'Rapport' this, rapport 'that'. If you're in the world of sales, ever searched for a job, or attended a networking conference, building rapport is the first thing people tell you to try and do.

There isn't a big difference for email leads or people you are contacting via a B2B outbound campaign. Apart from the obvious one... body language or in the case of email, a lack thereof.

So, what do you do when you can't rely on body signal cues to communicate your intentions with a person? Here's a list of ways easy ways to build rapport with an email lead.

1. Avoid Being Too Formal

Take it down a notch.

There isn't a specific amount of formality and colloquialism that you should apply to your emails but keep in mind that you don't want your email to read like a rehearsed speech or a TED talk.

Next time you're sending an email with the aim of getting your objectives met (be it a push for a meeting, a sign-up or some other kind of call to action) don't be too formal. You're speaking to somebody probably at work, probably in the middle of doing something else.

The keyword here is somebody, not something. You're not speaking with a computer so don't be afraid to lighten up a little.

One time, when discussing the use of formality in emails someone went as far as to say that according to their tests emails with minor punctuation or spelling mistakes yielded better responses because the reader felt like the sender was human rather than some bot, which is super important for obvious reasons.

Note: I can't verify where I read this or how accurate this study was. So, please don't go intentionally writing grammatically poor emails. Nobody likes those! :)

Example: Here's part of a 'light' email I have used that got me response rates of above 25% on a cold email campaign.

Hey Martin,

Great job with managing to get {Company} to what it is today. I know you probably had other companies before this one, but SO many start-ups fail every day.

But I digress... let me introduce myself.

My name is Eric Azizian and I recently built a B2B lead generation platform & outbound email app called GuessBox.

In fact, I used it to find your email and contact information (Sorry :)

See how it's almost like I'm having a conversation? Albeit, with myself for now. But you get what I mean. Your first touch email works best when you imagine it as an introduction to a wider conversation you're going to have. After all, before texting and digital messaging were a thing email was the way you would converse with someone digitally.

2. Don't Be Too Funny

A dog wearing a disguise mask with glasses, a large nose and moustache
Photo by Braydon Anderson

In the same vein of not being too formal, by no means should you try to be too funny. Imagine a spectrum between being too formal, and speaking as if you're close friends. Now aim for a happy medium.

When I say don't be too funny this encompasses all elements of trying too hard. That means no emojis. No excessive smilies. No memes. No gifs (unless they are a snapshot of your product). And limit your jokes and niceties. Be professional.

At the end of the day, people might just think you're crazy.

Like everything, I speak from my experience. So here is an example of me trying to be funny in a cold email, by using a parodied version Liam Neeson's monologue from the movie Taken wherein, 'my particular set of skills' was to do with offering really good customer service.

I don't have money. But what I do have is a particular set of skills, skills that I have acquired from a long career in offering excellent lead generation. Skills that make me very useful for somebody like you. If you agree to have a short call with me, discussing the benefits of what I can do for you, that'll be the end of it. I won't reach out again. But if you don't, well... I thank you for your time and hope you don't take this email too seriously.

You can find out more about GuessBox.io here.

You can imagine my surprise when I didn't receive glowing responses from CEOs eagerly awaiting payment instructions.

The point of the story is to know your audience and save the jokes for your friends.

3. Use First & Last Names

By this stage, I'm sure this is considered common sense more the former than the latter, but nonetheless, I feel like I should mention it.

If you collect names on your subscription pages, newsletter forms or in the leads you generate from software like GuessBox then make sure to use them in your emails.

Use of names doesn't need to be limited to your subject line. Sometimes, you'll get a better response if you skip the subject, and correctly place them in your message body, for instance when asking a question.

Nick, does this sound like something that might be useful for helping brand growth?

Interestingly enough, if you really want to perk the interest of your email lead and demonstrate your research skills, you can even include their full name, but be careful because if done incorrectly, it can just seem a little... weird.

Here's an example that boosted my open rates by 30%.

Nick, are you the Nick Mensin behind Company X? I read about you in publication Y and wanted to introduce myself.

