Ditch the Call to Action in Your Cold Email Strategy
Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.
We often walk away. But think about a time you chose to continue. Because you were curious, you asked for more details ... to fully grasp what sounded intriguing.
Why did you make that choice? Probably because you were offered the chance to choose.
Now think about the last time a seller piqued your interest but told you what to do next.
That’s what a call to action is. It’s a directive, a guide. It’s a tool marketers use to tell the customer what to do next.
Ask yourself, as a sales person: What does giving directive do for you — in a cold email outreach context?
It directs the prospective buyer. It tells them what you want them to do next.
This is exactly why, in many cases, avoiding a call to action is the best way to provoke a conversation with decision-makers.
Psychologists and neuro-linguistic programming geeks have long studied the power of acknowledging the other side’s right to choose. You should too.
PDFs and Web Links Don't Work
The use of PDFs and web links are usually applied in a persuasive context. Bad idea for cold sales email messages.
“I’ve attached a brief presentation explaining our value.” Or, “Please consider enrolling in this free demo of our tool …” are calls to action. And in most cases, they’re calling for action in ways working against the sales rep.
Your PDF should not out-sell you. The goal of your cold email should be to spark a conversation, not get your PDF reviewed, nor earn a demo or trial.
That’s a marketing outcome.
Generally, introduction of marketing constructs into cold sales email messages is proving disastrous. Mostly because decision-makers are, in comparison, open to having their curiosity piqued about a problem to be solved, or issue they’re grappling with.
They’ve had enough marketing shoved at them — from marketers and, lately, sales people who push marketing messages and calls to action.
Give Them a Choice
Letting the other side choose to engage or not allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.
“The problem is choice.” It’s one of my favorite movie script lines. Indeed, in The Matrix, choice is the problem for Neo, the pesky Anomaly in The Architect’s tyrannical system. Yet for sales reps the removal of choice is the problem!
Think about it. Removing choice is the ultimate marketing outcome. The way it’s executed is persuasion. A call to action fit right in with that kind of bold, brash technique.
Grab attention — then direct it. Hurry, before the customer figures out a way to wriggle off the hook.
But calls to action rarely fit the cold sales email context. You cannot tell a customer to engage or meet. You must help them want to meet — if there is justification to meet.
I’m often told, “Jeff I need a better email message — to grab attention, gain credibility and convince a prospect to talk with me.”
Wrong. That model eliminates choice. It attempts to persuade and then coerce a decision. Result: A few meetings happen but with reluctant prospects.
Also, consider your decision-maker is bombarded with meeting requests — all asking to give sellers the chance to persuade them!
Instead, let the other side choose to engage or not. This allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.
Acknowledge your prospects’ right to choose. This begins the process of helping customers to convince themselves to speak … if, in fact, the decision to engage is what they need.
Below is an actual example of how I helped Ben, a sales rep for a retail data analysis company targeting branded manufacturers of textiles and shoes. His original cold email call to action was not working … it was typical:
Do you have 15 mins to hop on a call so we can see what your needs are and how we can help?
We quickly created a curiosity-sparking way to structure the middle and end of an effective cold email — without a call to action. It’s working!
I have an idea for you. Not sure if it's a fit. Ralph Lauren is using an unusual tactic to ensure price alignment, drive demand and increase revenue ~31%. Are you open to hearing how they are doing it?
No marketing-esque call to action. Pure provocation, focusing on the amazing story Ralph Lauren (Ben’s client) is creating for itself.
This technique is resulting in far more discussions for Ben. All without a call to action.
1 More Reason to Avoid a Call to Action
Context. Cold email arrives without any context. Your prospect has no expectation of the email. Unlike a marketing email, where the reader has opted in, the reader is not expecting nor giving permission to be told what to do.
A call to action is out of context — because there is no context in a cold email.
Your cold email is fresh, new, unexpected; however, it’s also assumed to be delete-worthy (by default).
Think about your own inbox. If a sales person’s subject line “pushes a pain” you are presumed to have — delete key. If it requests a meeting — delete key. Offers a free demo — delete key.
These are the easy-to-spot, unsolicited come-ons plaguing inboxes of decision-makers. The more we all experience these patterns, the easier it is to delete without opening.
Remember: Most sales outreach is pushing self-centered marketing copy and ending with a cheesy call to action. This creates lack of distinction for sellers who use this approach.
You blend in.
Beware: “Is this of interest?” or “Would you like to learn more?” are soft calls to action that often fail too!
Bottom line: Calls to action are bossy. They either tell or suggest what the recipient should do. They eliminate choice and that’s the problem.
Eliminating customers’ choices works in marketing (sometimes) but never in sales.
Earning more conversations, faster, demands you avoid best practices. Literally. Instead, choose emerging "next practices" to create a modern, effective sales outreach strategy.
What has your experience been?