The Ultimate Guide To Crafting Compelling Cold Emails That Get Replies From Busy CEOs [+5 Templates]


Here are a few things that’ll never happen: parallel lines intersecting, faster-than-light travel, and CEOs replying to boring cold emails.

C-suite executives are busy individuals with limited time and attention. They might receive anywhere between 100 and 200 emails per day. So, how will your cold email get their attention?

On top of this, one of the strategies execs use to receive fewer emails is sending fewer emails. Why would they reply to your cold email outreach, then?

Feeling the odds are stacked against you? Fret not.

For salespeople, making every part of the cold email—from the subject line to the sign-off —compelling and engaging is a sure-shot way to get the CXO’s attention.

Scroll on to learn how you can craft cold emails that get replies from C-suite executives.

Use This 6-Part Formula to Craft a Cold Email That CEOs Will Read

To help you write better emails to CEOs at scale, we’ve come up with this 6-part-formula:

  • Write strong subject lines
  • Personalize your introduction
  • Reveal WIIFT (What’s In It For Them) quickly
  • Tie industrial insight with WIIFT
  • Throw a soft CTA
  • Sign off with a simple signature

Let’s see how all these come together to create a well-crafted cold email to CEOs:

i) Write Strong Cold Email Subject Lines

The subject line is the gateway to your cold email. When we spoke to 8 top-performing SDRs for the SDR X Factor series, 5 reps said they’ve seen more success with shorter subject lines in their cold email outreach. On average, their subject lines would only be between 2 and 6 words.

For instance, Ashley Dees likes to use the 2-word subject line “uh oh…” for her emails. Also, she keeps her subject lines lowercase to grab her prospect’s attention. 

But there are a lot of other strategies you can employ:

  • Tap Into Their Pain Points or Interests. Show that you understand the CXO’s challenges and needs by addressing their specific pain points or interests. 

    For example, “How are you dealing with {pain point}?”
  • Create a Sense of Urgency or Scarcity. Use words that instill a sense of urgency and encourage immediate action. 

    For instance, “Drop everything! Just a few hours left for {regulation law}.”
  • Personalize Your Subject Line.  Add their first name, their company name, or refer to a recent event or achievement in the subject line to make it more personalized. A cold email tool will help you do this at scale.

    Example: “{First name}, congrats on {company name}’s recent acquisition!”
  • Keep It Short. You want to capture the CEO’s attention as quickly as possible. So, keep your subject line short, sweet, and easy to understand. 

    Here’s a short subject line: “Thinking about {specific goal}?”
  • Avoid Spam Triggers. All caps, excessive punctuation, or phrases like “Make Money Fast!” or “Urgent: Open Now!” can trigger spam filters. Avoid them at all costs.  If you’re unsure, put your email copy through a mail-tester to check if your template has spammy words that can decrease your chances of deliverability.
  • Test and Iterate. Experiment with different subject lines through A/B testing and track the results. Use this data to refine your approach and optimize your emails—whether fresh or follow-up emails—over time.

ii) Personalize Your Introduction

The C-suite audience can sniff BS a mile away. So, don’t open with the generic stuff, like “My company does this and that.” 

Open your cold email with a personalized bit of info to get their attention and segue into the next section. Combine it with whatever comes next. 

Here’s an example of opening with a personalized intro and then connecting it to what comes next: “As a Cubs fan, I’m sure you’re aware of the marketing machine they’ve built to get fans and corporate partners engaged and converted. We were able to help them go from 300 to 30,000 unique site conversions per quarter with our solution.”

iii) Reveal WIIFT (What’s in It for Them) Quickly

In other words, your cold email must clarify why CXOs should care about your solution. After your personalized intro, explain how your offering can help them achieve their goals or solve a problem they’re facing. Here are a few examples:

  • “Struggling to scale your sales team? Our automation tool can help your SDRs triple their cold email outreach, and book 3x more meetings.”
  • “Your {LinkedIn description} inspired me to reach out. Companies like A, B, and C leverage {your solution} to accomplish X and Y. Within 6 months of working with us, a client {saw X results}.”

iv) Tie Industry Insight With WIIFT

If your WIIFT doesn’t have any numbers, be sure to use some kind of industry insight to back your claims. Source these insights from case studies, original reports, interview series, or mention the names of your well-known customers or mutual connections with similar pain points. 

These social proofs will show that whatever you say is backed by evidence, and you’re not promising them unicorns.

For example, “Companies that use sales automation tools see a 22% increase in revenue. {Your product} can help you achieve similar results.”

v) Throw a Soft CTA

A hard call to action, like “Are you available for a 30-minute call on Tuesday next week?” is a huge risk while cold emailing CEOs. They’re hard-pressed for time, and directly asking for their time in your first email could be asking for too much. 

