1 Email Results


Hey ___, pulling stats on Q1. Was email a key driver for new business this quarter?

You've got room to personalize in front of this, but it's likely that a sales vp is pulling reports at the end of the quarter. It's likely that this is top of mind. This will drive opens and engagement with the rest of the email.

Credibility Building

The next step is to create credibility. Why'd you ask?

This is where folks tend to have the right idea: case study. But the execution is off.

Instead of we helped X company achieve Y results. Try a subtler approach. Pick a company that is relevant in how they go to market and what their size and industry is. Talk about their results as it could be relevant for them.

The focus is always on them, not you.

From the outside, your process looks similar to X. With better informed A/B testing, their managers were able to take our insights into email performance and 2x reply rates.

Conversation > Conversion

Now you can finish this note up with an "interest based CTA" or you can focus back on the original call to conversation. Either create dialogue. Both are better than asking for "15 minutes".

Some examples of how to encourage conversation with an ask:

  • Think this would be helpful for your team?

  • Is this something you'd be interested in?

  • Think deeper A/B insights could drive more demos from email?

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