Is AI the answer to writing the perfect cold email? According to everyone’s favorite sales guru John Barrows, it takes a lot more than AI to create cold emails that people respond to. It’s all about the human-ness. And our incredible session of Masters of Sales, JB breaks down what it takes to write cold emails that convert - weather you use AI or not. 


Before we get started..

Things were a lot different fifteen years ago. A compelling cold email crafted based off careful research delivered incredible results. Even yielding response rates of 15%+ (🤯). But that was too good to last as inboxes got super crowded. Soon, reps were looking for faster ways to hyperpersonalize. Enter AI. When everyone realized that AI could generate a hyperpersonalized email in seconds..there were a lot of feelings. And questions. The biggest one was this. Where does this leave sales teams? JB got an answer to this from the great Gary Vaynerchuk himself. And this answer is something we should all keep in mind - Humans are, and always need to be the last mile. Let tech do the heavy lifting - the research, the segmentation, the scheduling, even the writing. But right before the outreach goes out to the human - it needs to be humanized. And no one else can do that but a rep. 

Context Vs Content

We’ve been told that content is everything. But context…is beyond. Creating great, useful, valuable content - that’s what marketing does. Sales is adding a layer of context around it to make it relevant for a prospect.


Science Vs Art

This might sound meta, but the one way reps can go beyond tech in sales is by being more..scientific. JB’s hot tip here is to A/B test EVERYTHING. Split cold call and cold email scripts between your target lists. Figure out your objection handling techniques by testing two approaches. And if neither work, that’s fine too. Move on till you find one and replicate it. The sales reps of today don’t need to be robots. They need to be scientists. 


John Barrows cold email writing framework

If you guys might be familiar with AIDA. For those of you who aren’t, AIDA is a framework born in the late 1800s which represents the 4 mental states of a purpose before a purchanse. Attention -> Interest -> Desire -> Action. JB has used this fundamental of psychology to create his cold email framework. 

AIDA Model


Attention -> Subject Line

I don’t have to tell you how many email you prospect must be getting a day. The subject line is one of two chances you’re going to get to entice your prospect. To choose your email to open out of a hundred. These are JB’s tips on creating subject lines that get you opens.

  • Keep it short - make sure they aren’t so long that they get cut off halfway
  • Personalize with relevance - use data you have or things you’ve learned about the prospect from your research to personalize, but focus on relevance. It doesn’t matter if you know what your prospect reads, unless you know how it is relevant to their specific (potential) challenge.
  • Problem/benefit focus - focus on the relevant problem with as much nuance and detail as possible
  • Do NOT bait and switch - it’s the fastest way to lose credibility if you bait with a juicy subject line but your value proposition speaks about something completely different.
  • A/B test - pay attention to what your data tells you about whats working or not. 

Real cold email subject line examples

Here are 13+ cold email subject line strategies with some real examples.


Interest  -> First 10 words

This is the second and last chance you have to get your prospect to open your email. And build interest. So what is your prospect interested in? Not you. They’re interested in themselves.

  • About prospect, not you - don’t spend the first 10 words of your email introducing yourself. The prospect doesn’t want to learn more about you. 
  • Pique curiosity - Instead, pose a question of relevance and get them to think about something they probaby haven’t before, or think deeper about something on their mind. And then lead into your answer below. 
  • Personalized/Relevant - same as the subject line, this is an unskippable step.
  • Make sure this is research-based - make sure that your interest questions are based on sound research and not generic guesswork.



Desire -> Value statement

Now comes the best part, the meat on the bones, the filling in the sandwich. Introducing your value statement. Here’s how you should be doing that. 

  • Personalized/Relevant - NEVER start with the ‘I hope you’re doing well’. Get to the point! Everyone knows that these hollow niceties are just a template reaction. Start with identifying the trigger/challenge of your persona.
  • Solution focused - Get into the component of your offering that will help address this trigger/challenge and how.
  • Specific - never, ever offer generic solutions and outcomes. Continue being nuanced about both the challenge and the solution.



Action -> CTA

This is simple but impactful. If you’re still closing with meeting CTAs (interested in a call? When would be a good time for a call) - stop. And switch to Interest CTAs. Ask if the prospect is open to receiving more information. Or if they would like to know how you’re doing this for other (similar) businesses.

And there you have it - straight from the Master of Sales’ mouth. If you want to listen to the complete session, or check out other resources based on his teachings here


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