5 Elements to Avoid in Your InMail Campaigns

I studied the best InMail campaigns over the last year, and this is what I learned: The fastest way to increase LinkedIn InMail response rates is to break away from the pack. Stand out. Write messages in radically different ways.

I studied the best InMail campaigns over the last year, and this is what I learned: The fastest way to increase LinkedIn InMail response rates is to break away from the pack. Stand out. Write messages in radically different ways.

First and foremost, be sure you’re not using popular InMail tactics. Generally speaking, if LinkedIn is promoting a “best practice” you can bet it’s tired, old and ineffective. This isn’t my opinion; rather, it’s the experience coaching sales reps and small business owners.

Starting a conversation with decision-makers is increasingly difficult … unless you make a clean break from standard messaging practices. This means, generally, avoid:

Change your game. Radically. Stand out. It’s the fastest way to run the best InMail campaign possible.

The best InMail campaigns avoid using weak words and structure. These include (but are not limited to) messages using:

  • Cordial (yet unnecessary) salutations
  • “Hook” questions (that customers see right through)
  • Descriptions of value your company provides and calls to action (too early)

Sadly, a large number of people are sending InMail campaigns that fail to avoid these elements. The below is an actual email that hit my inbox this morning. I’ve disguised the sender’s name and company. However, they are a nearly 1,000-employee organization selling lead identification services, in which you can “identify your anonymous website visitors turning them into leads.”

Worth noting, most of our clients have used this SaaS (software as a service) company with poor results.

1. Subject Line Telegraphing “Sales Pitch Inside”

Subject of our example: “Start your year in the LEAD”

The job of an InMail subject line is singular: Spark curiosity about what’s inside the message itself. The above subject line (“Start your year in the LEAD”) fails to deliver because it:

  • Attempts to be cute (with a pun)
  • Is written in a marketing tone
  • Identifies what’s inside (a sales pitch about lead generation)
  • Reads like a slogan or ad title

Instead, our clients’ experiences shows the best InMail subject lines perform because they are:

  • 4 words or less
  • Avoid cute / marketing tone
  • Contain a “tension” element, provoking curiosity
  • Leaning toward vague

2. Salutations That Inadvertently Subvert

“Hey Jeff.”

This is the salutation given in my example. In the words of sales trainer, Jeb Blount, “Don’t ‘bro’ me until you know me.”

Blount says if you present yourself to strangers (prospects) in a familiar way, you’re asking for trouble. It may come off as rude or disrespectful.

“You may offend the person who is going to pay your next commission check,” says Blount who recently got two InMail and two email messages using words like “hey” and “dude” and “bro.” This is language you would use with friends in a bar. Not a prospect.

After they “Hey Jeff,” my seller chose this phrase:

“I hope you had a great Christmas and a happy new year! Just a quick message to see if you’ve heard of ABC Company?”

Aligning with that overly familiar “hey,” this sales rep shows zero effort in making his InMail message relevant to me. Instead, he wishes me well as a means to break ice and appear familiar.

This is the most transparent way to communicate, “I have nothing worthwhile for you.” to me. Believe me. It also wastes precious time. One doesn’t even need to open their email if they see a subject line and first sentence like this in their email client.

This tactic is an insurance policy on not getting opened and being marked as spam … or, at best, being deleted.

Worse, the rep asks a yes or no “hook” question … which is all about his company. This is the worst flavor of hook questions as it is the most self-centered possible.

Can you imagine what is coming next … after he asks, “Have you heard of my company?” Of course you can. A sales pitch.

3. Too Much, Too Fast

Next, this sales rep launches directly into his pitch:

“ABC Company has revolutionized website lead generation for customers throughout North America — the software will give you better marketing and sales insight than you’ve ever had before, enabling you to maximize your ROI and fuel your sales team with high quality, sales-ready leads.”

Setting aside the many grammar, punctuation and readability of this message it is plagued with marketing copy. This is a problem.

Think of it this way. Pretend you are a sales rep for this company. Read the above aloud to yourself … as if you were standing across from someone, face-to-face. If you feel too silly just pretend you’re reading it aloud in your head … but picture yourself delivering that gigantic, self-centered, posturing blather face-to-face.

The tone is “radio or TV spot.” It’s a marketing tone. There is nothing provocative about it. This message puts the company before the value it provides.

Instead, it needs to contain one-to-one, personal tone … to be part of the best InMail campaign possible.. to provoke replies and start conversations with targets.

Instead, it presents the company’s value proposition without the prospect (me) having (first) expressed interest. The remainder of this email relies exclusively on the “yes” answer to the hook question.

Even if the prospect (me in this case) were to answer “yes” to the hook question the copy is difficult to read and tone is advert-like.

