The Average Cold Email Response Rate in 2023 (+ Expert Tips To Improve It)

It’s 10 A.M., Monday, and my inbox is filled with a barrage of cold emails. 

They’re templatized, boring, and not one bit relevant to what I do here at Klenty. These emails will remain frozen in the digital abyss of my inbox for eternity.

While that was probably not the intent of the salespeople who reached out to me, that’s the effect of the spray-and-pray cold email approach. One or two out of the hundreds do catch my eye, though. 

For years, salespeople have used the same old playbook for cold emailing, thinking they had the formula down pat—generic messages, empty promises, and high hopes.

But this traditional approach won’t cut in 2023.

It’s time for salespeople to embrace a new mindset—one that values quality over quantity—a personalized email approach that focuses on building relationships instead of pushing sales pitches. In this article, we aim to answer questions that keep you up at night: “what’s a good reply rate for your cold email campaigns? What’s the reply rate I should be actually aiming for?”

And about the one-off cold emails that do catch my eye? 

Are there patterns in those emails that other SDRs could emulate? We explain below. 

What Is the Average Cold Email Response Rate?

The average cold email response rate is 8.5%, according to reports. That means for every 100 cold emails sent, expect about 8 people to respond. 

This could be because of many reasons, like:

  • The average open rate of cold emails is only 23.9%
  • Maybe you’re relying on spray and pray outreach 
  • Maybe your cold email subject line didn’t invoke any action 
  • Maybe your email address looks like this –
  • Maybe your email just fell into their inbox at the wrong time
  • Maybe your email copy wasn’t convincing
  • Maybe, just maybe, your cold emails landed in the spam folder!

Alas, there is a multitude of reasons why your email recipients wouldn’t have responded.

But the most important reason, above all, is that maybe you’re reaching out to the wrong people. Even if you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, the quality of your email list could still be questioned.

How To Calculate Cold Email Response Rate?

A cold email software, or a sales engagement software, is a helpful sales automation tool that can be used to calculate cold email response rates and other relevant email metrics like cold email open rates, bounce rates, click-through rates, and email deliverability—all in real time.

But if you’re doing manual outreach, here’s the formula: 

(Unique email responses/total number of successfully sent emails) * 100 


Step 1 → (36 unique replies/80 successfully delivered emails) = 0.45

Step 2 → 0.45 * 100 = 45%

What Is the Benchmark for Cold Email Reply Rates?

If you trust that your cold email campaigns have personalized, concise, and valuable content, attractive subject lines, are targeted at the right group of people, and are delivered at the right times, then anywhere between 1% to 10% is a good benchmark for response rates.

Typically, this number varies across industries. One rule of thumb is to aim for a response rate of about half your open rate.

How Do You Improve Your Cold Email Response Rate?

Remember we talked about some of those rare cold emails that do capture our attention? Here are the patterns we found in cold emails that we are most likely to reply to:

  • There are more than 5 emails in the outreach sequence, and we probably kept getting reminded of the email
  • You have multiple channels of outreach in your sales sequences like calls, LinkedIn messages, and SMS
  • We were sent a follow-up email within a week of dropping the initial email
  • The first email is personalized to the prospect’s interests or pain points
  • The email account was warmed up before the rep started email outreach at scale
  • Ensured the emails reached us at the best times, irrespective of whichver countries both us and the rep was in

You can improve your conversion rates if you’ve crossed most of the boxes above. 

We are also including a couple of pointers from top-performing sales reps we spoke to from companies like G2, Deel, and Metadata, whose effective cold email strategies have helped them hit more than 100% of quota in outbound sales. 

Here are their tips:

i) Keep Your Email Concise

Multiple reports suggest that cold emails should have a length of 50-125 words or 5-10 lines. Readers online skim headlines, subheadings, and bullet points, so most SDRs we spoke to suggested keeping the cold email short and sweet and breaking the text heaviness by adding images. Another helpful point: skip the jargon.

ii) Check If Your Email Follows This Structure

Ask the following questions while curating the email for your cold email campaigns.

  • Is Your Subject Line Grabbing Eyes?

