The opening sentence in your cold email can make or break the entire interaction.

If you’re spending hours optimizing your subject line for opens, you should be spending double that writing your opening line.

It’s your first chance to build rapport with your prospect, and it frames the rest of your email.

If you start with a generic, canned sentence, a busy decision-maker won’t read the rest of your email, and they won’t want to get on a call with you.

But, don’t worry. 

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to write cold email opening lines that will help you instantly build real rapport with your prospects, demonstrate that you care about the interaction, and encourage them to read the rest of your email.

A warning: if you’re looking for shortcuts and want to find templates you can copy and paste to every prospect, this isn’t for you.

We’ll look at:

  • Why your opening line matters
  • Common mistakes with opening lines
  • Best practices for writing them
  • Common frameworks to use
  • How to create a process for writing opening lines

By the end, you’ll be able to write opening lines that help improve your open rate and reply rate, and know how to quickly write and send cold emails with genuinely personalized opening sentences to every prospect.

Sounds good?

Let’s dive in.

Why Is Your Opening Line So Important?

When someone receives your email, they see three things.

  • Your name
  • Your subject line
  • A snippet of how your email starts

That means your snippet is arguably just as important as your subject line, even though it’s not talked about as much.

The snippet is shown whether your prospect is on desktop and mobile, in Gmail and Outlook.

It often has even more screen real estate than the subject line.

People will look at your snippet before they open your email, and it’s the first thing they’ll read when they open it.

If it doesn’t resonate with them, they’re going to quickly decide whether it’s even worth reading the rest of the email. 
Even if your subject line was perfect, if your opening line ruins that first impression, it’s game over.

How Long Should The Opening Line Be?

Good cold emails are usually short. They get to the point and make it clear why you’re reaching out.

With that in mind, your opening line needs to be short as well.

A rough guide is to keep it around 10-30% of the total email length.

Most cold email templates have a short opening line that builds rapport, then jump straight into the reason you’re emailing.

If you look at some of our favorite cold emails on Cold Outreach Templates, you’ll see that the majority of opening lines stick to one or two short opening sentences.

Common Mistakes

It’s easy to write a bad opening line. Here are some common mistakes cold emailers make when writing them.

1. Your Opening Line is Too Generic

Ever received an email where it was obvious the sender has done zero research into you or your business?

It’s a bad way to approach someone.

If you decide that saving five minutes is more important than personalizing your opening line, you’re committing your outreach campaign to have poor results.

It’s common to see opening lines like:

  • Love what your company is doing, awesome job!
  • I’m really impressed by your YouTube videos, keep them coming!
  • Just visited your website, great to see you have happy clients!

Opening lines like those are far too common in cold emails. It’s demonstrating that the sender hasn’t done any real research, and the comments aren’t genuine.

They’ve simply written a generic compliment and decided it’s enough.

The opening lines could have been sent to anyone, so they’re not going to resonate with anyone you’re emailing.

Even if you get lucky and someone does reply, it’s not a good way to start your interaction.

2. You’re Making It All About You

Another common error is making it all about the sender, i.e., you.

The person you’re cold emailing hasn’t asked for you to get in touch with them, so the burden of providing value and building a relationship is on you.

If you jump straight into your pitch, it’s clear you only care about the sale.

That’s not to say you can’t mention your product/service. Your cold email’s end goal is to get a new customer or build a new partnership with someone. But, don’t make it the first thing you open with.

Examples of bad cold email opening lines could be:

  • We just released a new version of our product – have you seen it yet?
  • Thought you’d be interested in reading this blog post we published on {{topic}}

Opening lines like this are completely ignoring that you’re sending an email to someone else with their own motivations, goals, and interests.

Even if you have the best product/service in the world, no one will want to reply if you show you don’t care about writing to someone in a personal way. 

If someone was to cold email you but only wanted to talk about themselves, you won’t want to put in any of your own time and effort to reply to them.

How Formal Should Your Opening Line Be?

If you’re new to cold email it’s tempting to make your opening line formal and structured.

