Effective Sales Emails Don't Use These Techniques in 2018
- a template you found while Googling?
- a subject line starting with RE:?
- messages with words like hope, love & "looking forward to" in them?
- follow-ups using words like "bubble up" or "fall through the cracks"?
- phony complements, automated or artificial intelligence-driven messages?
- messages starting with questions biased to answers you're looking for?
- PDF attachments or videos?
Any of these look familiar? Most of these tactics are failing sellers... or will fail you soon. Simply because they're not creative.
They lack originality. These tactics scream lazy, un-researched, marketing-style spam.
"Don't turn your sales reps into mini marketers, please. Sales is context. Sales has to put context around the content," says sales trainer John Barrows.
"If you're not you're no different than marketing ... your template email is crap."
Use phrases like, "Would you like to know more or do you have any questions for us?" at end of your messages.
Tricky or Burnt-out Subject Lines
Cute, tricky or over-used subject lines are the leading cause of sales email failure. Your subject line will fail to provoke curiosity (get opened) if you:
- try to dupe your reader into opening like: "RE: Did you see this?"
- use more than five words
- specify what is inside your email
- use an obvious subject line that pops into your head
Some of my students do have success tricking clients into opening. I discourage it. Dishonesty is never worthwhile — even if it works near-term.
For example, one student selling trade show services to marketers uses "the artwork" in his cold email subject line... to dupe customers into thinking his message is project-related. It gets him opened. But for how long and at what long-term cost to his (and his company's) reputation?
Sellers with the strongest email open rates are using 2-3 words maximum. This exploits the nature of a cold email subject line: It should be provocative and vague.
Beware of words that telegraph what you want to talk about with your prospect. Don't let on to the message inside the email. If you do it will most likely be deleted or put-off until later (a.k.a. never).
Never, ever, ever use an email subject line that just popped into your head. Any idea how many other people like you are doing this? The result is dozens of inbound emails coming at your prospects—most being spammy and looking precisely the same.
Subject lines get burnt-out fast. So fast!
Using weak subject lines trains customers to delete your message.
All the Wrong Words
Are you writing introductions like this?
Out of respect for your time, I thought an email might be less disruptive than an unannounced phone call. I was hoping to offer you qualified leads for your sales team to close."
I'm a co-founder at XYZ Company. We're a startup developing a new technology to debug large scale production environments ..."
"I wanted to find out if you have any design needs at ____ [insert target company]. We can increase sales, engagement, conversions and more through our design strategies. Interested? Email me back. I'd love to chat."
As a sales coach I see these lazy, failing email messages by the dozens each week.
Here's the problem: Templates you've found on Google. Guess what ... everyone has Google. Billions of people. Most sellers are too lazy to get creative. Hence, they use email templates others (falsely) claim work.
You've got to get more creative. Templated messages can work but you need to develop your own! Simply because so many prospects are seeing so many of the exact, same templated messages over-and-over, every day.
Delete key! Spam button! (or they go directly to spam)
"I’ve hit my breaking point," says John Barrows. "After having the same email technique used on me twice in one day, and having three of those same emails forwarded my way... I can't stand this email technique anymore."
You might know the one. It goes something like this:
I’ve attempted to reach you, but have had no success. Either you’ve been eaten by alligators or you’re just plain swamped. If you have been eaten by alligators, my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members...
The message goes on to present options for the prospect to reply.
"Replace alligators with hippos, falling rocks, or whatever, and I’ve gotten some form of this email over 100 times in the past two years," says Barrows who supports new approaches. "But we need to know when to let one go and this one’s time has come."
Instead, Barrows recommends focusing messages on trigger events (something that is happening at the prospects' company) or other priorities prospects have.
Bottom line: Get creative. Avoid words like:
- bubble up to the top
- fall through the cracks
- checking in or following up
- reaching out
Sales trainer, Josh Braun, gets way out of the box. One of his best performing subject lines on a follow-up is "Do you still adore me?" It's odd, un-common and has good tension.
It gets his follow-up opened and the tone is very warm, original. In Josh's words, "Be unexpected."
Automation and AI
Have you considered how your automation and artificial intelligence isn't fooling anyone? I'm in the minority on this one but standing firm.
I recently got this one:
Jeff, I found you on Google and have been digging around on your article Does your prospecting email template do this?. I am impressed. I’m apart of a tribe of software entrepreneurs who....
This is just a slice of the message. The rest of it continued ... trying to sell me on a free trial for email address look-up software.
This is a common AI tactic where a sender sends phony (automated) complements to a writer of a blog post. The AI scrapes the name of the post and inserts it into a mail-merged email template... along with the first name of the author.
If you respond enough to these kinds of ploys, over time, these automated, robotic messages are easy to spot and delete. Worse, they make the real (opportunistic) complementary messages even more difficult to spot and respond to!
Again, another short-term tactic that produces results yet, concurrently, trains recipients to hate their email inbox.
Starting your cold prospecting InMails /emails with a question? Particularly, a biased question that shows your prospect "I'm looking for you to affirm this, so I can pitch you." These can be the kiss of death.
Even if you are having success with it be advised: Potential buyers increasingly delete cold emails starting with questions ... because they signal "terrible pitch ahead."
There are two flavors of questions appearing in email messages. Those that help the buyer think ...
- delete this email (because of a negative, "biased question" trigger)
- hmmm ... (because of a positive, un-biased, facilitative question)
It's the "hmm" we're after. Like this: "hmmm ... I never heard anyone put it that way before." or "hmmm ... I'm aware that could hurt me personally/our company but have been putting off addressing it."
These provocations earn replies asking for details—about the thought you just provoked, not your solution.
Help the prospect see your questions as neutral to your bias to sell. In other words, don't help them feel your question is self-serving. Instead, aim your question at their decision-making process... to generate that "hmmm."
Don't Attach That PDF
Do your prospects need the knowledge your document provides? Yes.
Might their job or income depend on knowing about it? Yes.
Might your case study be better than others being pushed at them ... by competitors?
Yes. Let's assume all of these are true.
It remains their decision to want it. They've got to want it first. Then they'll read it.
Believe me. Customers are being smothered by sellers pushing-pushing-pushing.
Instead, help buyers want the knowledge inside your PDF — on their own terms, for their own reasons. The best way to get them to want it is to not push.
Also, most corporate email servers view email attachments from strangers as security risks. Your email may not get delivered. All because you sent it with an attachment.
Finally, “A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can.
So why send a deck and let a static document do the selling instead of you?” asks Scott Britton, co-founder of Troops.
Key words here are “within a specific context.”
Our job as sales people is to apply content (PDF attachments, links) within context. So if you have a case, white paper, report, infographic ... whatever ... effective use means applying it in context of the buying journey.
This requires assessment of the buyer's context — first. Everything else is pushing information at someone who doesn't want it.
What has your experience been in 2017?
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.