Instead, opt for a soft CTA, like “Is this worth exploring?” This lowers their resistance to reply and allows them to start a conversation at their own pace. Examples:

  • “Interested in exploring this solution?”
  • “Worth discussing?”
  • “Thoughts?”

vi) Sign Off With a Simple Signature

Email sign-offs are the last impression you’ll leave on the CXO, so make it a good one.

Make sure to sign off your email with a simple and professional signature that includes your name, job title, LinkedIn, other social media links if available, and contact information. Your sign-off could be:

  • Action-oriented (“Looking forward to hearing from you”)
  • Anticipatory (“Hope you have a productive Monday”)
  • Warm (“Thanks for your time”)

For example,

Hoping I can help, (Email Sign Off)

[Your Name], [Your Role], (Email Signature)

[Your Company],

[Your Email],

[Your Phone Number].

5 Best Cold Email Templates To Get Noticed by CEOs

Our structure for the email outreach campaign to CEOs is this:

  • Strong subject line
  • Personalized introduction
  • WIIFT (What’s In It For Them)
  • Social proof to support WIIFT
  • A soft CTA
  • Simple sign-off

With this in mind, here are 5 cold email templates that you can use as a starting point for your outreach to CEOs:

a) Template 1:

Subject: Are winnable deals evaporating?

Hi {CEO's first name},

I noticed {CEO’s company} is currently using {CRM}. Without the right cold email tool that natively integrates with {CRM}, many winnable deals can evaporate into thin air. 

A lot of {CRM} users like A, B, and C are now using {your solution} to automate your cold email outreach, because we natively integrate with {CRM}. 

This means:

a) No more copying and pasting work for your SDRs
b) A unified inbox for all of your sales interactions that allow reps to reply quicker 
c) X% higher response rates from their outbound email outreach due to 
our hyper-personalized approach.

Interested in exploring how {solution} could 2x your meetings booked?

Have a great day,
{Your Name}

b) Template 2:

Subject: Reduce customer churn in this down economy

Hi {CEO's Name},

Customer churn is, as you said in your LinkedIn post, one of the biggest 
challenges to navigate in this economic downturn. 

Leveraging AI to analyze customer behavior metrics can go a long way in 
reducing churn for businesses like yours. 

{Your solution} provides personalized recommendations to keep customers 
engaged and loyal. Companies that use our platform have seen a X% reduction 
in customer churn within Y days.

Is this worth a chat?

Thank you for your time,
{Your Name}

c) Template 3:

Subject: Taking months to fill 1 position?

Hi {CEO's Name},

{CEO’s company} posted {specific position} over 5 months ago on {job board}, 
and it still remains open. Looking to shorten that hiring time? 

If yes, {your solution} can shorten it using AI-powered sorting and 
automating candidate engagement. 

Companies like X and Y that use our platform have seen A% reduction in 
time-to-hire and a B% increase in candidate quality. 

Interested in kicking our tires?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
{Your Name}

d) Template 4:

Subject: Anything frustrating about {competitor}?

Hi {CEO's Name},

I noticed you’re using {competitor} for website visitor analytics. I’m curious to know—what are the things that frustrate you the most about it?

The reason I ask is, {your solution} has seen at least X customers migrate 
from {competitor} in the past Y months. 

The customers we spoke to said their biggest concerns were the below-average quality of data. 

{your solution} guarantees X% in data quality, don’t take our word for it. Here’s what our {customer} says. (link to customer study/picture of quote/customer 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  

Wishing you a whole lot of productivity,
{Your Name}

e) Template 5:

Subject: Improper stock management = $$$

Hi {CEO's Name},

Noticed you’re selling on {e-commerce channel #1}, {e-commerce channel #2}, 
{e-commerce channel #3} & (e-commerce channel #4}. Are you facing troubles 
with stock management {pain point}? 

Asking because studies show {link to industry report} that improper stock 
management {pain point} seems to be the #1 reason for revenue leaks in 
e-commerce businesses. 

E-retailers that work with us have optimized their stock management by

 - Bringing all of their vendors on 1 platform,
 - With this omnichannel view, they could plan and deploy their resources 
   more effectively, 
 - And reduce wastage costs significantly

Is this worth exploring?

{your name}

5 Ways To Make Your Cold Email Stand Out in the CEO’s Inbox

Do CEOs read and reply to cold emails? Sure they do.

