Does the 'Appropriate Person' Cold Email Template Work?
It’s out-of-control popular. It’s a darling favorite. It’s the widely used, sequin-studded pop star of cold email templates for B2B: the appropriate person cold email template.
“This email helped me land a million-dollar deal.”
“This is the secret to writing one email to land a conversation with anyone.”
Consider this a public service announcement for cold email: This technique does not work in 90%-plus of cases.
Given how many people online claim it does work, I am compelled to share the truth: It doesn’t work for me nor our clients.
I’ll also share what is working lately when using cold email templates in B2B sales. I’ll present my (and my collective student clients) experience.
Forget about opinions; let’s look at experience with this tactic.
The Appropriate Person Cold Email in a Nutshell
Boston-based, Peter Mahoney, founder and CEO of plannuh, Inc. puts it this way:
“The basic format looks like this,” says Mahoney.
Subject: Appropriate Person?
I wonder if you could direct me to the person in your organization responsible for [buying something that is usually not directly related to my job]. My company makes the world’s best [thing that I don’t really care about] it would really be to your advantage to hear more about it.
My senior vice president (also known as another sales rep) is going to be in your area next week and he would like to meet with you.
A. Lazy Guy
Senior Executive Salesperson
“They don’t really have the right contact for their solution — so they would like me to do their research for them,” says Mahoney.
“There is a popular book in the market today promoting this type of technique,” says Jason Panici, Business Development Manager at CompTIA. “The book is ‘Predictable Revenue’... Many modern sales departments are employing the techniques found in it.”
Panici says the appropriate person email is one of many cold email templates sales professionals have in their sales toolkit. He recommends it.
However, he says, “Sales professionals are being lazy if this is the only tactic they use to get to the decision maker.”
Does the Appropriate Person Cold Email Work?
What’s the bottom line on the appropriate person cold email technique? It seems to depend on what you sell and to whom. There's plenty of debate.
“Why do you (Peter Mahoney) call the email prospectors lazy?” asked Frank Stellato, VP Sales at American Lazer, in a recent LinkedIn conversation.
“Did you stop to think the email was only one method they were using?”
Point taken. But what does diligence of sellers have to do with what matters most — does this approach actually work?
Increasingly, no. Not in our students' experience, nor in my practice.
The inbound emails have gotten so intense Peter Mahoney (a chief executive) set up an automated email filter — targeting subject lines with “appropriate person” for instant deletion.
Here are a few reasons why this B2B email template fails. The technique:
- Is targeted for deletion by humans and spam filters (machine learning)
- Signals “I’m not willing to do the homework on your organization” (in an age where research tools like LinkedIn abound)
- Is a cut-and-paste template (contains nothing original/personalized)
So what do others say about this rabidly popular, highly template-able (cut-paste-send) and impersonal technique?
“That whole generic ‘who’s the right person?’ approach isn’t credible anymore because LinkedIn enables us to see quite a few things about our customers,” says Heather Morgan of Salesfolk.com.
“The idea that you’re just looking for the right person, and don’t know who it is, is only credible if your prospect has a title that is very ambiguous or a role that could belong to different titles.”
Cathy Patalas of email provider Woodpecker.co sees it similarly. “When I see the [appropriate person] subject line, I know right away what I’ll find inside... a sales pitch," says Patalas.
“I know what the sender will expect me to do in the call-to-action. It feels like an old trick and I don’t want to get tricked. So my reflex is to ignore, or even delete, the email immediately."
Jeb Blount is a sales trainer and author of "Fanatical Prospecting," with plenty (decades) of sales experience under his belt.
“Statistically speaking it didn't work then and it doesn't work now. It is and always has been losing strategy,” says Blount.
In fact, he recently wrote back to a rep using the appropriate person cold email on him. He said:
"Dear Ryan: (Rather than ask if I'm the right person) The better question to have asked is: 'Is your firm large enough to use our software?'
I visited your company's site — did you visit ours? In the time it took you to write/send me four emails, you easily could have looked at our site, determined we're not a fit, and removed us from your list after the first unanswered contact.
Looks like a cool product for the right customer. Best of luck targeting your prospects."
In Defense of Appropriate Person Cold Email Technique
“In my experience it does work,” says Isaac Liebes of Green Light Energy Conservation.
But only when you:
- approach someone who actually has the ability to point you in the right direction;
- present enough compelling information to the incorrect (initial) point of contact---where they now see a benefit to forward the sender onward.
“Your phone call (or email) should start with a phrase that sounds like this: ‘Hi, I'm calling to inquire as to whether or not you're the appropriate person to evaluate our Gizmo 98. If you are not the appropriate person, who would you suggest I talk to?’” says Gil Cargill of Cargill Consulting Group.
“By approaching your customers with this tactic, you are coming across far less confrontational and far less like the classic, late-night infomercial, TV pitching salesperson,” says Cargill.
But is the sleazy-sounding salesperson approach the only other option?
Instead Use Research and Provocation
Ninety percent of B2B cold email templates are … wel l… templates. They fail to exploit the most powerful conversation-starting tactic available: Proving you've done research on the prospect. Showing you've done homework on the prospect takes you into top 10% range.
When you demonstrate “I did my homework” your message isn't perceived as spam. It’s also not targeted for removal by spam guard systems and machine learning tools!
From this point you can roll forward — avoiding other traps. For example, talking about your clients, listing benefits, positioning yourself as a problem solver ... and asking for a meeting rather than a conversation.
Avoid looking like every other lazy sales slug — pushing non-researched messages asking customers to meet before they realize they need to. Or asking them to do homework for you.
Instead, get to work. Pulling, attracting clients to have conversation with you isn't easy. Pushing is. Your prospects see the difference in every message you send.
Sales email templates help you customize — not send — faster.
Just like a good call script, effective email templates are easily personalized. Flexible. They use mental triggers.
Scripted call and email templates fail. They're rigid and sound canned. They're not relevant, nor personal.
Want to start more discussions with buyers — and scale your time? Personalize your templates. Open them up. Allow for insertion of information that:
- Proves you've researched the prospect
- Sparks curiosity
- Provokes a reply inviting a discussion
This is what I'm learning from my most creative, diligent students. The truth about what works is in your grasp. Challenge your buyer to invite you into a discussion. Good luck!