Value Proposition – How to Tell My Addressee What I Want from Them?

The value proposition (or the pitch) is probably the most difficult part to craft well in a cold email. Why? ‘Cause if it sounds even a bit salesy – the prospect may get scared off. Too blurry – the prospect may not get what we want from them and become disinterested. Too personal – it may just seem creepy. So how should it sound so the prospect gets actually intrigued and wants to reply?

What is the value proposition all about?

That’s the part of a cold email where we’re telling the addressee the reason for our reaching out to them. And that’s a very tricky part because that’s where we need to write a little about ourselves and our offer and at the same time keep our focus on the addressee. In other words, we should write about ourselves while still writing about them.

So here’s a question for you: Can you confirm that the pitch of your cold email is NOT totally focused on you? Because if it is, it surely has some value to you, but not necessarily to your prospects.

How to make our value proposition actually valuable to the addressee?

The mistake I often see in cold emails is that they are too much focused on the product or the service they offer (for more on that topic, go to the post about cold email introductions).

As Heather Morgan rightly points out in many of her articles on cold emails at Salesfolk’s blog, we should forget about presenting a longish list of our product’s features and telling the prospect how awesome our software is.

The most important thing to remember on this part is to avoid the “me, me, me” tone in our cold email. The truth is, the very short story we build in our message is not about us, or our product for that matter. It is about our addressee and their company. They play the main part and they need to feel that. We and our product are just a background character.

The story is not about how our totally awesome solution will solve all their problems – well, at least it shouldn’t be like that because if it is, it sounds salesy as hell. It should be about some specific problems they may have and about how they can solve these problems with our help.

The difference is very subtle, and the line between helping and selling is very thin. The key to effective cold email is to make sure we never cross that line.

What does an actually valuable proposition sound like?

As we already established, it is not self-centered and not salesy. It should not include a long list of features or services packed with adjectives and adverbs.

So what is it like? What should it include?

1. The reason why we reached out exactly to them, and not someone else. That makes them feel the proposition is directed to them specifically, i.e. it feels more personal and more valuable. This should be nicely connected with your introduction, too.

2. The clear answer to the question: What can we do for them? Or, what is it exactly that we are proposing in this message?

3. The benefit of starting a business relationship with us. In other words, what’s in it for them. What exactly they and their company can gain from our proposition. Remember, it’s all about them, not you.

4. The example of how other people and/or companies benefited from cooperation with us. If you’ve got some impressive numbers, you can mention them here. Check the post by Heather Morgan to see how to do it right.

5. The light, honest and polite tone devoid of fake praise and empty phrases. The language of a person looking for a start to talk, not a salesperson who is trying to close a deal. See the post by Robert Graham for a good example.

What’s in it for you?

Except for the points a) to e) above, it’s crucial to remember two great rules about the value proposition in cold emails:

  • It’s not about you, it’s about your addressee.
  • Do not try to sell here.

I guess the first test to carry out as soon as you have your first draft ready is to read it to yourself out loud and check if it doesn’t sound salesy. If there’s even a shadow of a doubt – rewrite your pitch again.

Another thing is to make sure the value proposition is smoothly linked with the introduction. You cannot refer to a blog post on weight loss in your intro and offer accounting services, if you see what I mean.

All parts of your email have to click with one another. The intro links naturally with the value proposition, and the latter is followed by a clear and appropriate CTA.

That’s very important – otherwise, the message sounds unnatural, confusing and irrelevant. And to make them reply, it has to be the exact opposite, i.e.: natural, clear and relevant.

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.
  • Chris Becker

    Excellent post, team! I think point #5 is really important, specifically using a casual tone. Recently I took a step back and realized that the way I talk is not the same way that I write emails (or posts, messages, etc) but it’s helped a lot to focus on keeping my writing just as casual as when I’m speaking. That realization actually came to me when I was using Siri to write an email. After re-reading the email before sending, I liked the tone more than usual and decided to stick with that change and stop writing like everyone was a Fortune 100 CEO. Actually I bet even those leaders would prefer a casual email once in a while! 🙂


    • Thanks, Chris! I think casual tone is what makes the email sound more familiar and kind of shortens the distance between you and the addressee. Thanks for sharing, I’m glad your conclusions are similar to mine. 🙂

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  • Do you have examples of what a great value prop in a cold email looks like?

  • Kimberly

    this article would have been better with clear and concrete examples 🙂

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