4. More Hooks, More Unsolicited Answers

The InMail message continues:

“What does ABC Company give you?”

This is the classic marketing hook question. I’ve seen instances where sellers follow “What can we give you?” with “I thought you’d never ask.” Simply horrible. Usually written by low-skilled copywriters … for their sales force to use.

The message continues with a list of objectives the seller assumes are valuable to me. He assumes this because he doesn’t know. And I get that. But if this seller took time to provoke a discussion then he would know.

I would know he knows. That would make him vastly different than 95% of other sellers vying for my attention. That would be good for him!

Because some of his value proposition does sound valuable. But this information is coming too soon in the conversation.

I (as a buyer) need to ask for these details to be shared … then the seller can email me more information.

This shows him I am hungry … I have been provoked.

Instead, the seller pushes information at me, saying I will get:

  1. Details of precisely which organizations have visited your website – in real-time
  2. The contact information of key decision makers at those organizations – including telephone numbers and email addresses
  3. Insight into how they found you, what they have looked at and how long they spent on your website
  4. Real-time alerts to your sales team when a prospect visits your website

5. Calls to Action

In typical marketing style the seller concludes with a call to action in his sales-driven InMail campaign.

He concludes by asking for the meeting.

You should never ask for the meeting in a cold email message.

“If you are curious to see how our software will benefit Communications Edge, let’s arrange a complimentary online demonstration and discuss our completely free, no obligation trial. What’s the best direct dial or email to reach you? — are you available sometime this week?”

Sadly, odds of his prospects making this far down the message are nearly zero. However, use of words here (at end and throughout) tear down his chances of earning replies.

Because the copy risks him sounding desperate.

“Completely free?” As opposed to non-complete freeness? Hmm. Sounds sketchy. “No obligation.” Hmm. He’s still trying to reassure me this will be good for me. Words like “hope” and “looking forward to your reply” and “I would love to” all risk making sellers look desperate for the meeting.

Also, notice how he suggests what he said (so far in this message) might make me curious. Hmm. Even if I was interested in his general value proposition he has given me so much information to consider (about himself) so soon in the game I have very few questions … very little curiosity.

This entire exchange becomes a “yes or no.” I either want to contact him, now, because I have a need or not. This limits his response and engaging as many targets as possible. (warm and hot leads)

If I don’t yet have a need there is no incentive to be in touch with him.

He also shares:

“Don’t have time to talk? Book your demo online: [link]”

… and …

“P.S. For a bit more info, feel free to take a further look here [link]”

Largely, calls to action are ineffective and inappropriate in sales emails and LinkedIn InMail messages. Multiple calls-to-action add to the confusion. It is best to look exclusively for a response in InMail campaigns, in most cases.

What has your experience taught you about structuring the best InMail campaign possible?

Sales Email Tracking Software: Is It Worth It?

Sales reps are under pressure to track and report: Dials, calls, meetings, email sends and open rate. Not to forget, email clickthrough and download rates. All tracked by sales email tracking software. But is all this tracking worth it?

Sales reps are under pressure to track and report: Dials, calls, meetings, email sends and open rate. Not to forget, email clickthrough and download rates. All tracked by sales email tracking software. But is all this tracking worth it?

If yes, how do we know? Why? Says who?

Certainly software vendors espouse the benefits of knowing X, Y and Z data. Tools like ToutApp, HubSpot, MixMax, Yesware and outreach.io. But what sales outcomes are generated better thanks to sales email tracking software?

More importantly, what behavior does all this measuring encourage among sellers? Is tracking software good for sellers, considering the outcome demanded of them? (sales conversations)

The Problem With Sellers as Marketers

Sales reps are increasingly being held accountable for marketing statistics. This is problematic. Because measuring B2B inside- or field-sellers against marketing outcomes encourages them to write, speak and act like marketers.

Email tracking is a key culprit.

Here’s the rub: Sellers, by definition, need to start conversations with customers. Starting early-stage C and VP level discussions demands superior B2B sales communication skills.

Not marketing skills.

If we’ve learned anything in the last few years it’s this!

Too often our sales-focused communications practice sees reps sending pure marketing-speak within email (and voicemail) messages. Results are close to zero on the sales outcome side.

In the words one client:

“Our Inside Sales team is nothing more than virtual assistants who push marketing messages in hopes of setting meetings for reps. Lead quality is so poor I’m not taking any more appointments from our Inside team.”

This trend gets to the problem with social selling: It’s not. It’s social marketing.

Personal branding. Engaging with insights. Being seen by customers as a thought leader. In theory it sounds great. In practice, sellers are pushing marketing messages at customers. These marketing ideas are hurting sellers’ ability to start conversations with customers.

