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.

EmailWhether 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.

No exceptions.

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

6 thoughts on “The Root Cause of Prospecting Email Troubles”

  1. Nice in theory, but what you’re suggesting for a subject line is against the CAN-SPAM act. states:
    Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

    Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.

    While the concept is creative, it is also illegal. Also, a postal address is required along with instructions for opting out.

    1. Hi, Dave. You seem to be haunting my posts. Haven’t we been down this road together? I am not a lawyer but I disagree with your interpretation of these kinds of laws — and the classification of sales prospecting emails. But thanks for speaking up.

  2. Jeff,

    I don’t see the subject line as being deceptive at all. It is provocative. My understanding of anti spam laws is that this would not be considered spam. The rules are somewhat murky.

    Anyway, I love the subject line. It IS provocative. I also like that she talked about some of the things that happen to fleet owners without launching into a laundry list of “benefits”.

    Short, sweet, and to the point.


    1. Marc, I’m not a lawyer. But part of my advice is couched on who gets prosecuted for sending B2B UCE under spam legislation. Time and time again it’s marketers, not sellers. The intent of the legislation I’ve encountered is simple: Reduce UCE coming from parties that don’t have consent to mail. The intent is not to limit all commercial email coming from parties that don’t yet know each other — but in many cases should. Also, the intent of an email I send to my prospects is not to sell them something. It’s to enter into a conversation that they select and control — ultimately about the possibility of buying my “thing.” It’s not an ad.

      1. Good point, Jeff. If the law was so strict as to limit any unsolicited messages, you would never be able to communicate with someone you don’t already know.

        And, as you also mentioned, I can’t think of any sales person who has been prosecuted for sending cold emails.

        Cheers and a great week!

        1. Not yet. I’m not saying it cannot or will not happen. I’m suggesting the intent of the law is NOT to stop cold emailing. Just as there are no laws preventing cold calling for B2B sellers. (that I know of)

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