BASHO emails are alive and well—and thriving. They’re a critical part of personalized prospecting and account-based strategy.
But to crush cold email outreach, you have to do it right.
We looked to one of our internal experts, our Sales Development Rep with the 60% response rate, to show you how (and when) to write a perfectly personalized BASHO email.
And we’ve got examples.
What is a BASHO Email?
A “BASHO email” is a fancy-pants name for a very personalized B2B email, usually addressed to a decision-maker at a high-value account.
Great sales emails typically reflect a deep understanding of who the prospect is and what they care about. Before writing your sales email, identify 2-3 key findings that you can mention and tie your value prop to.TOPO
Basho emails are only appropriate for high-value accounts because personalization is no joke. It takes time: researching a prospect’s priorities and pain points, their background, and hopefully time to find an opportunity to create a personal connection.
So forget your product features and brush off the benefits, because you’re going to connect with your prospect on a (virtually) human level.
If a 60% response rate and 80% rate of engagement sound good, read on for a process-oriented approach you can use to get similar results.
It’s time to get personal.
When is Cold Email Appropriate?
Effective cold email outreach means to find something your prospect values—and something you have in common.
So which situations are appropriate for this type of prospecting?
1. When you’re using an account-based strategy
Hyper-personalized cold emails are the main tenant of account-based sales approach (related to account-based marketing, or ABM).
When you’re leaving voicemails, sending carefully timed emails, and maybe even putting something in the mail to entice enterprise or high-value accounts, you’ll want to show that you have done your homework and understand your prospect.
2. When you can’t get your target on the phone
You want to call a prospect whom you know is a great fit, but you just can’t get them on the phone (ahem *the CMO* ahem). Even our customers—armed with direct-dial phone numbers—can struggle to connect.
What if your prospect doesn’t answer the phone?
3. When your prospect is a decision-maker
It’s hard to get decision-makers, department heads, and people of influence —the people you really want to reach—on the phone.
If you don’t have their direct-dial phone number, you could plan to spend a lot of time negotiating with admins and other gatekeepers, or pressing buttons to navigate the phone tree.
Or you could send them a clever BASHO email.
4. When your prospect doesn’t respond to social touches
If your prospect has a social presence that allows you to do some research, but they haven’t responded to your social touches (reaching out on LinkedIn, or a Twitter @mention, for example), your prospect might be ripe for a cold email.
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For more on cold prospecting, explore outreach texting.
How to Write a BASHO Cold Email (With Tons of Examples)
Like many B2B companies, ZoomInfo has such a wide total addressable market. It’s important to really understand specific pain points of each company type, asking questions that uncover those pain points, and provide a relevant solution.
Specific and relevant are the operative words here.
Stick to the “Five by Five” Method.
The BASHO approach to account-based sales development takes valuable time researching specific target prospects—it can be a time-suck.
SDRs can easily fall into the trap of spending all their time researching a great prospect and too little time actually selling. (Because—let’s face it—Googling someone is more fun and less risk than actually reaching out!)
A best practice is called the “five-by-five” rule. Josh, our sales rep, spends five minutes researching, and five minutes crafting a message. This is also referred to as the “three-by-three” and done in a shorter period of time.
You’ll quickly recognize when research is going to take longer than five minutes. In that case, walk away.
If you don’t see anything jump out on their LinkedIn within 20 – 30 seconds, or after a quick Google search, move on.
In this case, listening to a podcast was all it took:
Note: The screenshots throughout this post are of emails from DiscoverOrg, which acquired and merged with ZoomInfo in 2019.
Brevity and relevance closed the deal here.
Josh spoke to a specific issue (Kara’s sales need for organizational hierarchy) and a specific solution. He didn’t try to fix everything or make sweeping promises.
The podcast reference was specific enough to demonstrate that he really did know who Kara was, and understood her position. She was so impressed with the way he spoke directly to her individual situation, that she did the unexpected. And she responded!
Sounds good to us!
Here are eight highly effective methods—packed with examples that worked—of cold BASHO emails:
- Understand Your Prospect’s Pain Points
- Use a Personal Hook
- Refer to Events and Common Interests for Context
- Use a Time-Based Approach
- Leverage Previous Users or Customers
- Quote a Prospect in Their Own Words
- Take a Goodwill Approach
- Prioritize Value Over Cadence
1. Understand Your Prospect’s Pain Points.
Take the example of selling into IT Staffing and Recruiting companies. Sometimes the open positions are filled within the IT department, and sometimes they are run through the HR department. This can be cumbersome for anyone in the business development role, and the ability to go after both sides of the house is one of ZoomInfo’s competitive advantages.
That’s the value proposition Josh needed to convey in his email.
But he also needed a hook.
In the case of this example, he noticed on LinkedIn and Twitter that his prospect went to Texas … and our SDR just happened to have attended the Texas vs. Duke game in Portland a few days before.
That connection was just the “Scoop” he needed to provide a great reason to reach out!
It worked! They completed the meeting, Josh opened the opportunity, and we’re in the final stages of a relatively large deal.
Opportunity data helps inform the timing of sales outreach.
2. Use a Personal Hook.
To keep it personal and relevant, our Sales Development Rep looks on social media for interests, like sports or traveling, to find a flash-point that the prospect will recognize, causing them to open the email.
This also serves as a point of connection—sometimes even the start of a relationship.
In this next example, Diego, an SDR, was a previous user of our product. Josh reached out to him on the phone several times to try and win him back, but was curtly rebuffed over and over again.
He couldn’t understand why the prospect didn’t see the value in our product!
A look at Diego’s Twitter feed showed that he followed only a handful of people—all Golden State Warriors players. Our rep reached out one last time, thinking of the last email exchange he’d had with Diego, where he said their current data provider was “good enough.”