By addressing a pain point or asking a question that piques their interest in your subject line, you can immediately grab your reader’s attention. But note that whenever you promise to offer something in the subject line, follow through on it in the email. Otherwise, it’ll piss people off. 

For example, “Are you struggling with [specific pain point]?” or “Have you considered [question related to your product/service]?”

  • Is Your Introduction Personalized?

Set a good first impression in the opening of the cold email. We recommend you to use advanced personalization, as in personalizing further than using the company name or prospect name. It could be as simple as mentioning a recent company announcement or a shared interest you discovered through their social media profiles. 

But Joel Thomas, an SDR from Almabase, says it has to be relevant to the product as well. “It’s not just personalization for the sake of personalization, but you’re trying to build a narrative around that particular personalization,” he adds. 

He shares an example:  “There was this guy who was a firefighter before he joined alumni relations, which is my target audience. So I used “Firefighting during events.” And I made it about how managing events can be like putting out a fire. So I started with that line, so that caught his interest.”

  • Does Your Email Copy Offer Prospects a Benefit?

Every prospect will have one question in their mind when they receive a cold email: “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFT) or “Why should I care?”

In a few words, clearly explain what’s in it for your prospect if they respond to your email. It does 2 things: 1. Gets their attention, 2. Gives them a reason to remember your proposition (among a sea of emails that they’ll probably read).

  • Is Your CTA Easy to Reply To?

End your sales emails with a clear, actionable call to action that encourages your prospect to take the next step. The best CTAs are low-friction; they’re like gentle nudges. 

It doesn’t always have to be a meeting invitation. It could be as simple as asking them to watch a video or read a blog. Change the CTAs according to their buying intent. If it’s an inbound lead, find out where they came from and offer a CTA that caters to their interests.

  • Does Your Sign-off Include All the Necessary Contact Information?

Your email should end with a self-sufficient sign-off that includes all necessary contact information, including your full name, professional email address, mobile number, and links to your company’s social media profiles.

This will help establish your credibility and make it easy for your prospect to contact you if they’re interested.

iii) Check if Your Email Is Relevant to the Prospect

Before hitting send on your cold email, take a moment to make sure it’s relevant to the intended recipient.

Are you pitching to the end-user, decision-maker, or CXO?

Are you addressing pain points that they actually experience?

For instance, if you’re pitching a new marketing tool to a company’s HR department, using language like “increase your sales pipeline” or “boost your customer retention” may not resonate with them. 

Here’s the G2 APAC team’s top-performing BDR’s favorite personalization approach. 

If I’m reaching out to a marketing person, I should be solving a marketing problem. If I’m reaching out to a CEO, I should be solving a larger problem, like about brand visibility.

Nanditha Menon, BDR, G2

iv) Bonus Tips on How Top Sellers Do Research

Keep the following pointers in mind while researching your prospects and their pain points:

  • Take the time to research your prospect’s job title, responsibilities, and industry
  • Look for clues about their pain points by reading their company blog or social media posts, or reviewing recent news about their industry
  • Use language that aligns with their industry or role to make your email messaging more relevant and relatable
  • Reference specific pain points that they might be experiencing based on their job responsibilities to show that you understand their needs
  • Utilize tools like LinkedIn, job search pages, ZoomInfo, Builtwith and other resources to gather more information about your prospects and their pain points
  • Check out the 10K report of companies. Zinc’s SDR Manager, Alastair Chamberlin notes that studying 10-K reports comes in handy for Enterprise SDR teams, especially because they’d mostly reach out to C-suite executives.

Final Thoughts

Cold email outreach is like a carefully handed down, generations-old recipe. If you have all the ingredients right, and the portions right, you’ll see success. If one step is off, like a bad subject line, your response rates suffer.

Above, we mentioned a couple of points you can include in your cold emails to make them more effective. Cross all those boxes, and you’re good to go. Here’s a final parting gift: Keep your cold emailing efforts alive by constantly A/B testing your subject line, email body and CTAs in your cold email sequences. To do A/B testing and personalization at scale, you’ve got to use a sales automation tool.

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