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.

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.

Something prospects:

  • 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.

Asset Tracking
[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.

Roadside Assistance
Save time and money with [product name]’s Emergency Roadside Assistance Plan – available at no additional cost.

Maintenance Alerts
[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
  • speeding
  • 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?

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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