Perfect CTA, or How to End Up My Cold Email?

Whereas a well-crafted subject is key for boosting our opening rates, the CTA (call to action) is the key to boosting the reply rates. That’s the sentence, or a question, the addressee reads at the end of our message. That’s the part that makes them undertake some action – send us a reply, click the provided link, sign up for a trial. If you want to know how to write effective CTAs, keep reading.

As soon as we realize answers to some basic questions, coming up with a catchy CTA should not be a problem at all. So here’s what we all should keep in mind when crafting our CTAs.

#1. What’s the purpose of our email?

The second question to ask ourselves when writing a cold email (the first is ‘Who is the addressee of the email?’ – more on that here and here). The whole email should be consistent with that purpose. The CTA should clarify that purpose within a single sentence.

The CTA should be the answer to a crucial question our addressee will be asking themselves, that is:

“What do they want from me?”

Many cold emails I get fail to answer that question. And when a quite well-constructed message fails because of a too blurry CTA, or even worse – lack thereof, that’s just sad. If the addressee is not sure what we want from them after all, they most probably won’t enter the conversation.

#2. Does our addressee know exactly what we expect from them?

The CTA should specify the next step we would like our prospect to take. We should specify the next step as clearly as possible, so they don’t have to wonder about any details. The simple example involves an invitation for a phone chat – most popular CTA. Here’s how the same invitation may be crafted:

  • Would you be interested in a phone chat so I could tell you more?
  • Would you be available for a phone chat next week?
  • Would you be available for a 10-minute phone chat next week?
  • Would you be able to chat on the phone for 10 minutes next week on Mon or Thu morning?

Note how each version includes more and more details. The addressee will be more willing to agree if they know exactly what they’re agreeing to. That’s why it’s important to give them an estimated time they would have to take for the chat.

It’s always better to ask them for a more specific time for the conversation or meeting. We could ask them a more open question, like:

  • When is the best time for you to talk about this for 10 minutes?

To answer such a question, they have to reach to their calendar and choose a date themselves. That will sometimes work. Nonetheless, we can make the decision easier by giving them a limited choice, like: “Mon or Thu morning” or “Wednesday morning or afternoon”.

This way, they will be able to check on two possible dates and decide which one’s better for them. An either-or decision usually seems easier to make. And no worries, even if neither of those two will suit them, and they still want to talk, they will offer another time suitable for the chat.

#3. Don’t we ask for too much?

That’s a question we cannot omit. We should clearly define what kind of favor we’re asking for and what’s the amount of time our prospect will have to spend on making us that favor. But sometimes, we may be tempted to ask for too much of an effort or too much of a sacrifice.

That’s when the knowledge of who you’re addressing is crucial. If you’re asking a C-level executive for a 30-minute conversation, they will most probably feel you’re asking for too much. The higher their position, the busier they are and the less time they will be willing, or able, to give you.

Think of how much time from your everyday workflow you would be able to devote to a conversation with a stranger who wants to present their solution to you… And now keep that in mind when inviting other people for phone chats, meetings, and demos.

Sometimes a phone chat may be too much for a first step. Maybe you’d like to ask them a simple question via email first? Maybe sending them a relevant short material, like a presentation or a whitepaper, would be better for starting a mutually beneficial relationship?

Think of the purpose of your email and think of your very audience before you ask them for anything.

What’s in it for you?

The purposes of your emails may be various. First, it’s good to define them clearly for yourself. Next, it’s crucial to make sure you don’t confuse your addressees and that you do tell them exactly what you want from them. Set things straight.

Keep it short and obvious.

If you want them to hit you back with a reply, tell them that. But don’t forget to ask them a question, so they know what to reply to.

If you want them to get on the phone with you, tell them specifically about what they can expect from this conversation. Offer some dates and time limits to make the decision easier.

If you want them to sign up for a trial, give them clear and short instruction on how to do that in the easiest possible way.

But: Don’t be pushy and don’t sound salesy.

If you want to sell them your product or service (which is what we usually all want in the end)… DO NOT try to sell them in the opening email. Don’t make your CTA sound salesy, like “Go to my landing page and buy now!” or “Go to and choose a plan for yourself.” – that’s inefficient because it sounds awfully salesy.

That scares them off right away. For some great stuff on how to avoid sounding salesy in cold emails, check the video by Josh Braun at

Of course, you want them to buy from you eventually. But a cold email is never meant to sell a thing – it’s meant to build a connection. It’s meant to start a conversation. It’s meant to build a background for cooperation, which in the end may result in your lead buying your product or service.

Cathy is the Woodpecker blog’s creator & chief contributor. She used to spend lots of time contacting prospects, especially via email. One of the few people on Earth who read crappy cold emails from start to end and analyze them – for purely educational purposes. Taking care of this blog, reporting Woodpecker’s journey on the pursuit of happy openings, successful closures and all the new skills we acquire in between.

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