The Root Cause of Prospecting Email Troubles
Whether using standard email or LinkedIn's InMail, there is one problem I see repeatedly: Talking about the benefits of products and services too soon. It's the most common sales prospecting email hurdle to jump, and for good reason.
Most sellers are stuck. “What else is there to talk about at this point anyway?”
That's why we take the easy way out. The lazy way. Talking about solutions to customers' problems.
And that's why we fail to earn replies. Instead, we talk only about their problems — not your solution. Not yet.
Yes, there may be other problems sabotaging your cold email, such as:
- A subject line that is too “telling” about your message
- Length of your message and/or lack of a provocative element
- Use of words that subvert your goal, don't trigger an immediate reply
But the issue of breaking the ice is the most common problem when prospecting using email. How can you start a relevant conversation when you don't know what to talk about?
How to Break the Habit
The fastest way to break the habit is to take action right now. Literally. First, let's put the problem into context.
Talking about benefits with your prospects isn't the problem. The problem is your entire approach style. The premise of your approach.
Your first touch email must not:
- Attempt to earn a meeting, appointment or demo
- Take longer than 20 seconds to read
- Reference you, your client list, products nor benefits
Do not try for the meeting in your first touch. Asking for what you want, too soon, will fail.
Instead, attract the prospect to the idea of talking with you. First, get invited to discuss a challenge, fear or goal your prospect has.
The meeting will come. Trust in it.
Be brief, blunt and provocative.
Talk About This Instead: Real Life
If you're not in touch with the day-to-day nightmares, problems, hidden challenges, big opportunities and nagging suspicions of your customers, nothing will help you. Period. You must be willing to research, understand and know your prospects inside-out.
This is where to start when writing sales prospecting email templates and scripts. LinkedIn, standard email ... even phone scripts. The only way to grab prospects attention — and get invited to talk — is to talk exclusively about them.
- don't know (but should)
- do know — but they don't want to act on (yet must)
- cannot see — that will hurt (or is risky for) them
- cannot see — that will speed-up progress toward a goal
Here's where to start. Jot down a few ways to provoke your prospect.
Surprise them. Warn them about an approaching deadline or unseen trend. Show them how competitors are taking action, improving or skirting problems.
Then ask for a continuation of the discussion. Not about what you're selling, nor a meeting. About their challenge, objective or fear.
A Real Life Example
Here's what it looks like — to go from talking benefits and asking for meetings to provoking a problem-solving conversation.
One of my students (we'll call her Susan) needs to set appointments with business owners. She's selling for a major wireless provider's telematics division. It's a cool GPS-powered service for a variety of industries. It helps fleet owners:
- control costs and discover better ways to use vehicles
- access roadside assistance and improve longevity of vehicles
- reduce losses from theft
- diagnose and treat vehicle problems faster
- streamline compliance with Department of Transportation laws
Anyone with a fleet of vehicles is a good match for Susan's service.
While Susan's competitors are blasting emails with these same benefits in long-winded emails she is taking a different, provocative approach.
Unusual? Yes. Effective. Oh, yeah.
Anatomy of a Failing Sales Prospecting Email
Here's what most sellers of wireless fleet management services are emailing potential customers:
Subject line: Help with fleet management for [target company name]
Dear business owner:
Whether your fleet is public or private, small, medium, or large, [product name] enables you to track, monitor, and manage your fleet efficiently and effectively.
Onboard vehicle diagnostics, GPS tracking, and roadside assistance are just some of the [product name] features that will help you keep your business operating at peak performance.
Vehicle and Driver Management and Diagnostic Reporting
Any good GPS management system can collect a lot of data. It’s the presentation of the data that makes the difference. [product name]’s customizable reporting features make it easy to organize information in a way that meets your unique fleet management needs.
[product name] allows you to protect and manage every asset in your fleet, including trailers, generators, heavy duty equipment, sheds, and more.
Our nationwide network of dedicated service professionals provides the tools, resources, and support you need to get the most out of your GPS fleet tracking system.
Save time and money with [product name]’s Emergency Roadside Assistance Plan – available at no additional cost.
[product name] helps to lower costs and streamline the maintenance process with our engine monitoring system. Our preventive maintenance program can help you keep your fleet vehicles well maintained and in top running condition.
DOT Compliance Integration
Streamline your Department of Transportation compliance and fleet management processes. Efficiently manage critical compliance requirements, such as hours of service, driver and vehicle inspection reports, fuel taxes, and more.
Safety & Security Management
With [product name]’s fleet tracking systems, you can protect your drivers and your vehicles with a variety of fleet safety management tools.
I would like to send you a copy of our slide deck to see if you think we may be a good fit to assist you with your fleet management needs. May I send you the information?
If this is something that you are not interested in, or, if I should be reaching out to another party in your organization please let me know.
Thanks for your considering,
An Effective Sales Prospecting Email Template
Here's what my student, Susan, is using to effectively provoke conversations with potential customers:
Subject line: which hurts more?
Hi, [first name].
Are you doing everything possible to secure your fleet against abuse from employees? Like
- using your vehicle for personal use
- slamming on the brakes
Or maybe they use your vehicle to work for others on weekends.
These abuses may be reducing the life of your vehicle.
Based on quick research of __________ [target company's name] these kinds of abuses may be negatively affecting your image, safety and/or expenses.
Most construction companies aren't doing anything about these flagrant abuses.
Are you open to an unusual (but effective) approach to prevent these kinds of vehicle abuses?
Let me know what you decide, [first name]?
Thanks for considering,
Do you see the difference? Susan's email is brief, blunt and basic. But most of all it is focused exclusively on the potential buyer's real-life problems. Both known and, probably, problems customers don't realize they have.
The effective subject line sparks curiosity. “Does what hurt more?”
The first sentence helps the prospect introspect, “Am I doing everything possible to prevent these from happening?!”
The remainder of this message shows how Susan:
- researched the client (isn't just mass emailing)
- is focused on construction companies (“just like me”)
- is challenging the reader to perform at an exceptional level
- asks the reader if they will consider something unusual, effective
- not saying what the unusual, effective approach is (this triggers readers to reply)
Susan's email triggers a response. An invitation to talk about the customers' problem in a way that (eventually) connects to what Susan sells.
What do you think? Let me know in comments?