HubSpot Email Template Not Working? Here’s How to Fix It

Are your HubSpot email templates not working? The key to starting more conversations is to find and correct your blind spots, especially the ones that may be lurking in your email templates.

“I just finished a year of Lead Forensics putting 1,000 leads through email sequences using Hubspot. Not one sale,” said my reluctant email writing student, a successful entrepreneur. We’ll call him Jason to protect his identity.

“Before that, I hired a cold calling team. It was a one year effort. Zero sales. They gave a second effort on the house. That landed one sale that covered my costs.”

“Nothing is working,” outside of occasional referrals. But Jason’s successful, 22 year-old business can no longer rely on word-of-mouth alone.

He was frustrated. But not done. After all, he launched and is successfully operating this business for over two decades. He has what it takes. But he needs to grow.

Prospecting new customers is the lifeblood of his company. Always has been, always will be. Those are his words, not mine! Sure “inbound marketing” is trendy and, for some, it generates conversations with potential buyers.

But so far his HubSpot email templates have failed to engage customers in conversations.

“I need to increase gross sales … and I need a better process for doing that,” Jason told me. But, at the time, he was terribly reluctant to invest in email writing coaching.

Jason’s Blind Spots

Every seller has blind spots; portions of an email message we cannot see creating big problems. Because we are the source of these poisonous tendencies, they are difficult to spot. Bad word choice. Weak tone. Persuasive hooks.

I have blind spots. You do. We all do. And not just with email. In life!

The key to starting more conversations, using email, is spotting and fixing blind spots. Here is one of the most common examples: Biased “hook” questions.

In Jason’s case, he dripped six emails to organizations identified as visiting his website. Companies like Lead Forensics help identify the company, but the rest is rather like guesswork … trying to understand who within the company visited.

Once targeted, Jason was sending the six messages — seeking conversations with prospects. He used HubSpot to send and analyze open and response rates.

Jason’s messages were all problematic. But his third HubSpot email template asked these “hook” questions:

“Many companies have a product development process that follows a similar schedule year after year. Is that the case in your business? When a pattern exists, it is much easier to plan for the slow time as well as when things get completely crazy. If there is no pattern what do you do when more projects land on your desk than you can handle?”

These kinds of questions are typical in my experience as an email writing coach. Hook questions. Leading questions. Questions that “push on pain points.” Questions marketing people often write, hand to sales people and say, “try this approach.”

Big mistake. Persuasive tone and hook questions equals instant death in sales prospecting emails. Aiming to persuade targets to have a meeting is mostly a non-starter. This goal is a complete non-starter for B2B sellers of complex, longer sale-cycle products and services.

If you need to start a conversation, asking for a meeting (without being invited into one … based on a value-added conversation) is a great way to get rejected and/or secure meetings that go nowhere.

The Problem With Hooks

“Is that the case in your business?” and the other (above) questions communicate “I’m asking because I want you to confirm (for me) what I’m sure is your problem — so I can sell you something.”

These are hooks. Customers aren’t fish. Hence, they don’t bite.

Answering one of these questions will make early stage customers (with latent need) feel too vulnerable. Result: They don’t answer and increasingly hit delete. (or worse, spam … an even faster way to unsubscribe!)

Hook questions are biased to an answer the seller seeks. They are rooted in Jason’s  —  or any salesperson’s  — desire to “open the door” to a sales discussion.

Instead, Jason should be asking questions with inward focus … helping the client examine his/her decision-making process with regard to possible change. He should be asking questions about, for example, how the status quo was created.

What works is simple: Focusing clients on change they might direct — on their own terms, on their own schedules, if they decided it was appropriate and, possibly, with the help of a vendor like Jason.

Success demands you gain permission to help prospects decide on a meeting themselves. Thus, your email message templates must help prospects persuade themselves. Everything else fails.

However, it is impossible to have a 100% accurate perspective on communications effectiveness — unless you have trustworthy (and qualified) people giving honest feedback.

Finding your blind spots.

How Jason Fixed His HubSpot Email Templates

Within a few weeks, Jason got his drip sequence sorted and nabbed a lead. The response read:

Hi Jason-
Thanks for tracking me down. I am interested in your thoughts and am certainly open to discussing opportunities.

Philip W.

The target subsequently went on vacation … then “went dark” on Jason. But he’s still in hot pursuit as I write this.

Here’s how Jason earned the conversation: He asked an un-biased, inward-focused question … helping the prospect consider his own situation for a moment. This provoked thought, stood out from other email come-ons and encouraged Philip to read the next sentence.

Jason opened by asking, “How would you know if (and when) it’s time to consider a different or additional product development path?”

He asked a neutral question. Questions are dangerous (in general). But this question is neutral to Jason’s natural bias.

His second sentence (of three) was, “I’m asking after noticing the innovative baby bed on your site … Are you open to considering a conversation about change — if it is the right time?”

Notice how short this approach is. Notice how customer-centric the questions are — and how the seller does not discuss himself whatsoever. Most importantly, the question posed is not a self-serving marketing hook. Instead, it’s provocative.

Want to stand out from the pack? Write messages in ways others aren’t. This way. Write messages that do not serve you — as much as they serve (and provoke) the reader.

Who Is Helping You Find Blind Spots?

Sadly, people who support us rarely give brutally honest feedback. They usually have a horse in the race and tell us what we want to hear — rather than what we need to know. Increasingly, we take free advice from experts who aren’t experts at all.