In some more traditional industries, there is still an expectation of formality; however, I’d recommend avoiding falling too far into the trap of formality.

The people you’re emailing are just like you – regular people. If you have an interesting product/service that could help them solve problems they’re facing, they’ll be happy to read your message.

They don’t want you to waste their time, and if you’re writing long opening sentences with multiple compliments, mentioning things from their past, and trying to impress them, they’re going to get bored.

Mention one or two compliments or things you might have in common, and get straight to the point. 

And, remember, it’s fine to get personal, even with CEOs or department managers at big companies. They’re more likely to respond if you show you’ve gone out of your way to personalize your email instead of sending a canned template that you could have sent to all of their competitors.

Frameworks for Writing an Email Opening Line

1. The Quick Compliment

One of the best ways to start a cold email is with a genuine compliment.

This means you’ll need to do real research into the person you’re emailing and find something unique to them that you can bring up.

For example, did they get featured on a podcast? 

Did they recently close a round of funding?

Did they do a talk at an industry event?

Even if your prospect isn’t someone with a big public persona and doesn’t attend these things, there’s always something to bring up.

For example, you could mention a testimonial or case study they have on their site, something they shared on LinkedIn, or a local news story their company was in.

Here are some examples of the quick compliment framework in practice:

  • Saw your talk at {{event}} – loved the unique insights and hoping to test some of those ideas over the next few weeks!
  • Listened to you on {{podcast}}, really enjoyed your points on {{topic}}.
  • Congrats on the recent funding for {{company.name}} – should be an exciting few months ahead!
  • Saw you were nominated for {{award}} – congrats!

Fundamentally, they’re simple opening lines.

But what they show is that you’ve spent more than 30 seconds coming up with them. You will have had to actively seek out the content they’re creating, talks they’re doing, or company updates. 

While they’re not completely unique, they’re a good way to show someone you’ve done some research, and it’s hard to go wrong with them if you’re genuine, so they’re low risk.

The only potential downside is that they can be a bit generic.

If you’re emailing a company that closed a round of funding, 50 other companies are probably sending an email mentioning that as well.

Find a unique angle, and add an extra bit of personalization. That will be enough to stand out in the inbox.

2. You Have Something in Common

If you have something in common with the person you’re emailing, bring it up. It’s a great way to build instant rapport.

Some examples could be:

  • You have a mutual friend who connected you
  • You went to the same college or university
  • You live in the same city or area

These aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re a simple, effective way to start an email.

Some opening lines using this framework include:

  • {{mutual.connection}} said I should reach out to you. 
  • Saw you went to {{college}} – class of {{year}} here.
  • Hope you’re doing well – always good to connect with people in {{city}}
  • I’m reaching out to other people working in {{industry}}, saw you’ve worked with {{company A}} and {{company B}}.

All of these show a clear connection that helps you reach out more personally.

You don’t need to be overly specific and get too personal (you don’t know them yet), but showing that you’re not a complete stranger will help build a connection, which is important when the recipient doesn’t know who you are.

A potential downside to this strategy is that you risk getting too generic.

For example, just because you’re from the same city or went to the same academic institution, it doesn’t mean you have anything in common.

You could make it more personal by checking out your prospect’s LinkedIn account and seeing if they went to any of the same clubs at your school and you’ll be able to mention that you were part of the same one.

Or, if you check their Twitter account, they might have posted about a particular coworking spot or location in the city that you know well.

The key is to always write an email that can’t have been sent to two separate people, so adding the extra nuggets of personalization will go a long way. 

3. Mention Recent Content They Produced

People are interested in themselves and the work they’re doing.

If you can send them a genuine compliment proving you’ve watched, read, or listened to something they’ve created, it’s a good way to open an email.

  • Saw your latest industry report – incredible how {{statistic they mentioned}}!
  • Just saw the case study you published with {{customer}}. Awesome how you helped them increase conversions by 15%.
  • Really enjoyed your blog post on {{topic}} – will implement the advice in my next cold email campaign.
  • Loved the article you shared on LinkedIn yesterday about {{topic}}, sent it straight to my team’s Slack. 