The email subject line was: “Steph Curry was a free agent,” and the MBA analogy cinched the deal.
Signing off with WYSIM, “With Your Success In Mind,” a bit of wry humor, our sales rep bet that the sports-loving prospect might appreciate it.
It also showed that he was paying attention and had done his homework on the prospect.
Diego recognized that and replied:
Diego was so impressed, he went on to use Josh’s email in training sessions (and offered him a job)! Our rep was able to schedule a demo that resulted in an ongoing opportunity, and we’re working to replace Diego’s current data provider.
3. Refer to Events and Common Interests for Context.
In the next example, Rich was a contact at one of Josh’s top accounts, and he noticed that Rich had recently tweeted about wanting the Falcons (his favorite NFL team) to trade Matt Ryan, after a few poor performances in the middle part of the season.
A quick look at his Linkedin profile showed that Rich played a large part in a recent merger and acquisition—a company event that often marks a purchase opportunity.
As it happened, ZoomInfo also went through an acquisition over the summer—a great mutual connection opportunity.
Rich’s reply came that same day.
In this case, we did not win the deal. Rich was the Senior VP of Business Development for channel partners—not the new business team.
However, this exchange opened other doors within the company as he shared Josh’s email with several other colleagues, and created the awareness needed to made ZoomInfo a household name.
That’s OK—you can’t win them all. But everything creates awareness, which helps the next deal.
4. Use a Time-Based Scoop.
Business development reps use company “scoop” events, such as personnel moves or funding events, as an opportunity to reach out to previous users.
Referencing a specific, relevant event—along with a personal touch—is key. Bonus points if you can relate to the event yourself, creating an even more personal connection right out of the gate.
Here’s what our SDR did:
- Subscribed to a Scoops Alert in ZoomInfo for director-level job changes in his target industry, to track companies where previous users ended up. One decision-maker at his target account, Matt, had recently changed jobs.
- Cross-checked Salesforce to see that Matt was involved with the purchasing decisions at his previous companies.
- He also checked the prospect’s Twitter feed and saw that he loved fly fishing.
That’s all he needed to know to reach out.
5. Leverage Previous Users or Customers.
Josh keeps it going:
Sometimes half the battle is keeping the conversation going:
… and going. Heather’s reply was not quite what our rep was hoping to hear … but any reply is promising.
Heather didn’t reply, so the next day, he tried again.
Still no response from Heather. That’s OK. Sometimes you have to be persistent.
After three attempts to engage Heather, our sales rep turned his attention back to Matt.
Our SDR had recently read a quote from the company’s CEO about expanding their global footprint, so he knew mentioning it would get the prospect’s attention.
Matt CC’d our SDR Josh on a one-word email forwarded to his colleague, Natasha … and that was all our SDR needed:
He did a few minutes’ research and learned that Natasha had worked with ZoomInfo at her last job and was familiar with our value prop. Even better, she knew one of our Customer Success Managers.
From here, we were able to get in front of the right people again and opened a legitimate opportunity.
6. Quote a Prospect’s Own Words.
We’ll just go ahead and say it: A little flattery never hurts.
In this next example, Josh was researching a target account and came across a video of the prospect accepting a new position at the company.
Our rep took a chance and quoted the prospect back to himself.
He also name-dropped a couple of the prospect’s competitors, thinking he might be interested to know that they were also using our product.
Josh’s email caught Kyle’s attention with the reference to his speech, demonstrating that he was paying attention—and they had something in common.
Kyle couldn’t help but respond:
Once again, our rep was able to schedule a demo with Kyle, and we have an opportunity to make a great deal—all from a cold BASHO email!
7. Take a Goodwill Approach.
In this example, our SDR’s five minutes of research revealed that Josiah, the prospect, was an enthusiastic fan of Northwestern University.
Our rep used that to hook Josiah, and then closed by including screenshots of a feature of our product that would impact the prospect directly. Again, this showed that he understood the prospect’s industry—and therefore his needs.
Good BASHO emails are personalized and relevant. Great basho emails are also generous.
Our SDR was trying to show his prospect that he wasn’t just a number for a quota.
He went to some trouble (in less than five minutes, of course) to research both the prospect—and the prospect’s prospects, to prove it.
Although Josiah wasn’t the right decision-maker in this case, he was persuaded enough to refer our rep directly to the person who was.
As the marketing manager for a huge company, that connection has the potential to influence a large deal!
8. Prioritize Value Over Cadence for BASHO Emails.
In this next example, our SDR is targeting Megan—a marketer.
That means he needs to show that he understands challenges specific to marketing, and uses appropriate language—and that means account-based marketing (ABM).
Our rep knew that marketing judges success based on responses and engagement. So he offered a targeted, marketing-specific value prop, along with hyper-personalized sales presentation.
First, he referenced the locally famous “PDX carpet” background she used in her LinkedIn profile.
No response. So he tried the next day, this time making the email even more personal.
Our SDR wasn’t spamming Megan, because his email delivered value. (Here’s the difference between cold email and spam.) He emailed her three times in three business days, all without a response—and it was still not invasive, because he was personal and diligent.
From her LinkedIn profile, Josh noticed that Megan liked microbrews. He also referenced the weather, to further create a personal connection.
Finally, after three attempts, he got a response!
As it turned out, he knew someone else who worked in the business development team at Megan’s company, and they forwarded our rep an email that Megan had sent to his team:
Josh has had people tell him “no”—but no one has ever told him that he was bugging them, as long as he took the time to do a little research. It is hard to stand from the crowd with an email.
But if you can find some common ground with your prospect and show that you really understand their pain points, people do respond.
Great BASHO emails really aren’t that hard to write. Being professional means being helpful, empathetic, and doing your homework.
Turns out, people really like that!