[Step 3] 🥶 Value-First Cold Outreach: How to Stand Out in a Crowded Inbox

In the last two editions of the newsletter, we talked about the magic combination of designing your own category, and writing your category-designing book.

Today, a topic that might make you break out into hives: cold-outreach.

Yes, I mean sending cold emails. Cold LinkedIn messages. Even cold-calling.

Those messages you instinctively delete or ignore.

But before you knock it, realize it’s the fastest way to get clients when you’re starting a new business (whether you’re a freelancer, consultant, software outsourcer or even an author).

But we’re talking about cold outreach with a difference.

This is not your grandmother’s cold outreach. We’re not trying to close a deal on the first call. We’re trying to give away massive amounts of value.

That’s why the edition on writing a book came first. You needed to develop a unique, category-creating point-of-view.

You needed to come up with a framework.

You needed to infuse your mindset with something you can’t wait to give away and tell the whole world about.

Cold-Calling During the Dotcom Era: My Story

When I got started in the world of software sales and marketing, it was 1996, the beginning of the Dotcom boom.

I was a tender 30 years old, and I got a job at a company called Sunset Direct.

Fernando, the cold-caller

I was expected to make 50-70 calls a day to our database of IT managers and directors of engineering to pitch our clients’ products.

Our clients were Microsoft, 3Com, Cisco, as well all the new internet software companies popping up.

We didn’t use auto-dialers. We didn’t read from a script word-for-word.

We were professional.

Let me explain.

We were required to wear suits and ties, despite the fact that nobody saw us (this was way pre-Zoom days).

This was in Austin, TX, where jeans and t-shirts are the norm.

We called ourselves “suits on the phone,” and we came across as that.

I remember our CEO, Doug Monaghan (he was a legend to us young cold-callers) said to us:

Don’t call your prospects sir, or call them ‘Mr. Jones’ or ‘Ms. Smith.’ That puts you below them. You’re equal to them. You’ve got something valuable to sell. You’re a business person, just like them. Act like it.

That stuck in my mind ever since. We were bringing value to our prospects. We weren’t beggars asking for scraps.

I was promoted to business development manager, which meant I actually had to sell our telemarketing service to software companies.

I became one of the top sales people.

My name was regularly either in the number 1 or number 2 position on a board hanging in the “pit”, the place where we all sat cold-calling prospective customers.

And it was all because I wasn’t afraid to cold-call. I was bringing value to these people. I knew I could bring them top quality leads.

I had swagger, and I was good.

The same mentality – that you’re bringing value to your clients – is what you need to bring to your cold-outreach efforts.

Cold-Outreach Today: The Category-Driven Approach

In the context of this newsletter, cold-outreach is a bit different (actually a lot different).

Your goal is to sell a high-ticket item (consulting services, software development, whatever) and at the same time spread the word about your new category.

You’re not trying to close a sale. You’re starting a relationship.

Keep in mind that you’re also competing with thousands of other earnest cold-outreach professionals.

Each one of them has found their way into your prospects’ inboxes.

So you need to stand out from the crowd.

But how do you do that? How can you avoid the “stink” of being an unwanted invader?

“Sell” a free offer, not your core offer.

Let me explain.

Your goal, as Alex Hormozi explains in his latest book $100M Leads:

…you have to give people something they want. The best part is – it’s easier than you think.

Translation: you need to take something you would normally charge a lot of money for, and give it away for free.

This can be your book, a webinar based on your book, or even a free taste of your service.

How do you put this together?

Let me show you.

5 Steps to Cold-Outreach Using a Value-First Approach

As I show you these steps, please keep this very important concept in mind: you’re opening a conversation, a dialogue. You’re not closing a sale.

This is especially true if you’re trying to establish your new category.

If somebody says “no” during your cold-outreach phase, no biggie. They said “no” now, but they’re going to say “yes” to your category eventually.

You don’t ever want to dismiss somebody just because they rejected your initial offer.

Remember: you’re going to become the category king or queen of this cool new industry segment you’ve invented.

Your cold-outreach program, then, is not a cheesy sales come-on, but an introduction to your new neighbors.

Picture you and your kids bringing a plate of warm chocolate-chip cookies to the people on your street.

You’re leaving a good impression on the neighborhood, and maybe your neighbors’ kids will invite your kids to play one day.