Are your co-workers, marketing team, software vendors, friends, spouse and Uncle Google really the best sources to get sales outreach advice from?

Beware: Do writers of articles you’ve Google’ed have your best interest in mind? Or are they just offering simple answers to complex problems — as part of their lead generation ploy?

In most cases, no. Think about it this way: Jason has been driving sales outreach without checking blind spots. You wouldn’t drive a car that way. It’s too dangerous.

So why drive your outreach this way? It could be costing you a lot of money.

How will you find a better way to start client conversations?

 

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. However, consider this a public service announcement for cold email: This technique does not work in 90%-plus of cases.

"appropriate person" cold emailIt’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?

Email body:

Hi Bob,
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.

Sincerely,
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:

  1. approach someone who actually has the ability to point you in the right direction;
  2. 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!

Are You Making a $250K LinkedIn Sales Navigator Mistake?

Sales teams are spending big bucks this year on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, primarily to access LinkedIn’s database and InMail — allowing full access to prospects’ inboxes. From $30,000 to $250,000, most sales teams are “all in.”

LinkedIn LogosSales teams are spending big bucks this year on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, primarily to access LinkedIn’s database and InMail — allowing full access to prospects’ inboxes. From $30,000 to $250,000, most sales teams are “all in.”

But marketing teams are making a big mistake when training sellers on social selling. They’re failing to focus sales teams on an effective communications technique to spark conversations with buyers. Even worse, sellers are going in cold — with their cold email approaches.

Most sellers are sending InMail messages on a test-and-learn basis. Big mistake considering one cannot test InMail open rates (at all).

Graceful Interruptions
Prospecting is all about interruptions. Cold calling is part art, part science. And it ain’t easy. But when a seller masters the ability to earn discussions, look out! They churn through prospecting lists — booking appointments like mad.

When a seller figures out how to interrupt customers gracefully, everything changes.

Today’s top reps are effectively interrupting prospects gracefully. Effectively. Using the phone, LinkedIn, email … whatever it takes.

As Hank Barnes of Gartner Research puts it, the best sellers

  • are relevant to the buyer’s situation
  • quickly help the prospect tell if they should care (they’re to the point)
  • offer a clear next step that honors the buyer’s time-frame

Good cold calling and cold emailing techniques leverage graceful interruptions. Problem is, most marketing teams undervalue (or just don’t plain understand) this part of sales.

The Problem With LinkedIn Sales Navigator
“The simple truth is most people and companies on Linkedin use it to sell to other companies and members,” says Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logik. “But ironically they don’t want to be sold to.”

Marley conducts surveys of CEOs and studies how C-level contacts are using LinkedIn. He’s been documenting a growing problem for sellers using Sales Navigator.

LinkedIn’s InMail is a new piece of the prospecting puzzle. Small, middle and large businesses are spending serious money testing the waters. Yet for most sellers (and teams) it’s been problematic.

Honestly, it’s been a bust, because little investment is being made to help sellers master earning the right to speak with buyers via digital.

Is Your Team Spamming?
Most likely, they are. Specifically, most sellers are sending email (InMail) with nearly zero confidence in their ability to earn response.

Are you or your reps being reduced to figure it out on their own — for $10-plus per InMail!?

I see one practice more than anything else: Spamming on LinkedIn using InMail. Yes, LinkedIn does everything in its power to prevent such use. Yet I see it repeatedly. Why?

Reps aren’t receiving training or communications guidance. Sadly, they’re getting LinkedIn guidance from marketing teams — without the crucial communications guidance.

It’s crazy. Sales reps are given cold calling training. Why not cold emailing training?

Cold Email Prospecting: Getting Busy Buyers to Reply

Transactional Messaging - Much More than Just a Confirmation EmailThe Web is littered with horrible advice on cold email prospecting tips and strategy. Templates? Even worse. So here’s what I’ve learned works.

No theory, just what I’ve learned along side my most creative, diligent customers. Here is a practical way to diagnose and fix your cold email templates. Fast.

Avoid the Most Common Mistakes
It’s obvious. So obvious. But are you doing it?

Is your email different?

Is it provocative? Does it spark curiosity in a way that is hyper-focused on the buyer?

You’ll fail every time — unless your first touch email is:

  • under 10 sentences
  • focused exclusively on the buyer (not referencing yourself, nor current clients, nor benefits)
  • not asking for a meeting
  • without Web links or PDF attachments

Is your first message structured — written — to earn permission for a discussion?

The 3 Reasons Prospects Don’t Reply
Most cold email templates fail to break-the-ice and earn replies because they:

  • Have subject lines that telegraph what’s inside (never get opened).
  • Contain messages focusing on the seller (often pretending to be personalized).
  • Ask for a meeting and share a Web link or PDF (distracting them from replying).

In 95 percent of cases I see, buyers aren’t responding because the goal of the email sender is focused on earning a meeting. If you’re selling a complex B-to-B product or service, practicing challenger selling, or if closing takes months beware: Do not ask for the meeting in your first touch.

Everything (bad) flows from this flawed objective.

Instead, think in terms of provoking a short discussion … that might (if needed) lead to a meeting.

Then, conduct the conversation (via email) in a way that creates an urge in good prospects… to ask you for the appointment. Poor prospects will fall away. They will self qualify/disqualify themselves.

All because of how you structured words … how well you copywrite.