SDRs & Cold Email – 5 Ways to Stand Out in an Inbox

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Sales development professionals complete thousands of activities trying to reach new buyers and start productive sales conversations for their organization.

However, the reality of the SDR role is a tough pill to swallow: reps compete against hundreds of others for a market’s attention only to convert a fraction of those buyers into a conversation.

In addition, modern buyers are jaded by the overwhelming amount of sales outreach they receive and no longer rely on sellers as a main source of information for purchasing decisions.

To capture the attention of qualified buyers in today’s highly-competitive sales environment, SDRs need to stick out from the crowd and differentiate their outreach from the masses.

For SDRs using the email channel to book meetings, here are 5 actionable ways to stand out in an inbox and reach more of your market with cold emails.

1) Make a Memorable First Impression

People have limited memory and focus, especially when at work. Because of this reality, buyers must be very selective about which people and conversations are worth their time.

On a first touch, buyers don’t know or trust you.

The moment an initial interaction shifts to selling, buyers put their guard up because a stranger is putting them in an awkward, uncomfortable position.

If you blow a first impression trying to pitch or ask for time, you risk doing lasting damage to the future sale and causing these buyers to be more cautious towards you in the future.

Are you leaving memorable first impressions with buyers or self-identifying as a salesperson?

Instead of always selling, focus on making a good first impression that can keep your brand top-of-mind with the right people. Being memorable is a powerful outcome when it’s a decision-maker at a qualified account.

Make the messaging relatable, do enough research to be well-informed, and focus on adding enough value in the email to draw attention and leave a lasting impression.

2) Enter Their World

Leaders & company decision-makers spend more than 40 hours every week laser-focused on managing team members and achieving the priorities set out in their role.

Cold outreach is already perceived as a nuisance, but it’s especially distasteful when a cold email is clearly irrelevant or misunderstands the buyer’s situation.

Are you showing buyers that you understand their world or making wild guesses?

While every company, position, and person is different, there are similarities between buyers in a targeted market that can reveal patterns and paint a clear picture of their environment.

The more aligned you are with a buyer’s world, the more likely they’ll resonate with your outreach and feel comfortable starting a conversation with you out of the blue.

To stand out in cold outreach, you have to be relevant. To be relevant, show that you understand their organization, goals, decision-making structure, and market situation.

3) Become The Source of Industry Intelligence

SDRs speak with hundreds of people in the same market, gathering vast amounts of information on the unique situations, challenges, strategies, and market conditions their buyers face.

Aside from industry experts and consultants, who else receives more real-time industry intelligence than a sales development team?

An SDR’s purpose is to create productive sales conversations and book discovery meetings, where a buyer receives value through the insights and learnings they gather on the call.

However, reps often don’t focus on the value behind a meeting in their cold outreach. Instead, SDRs try selling their solution, pitching, or asking for time without a clear value exchange.

The knowledge you gather as a sales development rep is invaluable because you’re providing buyers with unique insights that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Instead of selling, focus cold outreach on becoming a trusted source of industry news and intelligence for buyers.

4) Offer Value Buyers Can Immediately Use

Even a great cold email to the perfect buyer doesn’t guarantee a response: decision-makers are busy and often have to carefully prioritize how much time they spend in an inbox.

If a call-to-action is too confusing or complicated, response rates will suffer simply because buyers find the next step too time-consuming compared to the value they expect to receive.

Are your CTAs easily actionable next steps or unclear, long-winded asks?

Unless a buyer is immediately in-market to buy, they often won’t respond to cold outreach unless they see a clear exchange of value that is worth the follow-through.

To improve engagement, clearly define the value you’re offering and offer value that buyers can immediately, easily use. Example resources like templates, guides, checklists, how-to videos, and survey data can help make you more valuable and memorable in an inbox.

5) Highlight Their Industry Expertise

The best outbound outreach doesn’t focus on the seller at all but instead focuses the conversation entirely on what’s relevant to the buyer.

Pointing out potential challenges and pain points can catch a buyer’s attention, but it can also turn them off if the messaging appears accusatory or arrogant.

In contrast, praise starts the conversation with the buyer in a positive light. Even a compliment about something irrelevant can put people in a good mood and motivate a productive response.

Rather than talking about the potential pitfalls and setbacks a buyer is experiencing, focus instead on lifting them up, empowering their team, and promoting the outcomes of their brand.

Whether it be a survey of industry leaders, a round-up blog, an award, or just a simple shout out, praise makes you memorable and helps integrate you into a buyer’s professional network.


Buyers have no obligation to pay attention to or spend time with cold outreach, so it’s the responsibility of the SDR to get noticed and motivate decision-makers to take action.

With so much sales outreach to handle every day, buyers must be careful how much of their limited time is spent talking to sellers. Even the best cold emails can get ignored because a buyer is too busy, focused on other priorities, or simply forgot to respond.

To stick out and capture attention in such a fast-paced, competitive environment, sales development professionals need to be aware of how their outreach compares to other SDRs.

Is your messaging unique? Is it personalized? Is it relevant to the buyers you’re targeting?

When sales messaging looks the same to buyers, sellers get ignored. Instead, focus on differentiating your outreach and giving buyers a reason to remember you and your brand.