That’s the attitude you need to have with your cold-outreach program.

Here are the steps:

1. Put Together Your Prospect List

A few years ago, my son, Alejandro, and I, had a small cold-outreach agency helping software outsourcing companies from Latin America with their U.S. market-entry efforts.

Our process depended heavily on cold-emailing using Alex Berman’s approach (his YouTube channel is insanely valuable).

We found “lead-getters” from around the world on Upwork. They would assemble surprisingly accurate prospect lists, with the correct email addresses, phone numbers and LinkedIn profiles.

However, there are several ways to gather your list of prospects:

  1. Freelancers (from Upwork and others)
  2. Database software (Zoominfo, D&B, Demandbase, etc.)
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Software for scraping websites

When were doing cold-outreach, Alejandro (my son and business partner), would post a job on Upwork looking for lead-getters.

The job posting was very specific:

We need 200 leads in the concert venue space in the United States. We need facility managers and operations directors, their email addresses, phone numbers and LinkedIn profiles….

(For the exact steps on how to do this, I recommend watching Alex Berman’s video How I Generated 200 Leads for Just $50 on Upwork.)

ZoomInfo, on the other hand, has all that info right there in their database. Just log in, type in your detailed search criteria, and boom! You have leads.

​But you’ll pay for it though​.

Alex Hormozi also discusses using lead scraping software that literally scrapes the contact information of people you want to contact from thousands of different websites.

Companies like ​LeadScrape ​and ​Outscraper​, for example (I can’t vouch for these firms, I just Googled them).

These companies go out of business all the time, and new ones pop up to take their place. So try different services to see which ones suit your needs the best.

Finally, you can manually put together your lead lists using LinkedIn. To take full advantage of LinkedIn’s capabilities upgrade to the SalesNavigator tier.

2. Automate Your Cold Outreach

There’s no better way to say it: cold outreach is a labor intensive process.

You need to send a lot of messages to generate a real opportunity.

Alex Hormozi says you need to send out about 100 messages a day.

That information jibes with my experience. My cold-outreach mentor, Robert Indries, told me volume is the name of the game.

But you can make it easy on yourself by automating your cold-outreach.

Use tools like ​Mailshake​, ​Lemlist ​and Omni.us, for example, to automate your cold emailing.

These platforms are designed specifically for cold emails. They help with deliverability while steering you clear of spam filters.

They do that using 3 methods:

  1. Using your email server instead of their own server.
  2. Spacing emails out to be sent every 3-5 minutes instead of sending them all out at the same time the way email marketing platforms like MailChimp and ​ConvertKit ​do.
  3. Scheduling warm up periods.

What is email warm up?

Email warmup is a process that improves the reputation of a new (or long-inactive) email account in order to increase its email deliverability.

This process involves various activities such as: sending (and gradually increasing) a small number of emails each day, replying to them, marking them as important, etc.

For cold LinkedIn outreach, you can use LinkedHelper, Expandi, Kaspr, or similar tools.

I’m not as familiar with LinkedIn automation, but you can check out ​Evan Weiland’s LinkedIn timeline​ for some solid info.

3. Personalize Your Messages…But Really Personalize Them

I’m sure you’ve received one of those LinkedIn connection requests where the sincere young prospector says “We have a lot of contacts in common, let’s connect!”

I don’t know about you, but that elicits an immediate ‘ignore’ on my part.

And I can’t tell you how many super long emails I get everyday that seem to go on forever….

The solution? Personalize your first lines, and keep your message short and sweet.

By personalize, I mean find something in your prospect’s profile you can mention or praise them on.

I remember getting a positive response from a fellow Texas Longhorn by mentioning our losing record (this was three years ago…but ​we’re winning now​!).

The first line should read something like this:

“Dear Ed,

I loved your last article about using AI for retail inventory management. I sent it to my best friend who works at P&G.”

Don’t use something cheesy like “We’re both friends with Karla!”

Really put some effort into this.

I know, this isn’t very automated. But sometimes you’ve got to do the hard things to get the good results.

The next step is adding these first lines to your automation sequences.

You do that by adding your first lines to the spreadsheet you’ll upload to your cold-email automation platform (or cold LinkedIn automation platform).

The platforms will merge the first lines and personalized greetings into the standard message you send to your prospects.