“Most CEOs and VCs personally read every well-formed email they get, even if they don’t know the sender,” says SafeGraph CEO Auren Hoffman

As a student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1990s, he sent cold emails to Steve Jobs (then CEO of NeXT) and Steve Ballmer (then #2 at Microsoft, next to Bill Gates) and got replies from them within hours. Effective cold emails still have this power in B2B sales. So, here’s how you get CXOs to read and reply to your emails:

i) Give Some To Get Some

When cold emailing CEOs, remember that they are focused on time-oriented results by achieving their business objectives.

So, to capture their attention and ultimately win their business, you need to convince them that the collaboration you’re proposing is worth their time.

Instead of talking in abstract terms or making grand promises, focus on providing them with real-world examples and use cases that demonstrate the value of your product or service. 

Here are some ways to offer value:

  1. Fill a Crucial Void. Point out an issue in their business that could cost them huge losses in revenue if left unattended, and show how you’re the best solution to address the issue. 

    Here’s an example: If you’re selling cybersecurity services, mention how a recent data breach cost similar businesses millions of dollars in damages (source this from a credible news website). Next, explain how your solution has helped companies avoid such mishaps, and provide concrete examples of how you’ve strengthened their security position.
  2. Trigger FOMO. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful emotion in sales. Explain how the CEO’s competitors have boosted their revenue and improved their metrics by using your solution. Now, talk about how your solution can get them to achieve this as well. 

    G2’s Nanditha Menon always sees success by tapping into her prospect’s FOMO in her cold emails. She crafts her email along the lines of, “This is what your competitor is doing. This is something you’re way behind on in the game,” and attaches relevant stats to support her claim.

    Consider this: Your solution is a customer service chatbot. Begin your cold email by saying that the CEO’s competitor is already using your chatbot, which has helped them improve response times by Y% and reduce customer churn by Z%.
  3. Challenge Their Status Quo. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is what some founders and CXOs might think about their current tech stack. Your success lies in convincing them that they can do better and that they will be better by using your solution.

    For instance, your solution is a project management tool, and you find out that your CEO’s organization doesn’t use one. Start your cold email by citing a recent study that found companies using project management software saw an average increase in productivity of X%. Next, explain how your SaaS tool will help their organization by reducing project timelines by Y% or improving team collaboration by Z%.

In each of these examples, the key is to provide reliable data, statistics, or references to back up your claims.

ii) Send the Email First Thing in the Morning

Want to get your cold email noticed by some of the successful CEOs? Join the 6 am club. 

Nearly two-thirds of CEOs wake up by 6 am. Also, top business leaders like Elon Musk check their email inboxes as part of their morning routine.

To get their attention in the wee small hours of the morning, send your cold emails from 6 am till about 8 or 9 am. 

Research suggests a person’s rational decision-making capacity is finite and declines throughout the day. In the morning, as the CEO’s decision-making ability is at its peak and they see your well-written cold email, it creates a good first impression, and they’re more likely to engage with you.

iii) Win Their Trust

To win their trust, pepper your cold email with all the details necessary to identify you or your business, including your: 

  • Name
  • Company name
  • Role or designation
  • LinkedIn profile

Otherwise, it’s going to look like it’s out of a generic email marketing campaign, decimating the chances of the exec finding your email in their inbox.

iv) Cut Out Pleasantries

Every second of a startup founder’s time is money, and they know it. 

If your email gets everything right but begins with empty pleasantries like “Hope you’re doing well” or “Season’s greetings,” they simply won’t read it.

You know they don’t waste time, so chuck these pleasantries and set the tone of your email quickly. Get straight to the point by referring to the CXO’s pain point in the first few words of your sales email introduction.

v) Keep Your Email Length to 150 Words

When pitching to C-suite execs, the ideal cold email length should be 5-15 lines long or up to 150 words.

This word limit will give you no room for verbosity and makes it easy for them to skim your email. Within these 150 words, include 3 things:

  • What’s in it for them
  • What your solution does
  • A soft call-to-action (CTA)

A well-crafted email copy that’s only 150 words long that contains these 3 things will anchor their interest and potentially prompt a response.

And in the End…

An analysis of an email written by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs concludes that a well-crafted business email should be:

  • Well thought-out
  • Clearly written
  • Easy to understand 
  • Short and sweet
  • And most of all: emotionally intelligent.

All these perfectly apply to the cold email you’re crafting for a decision-maker.

Remember: Successful cold emails are concise, personalized, and focused on the CEO’s specific needs and pain points. The takeaways in this blog will help you improve your email copywriting skills and boost your open rates chances of getting a response. 

All it takes to convert busy C-suite executives into potential clients is a sales rep’s well-crafted cold email. Go get ‘em!

Comments are closed.