A Fundamental Misconception About Cold Email
Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational.
Fact is, it's not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.
Email Is Transactional, Not Conversational
B2B decision-makers are on a mission. Just like you are: delete the inbox noise. Day in, day out. Multiple times a day, decision-makers delete spammy come-ons from reps. But they also make quick replies. Transactions.
The way decision-makers are using email today is transactional. Choices are:
- Reply immediately
- Reply later (as good as deleting)
Which cold emails are earning response? The shortest ones. Those that waste no time getting to the point. The emails that best allow prospects to get back to work earn more response!
Everything else is deleted immediately or put off (just as good as deleting).
So why are you trying to start conversations with decision-makers who are excellent at spotting and deleting people wanting to converse?
Why are you still trying to persuade clients to talk in the first, cold email message?
Don't Qualify and Persuade, Provoke
Most sellers are trying to persuade rather than transact. For example, are you trying to be relevant in your cold email? Are you referencing yourself or your business? (at all) Are you working to build credibility ... and building a case for prospects to meet with you?
You're probably failing. Instead, start provoking. Provoke. Irritate. Cause an immediate response based on a sense of curiosity or a nagging fear. Transact with the customer.
For example, one of my students uses this kind of approach:
Noticing you added chat to your contact center mix 3 months ago. This triggers me to ask: How would you know when it's time to consider adding screen sharing?
Brief, blunt. Provocative. This message proves the seller researched the client's organization and ties the observation about John's current situation to his decision-making process ... in a way that helps John think about his situation.
Notice: This provocation is not asking for a meeting, nor positioning the seller as credible. The message is not trying to create a sense of urgency or pushing a call-to-action. This message asks a question that doesn't lead John to a conclusion the seller wants. Instead, it asks a question that John needs to be asking himself in the future.
See the difference? This is a "grabber."
The message isn't conversational. It's transactional. John doesn't need to scroll on his mobile device to read it and quickly respond.
This is what works in cold email. Transactions that provoke conversations. Short, pithy messages that stand out by not talking about anything other than the prospect.
The above message isn't accidentally signaling "mass email social selling approach." It avoids recognizing the prospect's:
- recent accomplishment or promotion
- blog article or post
- social media trigger
- decision-making authority
These tactics are working less in cold email. Because everyone is using them. They're cheap and lazy ... and commonplace. Clients are being deluged by long, conversational emails that just plain take too long to read and signal "this person wants a premature meeting."
Instead, provoke the conversation and progress it to a meeting.
Why Conversations Won't Serve You
A sales training company uses the below as a good example of a second paragraph in a cold email. The below paragraph provides relevancy to the target's work life and puts forward an issue the seller believes is of interest to the buyer.
But is this effective lately? Have a look:
"I understand you are overseeing the demand generation strategy, Phil. We've been speaking with a lot of marketers who tell us they are not satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products and internal systems and processes — they just don't have enough time to cover sales training."
How long did that take you to read? Multiply that by four and you've got the size of the complete email I borrowed this from.
You have less than 15 seconds to transact. After 15 seconds you're deleted. The above is too conversational ... where the seller is trying to demonstrate:
- Research: Stating his/her authority
- Relevancy: Stating an issue known to be of concern
- Clarity: The answer is sales training
Here's the problem: The client doesn't have time to cozy up to 30 or 40 of these types of messages per week. That quantity of messages equates to a full hour or two of lost time per week ... even if the emails take 90 seconds on average to read!
Besides, on a cold approach, don't state customers' decision authority as research. They see "I see you're in charge of what I sell" as a prelude to a spammy pitch. They've been trained to based on all the spam they receive each day.
Clients are not open to your introduction of issues you think are challenges for them. Simply because every sales person on the planet is making the exact same approach. Bet on it.
Again, they see it as spam. And frankly it is.
Never Persuade or Posture
Email is here to serve us as a means to get into a discussion about a sale ... not to conduct the sale. As you read your cold email draft aloud to yourself (and you should), make sure you aren't trying to persuade, posture or qualify yourself.
The moment you begin an attempt to persuade STOP. You've crossed the line.
Don't walk your customer down a road that leads to your sales pitch. They'll cut you off. Believe me.
For example, read this paragraph and tell me how long it takes you to figure out what I'm up to ...
"When speaking with our high-growth clients, we’re hearing that hitting revenue targets is dependent on the sales team’s ability to consistently develop new business. The sales leaders say the problem with most training programs is they presume sellers already have an opportunity in the funnel – rather than teaching them how to qualify an opportunity."
Maybe it was the first sentence — where I spoke all about myself and told you something so obvious it insulted your intelligence. I tossed in words like "high-growth." Why? To communicate I have them ... and imply that my sales training is helping create growth. Something I know you want.
Or maybe it was the last sentence where I position to know the secret to success: Sales training qualifies prospects. We write these words hoping clients will think, "Hmm. That's something to consider. I wonder how Jeff can help?" and hit reply.
Truth is, we're wrong. We are insulting clients' intelligence, blending in with the carpet, and training customers to not respond and engage in conversations.
What is your experience?
Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded the Google Affiliate Network in 1999, and has been selling for 18 years. Jeff is adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s business school, a social sales trainer and author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You. Most social selling trainers teach the value of engaging customers and providing relevant content. Then they demonstrate the technology. But no one tells you exactly how to produce leads and sales—using a proven, systematic approach to content. Until now.