You’ll show your prospect that you’ve genuinely enjoyed their content.

I’d recommend picking a particular learning or takeaway you had from the content, as it shows you’ve read or watched it.

Otherwise, the complement will be too generic, and it’ll look like something you could have sent to anyone.

4. Agitate a Pain Point

A common copywriting framework is called PAS: Problem, Agitate, Solve.

This works in emails like it would on a landing page.

Use this in your cold email templates, and specifically, your opening lines to show you truly understand the problems your customer is facing.

  • Loved your blog post on {{topic}} you published, hope it’s converting well
  • Saw you’re using cold email at {{company.name}}, hope it’s performing well
  • Saw you’re using LinkedIn ads at {{company.name}}, thought you’d be interested in how our company helped {{similar.company}} get 20% higher CTR with a few changes.
  • Noticed you’re hiring for {{role}}, wanted to reach out to see if our software could help.

Opening lines focused on a relevant pain point (content promotion, cold emailing, advertising, etc.) are good ways to show you’ve researched their current activities and set you up well to mention your service.

The examples above would work well if you had a service that did content promotion, cold email consulting, or were a LinkedIn advertising agency.

As you can see, there’s no need to invent a pain point that your customer has. Look at what they’re doing on their website and in their marketing (or whatever area of their business you can help with), take notes, and use that to craft a relevant opening line.

Don’t try to focus on tactics like bringing in FOMO or clickbait – if a prospect replies and you can’t live up to the promises you’ve made, they won’t do business with you.

A Simple Process for Writing Opening Lines

Coming up with good opening lines for every prospect does take time. 

But, it’s worth it.

You should approach it as a core part of your list building process. 

Some people will prefer to use a VA to do this, but if you’re focused on quality, you may want to take the extra 10 minutes per prospect to do it yourself. 

After all, the ROI on your emails will be higher the more they’re personalized.

Next to the usual columns in your CSV for fields like:

  • Full name
  • Company name
  • Email

Add another column. This will be where your first line field goes.

Then, when you’re ready to email your list of prospects, all you’ll need to do is add your {{first_line}} or {{opening_line}} field to your email copy and it will auto-populate in each email you send.

In QuickMail, you can easily do this with Attributes. When writing your campaign emails, simply add your field.

Every email you send will be uniquely customized, but you can still send them out automatically and ensure follow-ups are sent automatically as well.

You could also include a customized “PS.” or extra note that you can use in the opening email, or in your follow-ups.

If you want to get even more targeted, you can use tools like Crystal to find out what type of tone, delivery, and content type you could include in your opening line based on someone’s real preferences.

You can make your cold email opening line even more refined, and help your email snippet stand out even more in their inbox.

Always Focus on Your Ideal Customer

When writing cold emails you may want to cut corners and send out the same template to everyone. 

After all, isn’t it all about volume?

Not anymore. Prospects expect a personalized email. The cold email success stories you hear about always have one thing in common – they’re highly personalized and carefully targeted.

Always remember who your product/service is made for, and what they care about.

Be genuine, and make sure every email opening line could only be sent to the recipient. If it’s too generic, it won’t work and will backfire, as you’re just wasting time.

Go The Extra Mile to Get Replies

Cold email only works if you treat them as one-to-one communication. 

Don’t try to cut corners, or you’ll get low email engagement.

Taking time to use a personal approach with custom opening lines will also have positive effects on your email deliverability. ESPs will see that you’re not sending identical emails so you’re less likely to get flagged for spam, and your personalized opening lines will lead to more positive replies, which is another good signal.

As well as this, even if your prospects don’t want to reply, most people aren’t going to flag your emails as spam if they can tell it’s genuine.

Even if you have plans to scale up your outreach, take a moment to consider the pros and cons.

With personalized emails, you are almost guaranteed to get better results than if you sent more emails but without any personalization.

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and make sure every email you send is one that you would be happy to receive.