A good trick Alejandro and I learned from Alex Berman is to hire freelancers to write the first lines for us.

Typically these are the same folks that assembled the lead lists.

The first lines might need some work (a lot of the cultural references we’re familiar with are kind of lost to freelancers that live across the globe), but they do a pretty good job!

We haven’t found any good AI solutions to first-line writing, but ​this guy​ seems to have found a method.

4. Write a Short Message

I mentioned the emails I get that just seem to be a wall of text, which I ignore.

Who wants to read all that, especially if it’s not even relevant?

That’s why you should craft a very short email.

When we were prospecting for our customers 3 years ago, we would send something like this:

“We helped a soccer training facility in the Bay Area automate their guest check-in using facial recognition, saving them time and thousands of dollars. Would you be interested in exploring how this technology might work for your facility?”

Today I would recommend something this short, or even shorter.

But instead of going for the meeting, offer your free, value-packed offer (your lead magnet).

5. Offer Your Lead Magnet

There are three types of lead magnets you can offer:

  • Your book
  • A webinar based on your book
  • A free trial of your service

Let’s get into these in detail:

Free Book

There’s not a really good way to offer a free book in a cold outreach message that will get you a meeting (if you know of a way, please let me know!).

But you can build your book’s pre-launch mailing list this way.

  • Send your prospects a message letting them know they’re privileged to get an exclusive first shot at getting your revolutionary new book about your new category.
  • Send them to a landing page where they can subscribe to get on the waiting list.
  • Set up an email automation where you send out a 5, 7 or 10-part “mini-course” based on your book.
  • When the mini-course is finished, pause the automation 3 days, then send a 3-part sales sequence where you say something to the effect of: “If you want help implementing what I taught in the the mini-course, schedule a call with us.”

But like I said, the disadvantage of offering your free book is it doesn’t lend itself well to getting a sales conversation going with your prospect.

I would skip this, unless the purpose of your cold outreach is precisely to generate a pre-launch mailing list so you can make your book an Amazon best-seller on launch day.

Free Webinar

The free webinar offer is better, in my opinion, for your cold-outreach efforts.

You’re inviting people to a live presentation on the topic of your book, and offering them an opportunity to ask questions in real-time.

Keep in mind: you’ve just designed a new category, and you’re writing the book on the category.

You’ve created very valuable information for your market.

The information you’re offering is a never-before-seen new approach, framework or methodology. A new way of doing things that will give your prospects a unique advantage over their competitors.

You’re not soliciting. You’re giving them a chance to learn something new that will boost their business fortunes.

During the webinar, present the contents of your book. Then take live questions during the last 15 minutes of your talk.

Finally, ask the audience members: “Would you like to learn how we can help you implement what we’ve just described?”

Oh, and you can use your book as an incentive to attend the webinar!

Free Trial

A free trial of your services is probably the most powerful way to prospect using cold outreach.

It’s a no-brainer proposition.

If you’re a software development company, you can offer one software engineer for free for two weeks.

If you’re a freelance writer, you can offer to write a free email nurturing sequence.

If you sell a software application, you can offer a 30-day free trail and schedule an onboarding call to show them how to use it.

As Nicolas Cole said in his new book The Art & Business Of Ghostwriting:

“Free Work” is how I have landed hundreds of paying clients. When you put a price on something, people have to think extra hard about whether or not they want to buy what you’re selling. But if you say, “Look, I believe this is going to help you so much, I’ll do the first one for free- just so you can see what I’m talking about,” and you over-deliver, you just traded a few “free” hours for limited upside.

Next Steps: Don’t Be Afraid of the ‘Cold’

Despite its bad name, cold-outreach is powerful.

If you don’t want to wait for your SEO, Google ads, or social ads to start working, start reaching out to prospects.

And if you do it right:

  • Finding the exact prospects you can help
  • Personalizing your message
  • Offering insane value instead of asking for a meeting

You’ll already be ahead of 99% of the cold-outreach masses out there.

And remember: if you’ve designed a new category – and you know it takes about 10 years for your category to become fully established – you’ll approach cold outreach with a different attitude.

Your goal is to introduce yourself to your new neighbors with a plate of delicious, fresh out of the oven, chocolate chip cookies.

You’re starting a relationship, not trying to close ‘em and leave ‘em.

Until next time, have a great week!