Why Your Prospects Don’t Respond to Your Cold Emails and How to Fix It!

There is a science to getting emails read. There is a science to how our brain works and how we engage with email and if you want to understand that science, you’re gonna like this post.

Getting emails read is one of the greatest challenges in sales today. As more and more people abandon the phone, email has become our go-to communication tool, yet most sales people suck at emails and so do their marketing department.

According to this Hubspot post, less than 24% of sales emails are opened. That’s opened, that doesn’t even address responded to.  Think about that; you have to send 100 emails, just to get 24 opened. If you can muster a 10% response rate out of that 24, you’ll get a whopping 2.4 responses for every 100 emails you send. That’s not meetings, that’s not sales opportunities, that’s simply email responses.

Those are NOT odds I’d want to live or die by.

If you or your sale organization is relying on emails for your inbound or outbound sales team, you have to get good at writing compelling, emails.

The problem with emails today is most people don’t understand the science. Yes, there is a science to getting people to open and then respond to your emails. If you want to write good cold emails, you’re going to have to understand the science.

It works like this.

Our brains are programmed to block out the familiar, the repetitious, the expected. In an attempt to manage its resources, the brain refuses to pay attention to things that are expected or familiar.

However, when our brain is triggered by something that is unfamiliar, unexpected or our of the ordinary, a specific part of the brain is triggered and forces us to stop and take notice. We can’t help ourselves.

This section of the brain is called the ACC or the anterior cingular cortex. Within the ACC is the error negativity signal or the “oh-shit” circuit as scientists like to call it. The ACC or the error negativity signal is designed to keep us honest. Its job is to pay attention when our unconscious brain is not.

It works like this.

As we’re going through our day, our brain has cataloged our surroundings. It puts everything into a pretty little box. It knows what happens when we get to the office; it knows what traffic is going to be like. It knows how everyone is going to act around the donuts. It even knows that 90% of the emails cluttering the inbox are useless noise. Because the brain already knows this, it goes into autopilot, ignoring or paying very little mind to all those things around it, so it can be focused on the things that matter.

This holds true throughout the entire day, that is until . . . something unexpected or unfamiliar happens.

Then all hell breaks lose in the brain and the brain forces you to take notice. It won’t let you focus on anything else. It locks you in until the brain catalogs the information and says, act or don’t act.

Being aware of the science behind attention is a huge advantage when it comes to cold emails.


Because, you now know the secret sauce is to trigger the “oh-shit” circuit.

The key to triggering the “oh-shit” circuit is to create intrigue, and there are three very distinct ways to create intrigue.

  1. Create a knowledge gap. When we know something our prospects don’t, they become curious. People don’t like to feel they don’t know enough, particularly in their field. When a knowledge gap exists, specifically in an area someone feels or believes they are knowledgeable in, the error-negativity signal goes off, forcing the prospect to want to fill the gap, to want the information.  Do the research, learn more than your prospects to create a knowledge gap and offer them some insight that will get them to want to engage in learning more.
  2. Surprise – When we’re surprised by something, it stops us in our tracks. Surprise is one of the best ways to trigger the error-negativity signal. Surprise is when you offer something the prospect wasn’t expecting. Almost all sales emails look, act, and feel the same. Therefore the brain knows exactly what’s coming and blocks it out and tells the prospect to delete. When an email surprises a prospect, the prospects error-negativity or “oh-shit” circuit springs into action, making sure the prospect takes note of what just happened. That’s why creative, surprise emails only work once. Trying it again with the same person and the brain says; “I’ve seen this before, move on.”
  3. Mystery — Creating mystery is another way of creating intrigue by triggering the error-negativity signal.  When a mystery is created,  when a story or scenario that we can’t solve for or guess the outcome is present, we get sucked in trying to solve it. Our brains don’t like being in the dark, so we find ourselves looking for the answers in order move on. If your email is mysterious, prospects will respond in hopes of getting an answer.

Getting emails opened is no small order. We are becoming more and more desensitized to them. We are blocking out more and more of our email, and so are our prospects. We’re deleting them faster and reading fewer and fewer of them. The one button delete is becoming more and more common. We’re not even scanning the first few lines. If it doesn’t stand out or capture our attention in half a second, we’re out.

If you want to improve your email open and response rates, you have to start creating emails that are intriguing. You have to understand the science and how our brain works. You have to trigger the error-negativity signal.

The same, boring, self-centered, valueless emails aren’t going to cut it. Leverage the science, learn how to create mystery, surprise, or a knowledge gap in your emails and trigger the “oh-shit” signal.  It’s the only way to win.



If you’d like more information on how to do this or see some examples, check out my our newest ebook on the science of getting prospects to respond, I talk about all three of these approaches and go into more detail on the science of intrigue. http://info.asalesguyconsulting.com/ebook-sales-emails-worth-opening









Download Now