The Big Problem With Sales Email Templates
Spending time doing cold email outreach to new prospects? Trying to reignite smoldering discussions with existing customers? Then you're probably using voicemail (the phone), LinkedIn’s InMail and email. Sales email templates are a big part of day-to-day life. The problem is they don't work.
Nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. Yet most sellers use templates.
Stop Using Templates, Now
Templates don't work. Now, I know you know this. But you still use 'em. So allow me to issue you permission to stop. Right now — today.
Think about the last templated message you received. How quickly did you delete it? More importantly, how easy was it for you to spot?
Was it the subject line — the one that told you precisely what was inside the message? (A.K.A. a terrible pitch.)
Or did the subject line trick you into opening it — only to earn your immediate deletion because the first line was offensive?
After years of helping folks write sales email letters, I can tell you why this happens. The reason sales email templates rarely work is simple: Most use the same, “telling” communications format.
Are Your Emails Asking Questions?
One common reason potential buyers delete cold email templates is because they start with a question that causes them to roll their eyes: the kind that signals “terrible pitch ahead.” Most sales email templates rely on a lazy, transparent formula. They sabotage you.
Providing that these kinds of emails do get opened, the contents usually:
- Ask a question known to be on the buyers' mind.
- Take longer than 30 seconds to read.
- Present a solution, rather than provoking the buyer to hit reply and talk about their problem.
These are just a few characteristics. There are a half-dozen more. Today, I want to focus on the root cause of your cold email being deleted:
That silly question you are asking.
The one you are asking to try to appear relevant. Trouble is it's a dead give-away. It's lazy, and off the same cookie sheet as 95 percent of competitor emails pouring into your buyers' inbox.
For example, one of my students was using, “Did you know that printing is typically the third highest office expense behind payroll and rent?” He sells managed print services to CEOs, COOs and IT managers at small and mid-sized businesses.
Opening with a question is always dangerous. If it is perceived as a “leading question”, you're deleted. Because if your question feels like a setup to a sales pitch the message will fail to provoke response.
The prospect will think, “I know why you're asking … ” — then roll his eyes and hit delete. You will have signaled the “sales pitch ahead” alarm, sabotaging your provocation.
If the only obvious answer to your question is “yes” or “no”, it may risk insulting the buyers' intelligence.
“Did you know printing is expensive?” is an obvious yes.
This approach is risky as compared to a question that forces the buyer to introspect on a more complicated issue.
“You really need to take a look at your overall document output and how it eats into your revenue.” It may sound bold and direct but when the above seller used this line it resulted in instant deletion.
It's bossy and positions the sender as someone who is obviously going to sell a solution to a problem the reader may not realize — but should.
Just the same, this hit my inbox recently and is a very popular sales email template. It's popular and (I'll bet) ineffective. I'm obfuscating the company's name to protect the innocent.
I am contacting you because I would like to bring [company] to your attention.
[company] provides all the resources you need to create and sell online training modules:
Create, distribute, analyze and sell your modules all within [company]. Your modules will run on any device and can be used in any language.
Last month we welcomed our 15,000th customer. In case you want to give [company] a try, you can sign up for free at [Web site].
If you’d like to know more about [company], let me know, I am always happy to show you [company] possibilities for your business.
The above email is a blatant attack on my inbox.
Let's look at the first sentence. I have many people vying for my attention. The fact that this seller of learning management software is one of them is not a reason why they should contact me.
In fact, it's a reason why they should provoke me to talk with them — to stand out.
Providing attention to this company isn't important to me.
These ideas are intellectually offensive, intrusive even. And that's too bad because the seller, in this example, is in touch with problems I may not be paying enough attention to.
Keying these problems into my consciousness is a great way to grab my attention — and provoke my reply.
A Better Template: Provocative Message Formula
Templates do not work. But a formulaic approach to message design — that is mostly template-able — does. Customization is key.
In the above example, what might be important to me are deficiencies in my current learning management system. Thus, asking me, “Jeff, are you doing everything possible to ensure device compatibility with your email prospecting lessons?”
That's a grabber. It forces me to stop and think, “Am I doing everything possible to address that?” In my case, it forces me to realize, “Am I even paying attention to device compatibility!?”
It makes me want to read on. It provokes me.
This kind of approach also shows me that the seller:
- Did homework on me (he knows what I sell and to whom; this is probably not spam)
- Is smart enough to know device compatibility is an issue for people like me
- May have taken time to research my current technology (prompting his question)
One of the strongest elements in a first paragraph of the first cold email touch is proving you've done homework. You signal to your prospect: This isn't a random spam message and I’ve invested time researching you.
Aside from getting opened (the subject line’s job) this “homework element” alone is often enough to earn attention. The rest requires provocation.
Remember, nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. The reason sales email templates rarely work is simple: Most use the same, “telling” communications format.
They're bossy, intrusive or ask silly questions. Each communications technique is lazy and ineffective. Mostly because they're so common.
What do you think? Will a more provocative approach work in your situation?