In that short line, you are using a number of things from The B2B Email Marketing Cheat Sheet and this post.

  • Flattery - you are mentioning their success of being of featured in whatever paper or a website you saw them on.
  • Research - you are showing that you have done your research, and thereby stand out from all the other emails they get.
  • Five Sentences or Less - you are managing to keep your email and introduction short whilst making every word count.
  • Importance by Association - if they are important enough to be discussed in some publication, then you must be important to want to speak with them. Right? Well... maybe not. But the human brain works on generalizations to explain social contact.

4. Mention Mutual Connections

Photo by rawpixel

The interconnectedness of the internet and the way in which social media provides a searchable database of nearly half the world's population is a testament to society's innate need for community belonging.

This shouldn't be taken for granted, and can definitely be utilized when trying to build rapport with a cold email lead/prospect.

There are three simple tricks you can do to quickly find whether or not you have mutual friends or connections with the person you are about to contact.

  • Check their LinkedIn profile for mutual connections and mention them in your email as it builds your credibility and generates more rapport.
  • Assuming you have the prospect's email you can paste it into your Facebook search bar, and if it is linked with an account Facebook will display it along with any mutual friends you may have.
  • Using chrome extensions like FullContact, Conspire you can automatically find out how you are connected to that person or who can introduce you to them from your Gmail client. Read 6 Apps That Will Superpower Your Gmail for a full list of apps we recommend.

Note: Typically people don't use their business emails (which are presumably what you are going to be emailing) to setup their Facebook accounts. Rather, their personal emails. Nonetheless, step 2 is still worth a try.

6.State Why Your Prospect's Product is Better Than Their Competitor's

Back to flattery on this one.

When you write the intro for your first touch email (and remember you can always use multiple opening sentences simultaneously and run A/B tests using GuessBox's Email Spintax feature), try naming at least one thing that you prefer about your prospect's product over their competitors.

Once again this provides flattery and demonstrates that you have done your research by writing a more personalized email.

Tip: If you really want to be clever with this, there is scraping and machine learning software you can use to extract specific excerpts from articles published by your prospect or from their website and include them directly in your email by using a tag such as {excerpt}.

Send me an email if you would like to learn more about this.

Here's a simple template you can use for your intro sentence that includes an example of the above:

Hey Rebecca,

Hope this email finds you well. I'm writing because I switched to using {Product} from {Competitor-Product] after discovering that you offer XYZ in a press release.

Great job!

My name is ...

6.5 Company Research

As per above, you can easily generate rapport with your email prospect by doing some research about some recent news or mentions from the company, and including a reference to that in your email.

Here are a few ways to quickly find news about your prospect's company:

  • Look at their recent social media posts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter)
  • Search for press releases. These generally appear on Google / Yahoo news.
  • Business directories like CrunchBase, Angellist, Owler may feature recent and/or speculative company news.
  • Look at recent posts social media posts from employees at the company.
  • Setup Google Alerts to immediately notify if there is any mention of keywords related to that company/employee/industry etc.
  • There are many aggregators of posts, social articles, press releases etc and many other analytic companies (i.e BuzzSumo) that can be useful.

7. Talk About The Prospect's Town

Another intro variation you can use to generate rapport with a prospect is one that mentions where they are from or something unique you liked about their town last time you visited.

A lot of people are proud of where they come from, or where they live. This is probably best depicted when it comes to sports teams, people sure do get passionate about those! Bumper stickers and all.

Location makes up part of a person's identity, so if you want to build some rapport mention something positive that stood out to you about the person's town. With the help of services like Google Street View and review websites, you can narrow it down further to a local cafe, or theatre or landmark. Just don't say anything that you can't backup if pressed on because that will ruin any rapport you may have established.


And that's it! Hopefully, the information above will help you build better, stronger rapport with your clients, prospects, and leads. As always feedback, shares, and suggestions are welcome!

Edit: This post was originally published on the 18th of August, 2017. However, due to technical issues it has been republished on the 1st of August, 2018.