All because of how sellers communicate with clients.

B2B customers are not on social media waiting to be sold to. And if they are they’re already being marketed to by marketing teams! They know what a marketing message sounds like and don’t need any more of them.

The Truth About Sales Email Tracking

I question the validity of encouraging sellers to write in ways that earn downloads and opens … at the cost of earning replies and client conversations. Sales email tracking software encourages sellers to behave like marketers. This is counter-productive to generating sales outcomes.

Tracking quantitative stats is one of many lousy ideas being foisted upon sellers the last five to 10 years by “experts” who have something “new” to sell.

I’m not saying these tools aren’t good. Yes, they are useful. But the way they’re being applied is wholly irresponsible in many cases.

Like social selling, sales email tracking software tools are discouraging good sellers from trusting their instincts as good communicators. Good communications doesn’t scale very well.

Likewise, this marketing-focused tracking teaches inexperienced sellers to push marketing messages. All in hopes of achieving greater marketing outcomes!

This only hurts reps’ ability to earn replies and start client conversations. If I didn’t see so many sellers and sales organizations struggling to earn conversations with clients I might feel otherwise.

Marketing isn’t evil. It’s just not appropriate in a sales context. There is a difference between sales and marketing automation. Respect it.

The Problem With Sales ‘Campaigns’

Marketing is creeping into sales. Modern, digital (yet under-performing) sales forces create “campaigns.” They use email tracking software to measure opens, clickthrough rates (to links within emails), download rates (offers within emails).

Sales reps send campaign emails that include “opt out” links. Opt out links? Yes. So the customer can opt out of the “campaign.” The campaign?

Trouble is, most outbound sales email sequences feel like campaigns to customers. The moment a rep’s emails feel like part of a mass emailed sequence he/she is done. It’s over. You get marked as spam. Not to mention not getting replied to.

Sales email sequences are reading too much like newsletters potential clients haven’t subscribed to. Clients generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters. But they don’t choose to get cold emails. Thus, marketing-esque email copy ends up feeling like spam.

Increasingly, poorly executed marketing copywriting — shoved into sales reps’ automated campaign emails–drives customers to mark sellers’ messages as spam. This damages web domain reputations of sending organizations.

Another example: Focusing on tracking tools encourages sellers to sabotage their messages’ deliverability and readability. I cannot tell you how many sellers sabotage themselves by attaching PDF documents to cold email messages.

Sellers push value at customers who don’t ask for it. Reps create calls-to-action when they only serve to repulse customers. And sellers begin to make ill-informed outreach decisions based on data that is, actually, highly unreliable.

Email Open Tracking Is Unreliable

Here’s my biggest beef. Email tracking software is being used by most sales teams to in ways that tempt us to turn bad data into facts that are not facts at all.

Open tracking technology is imperfect; at times wholly unreliable. In theory, knowing if and how often the email is opened is great. But in practice your tracking software may not see “opens” from prospects who have opened. Likewise, many tools report a client “opened” when they have not opened. Technical reasons why include:

1. The recipient isn’t connected to the Internet.

2. Some mobile phones and email clients download images by default. A 1×1 pixel image is used by tracking tools. Consequence: even if the recipient has not opened the message, you will see it as a false positive — “opened.”

3. Some web-based email clients, corporate email clients and Android-powered phones block images by default. Consequence: even if the recipient opens the message, the sender’s server doesn’t count the email message as being opened.

Breaking Away

If all of this email tracking seems common to you, yes, it is. But organizations on the leading edge are quietly breaking away from the pack… training sellers to act like sales people, not marketers.

And they’re reaping rewards.

I get it. We want to fulfill a reasonable urge. We want to know if sending an outbound email message is reaching a recipient or not. But at what point do marketing-rooted desires like this (in aggregate) get in the way of a sales teams’ ability to generate more sales outcomes?

What is your experience lately?

Ditch the Call to Action in Your Cold Email Strategy

Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.

Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.

We often walk away. But think about a time you chose to continue. Because you were curious, you asked for more details … to fully grasp what sounded intriguing.

Why did you make that choice? Probably because you were offered the chance to choose.

Now think about the last time a seller piqued your interest but told you what to do next.

That’s what a call to action is. It’s a directive, a guide. It’s a tool marketers use to tell the customer what to do next.

Ask yourself, as a sales person: What does giving directive do for you — in a cold email outreach context?

It directs the prospective buyer. It tells them what you want them to do next.

This is exactly why, in many cases, avoiding a call to action is the best way to provoke a conversation with decision-makers.

Psychologists and neuro-linguistic programming geeks have long studied the power of acknowledging the other side’s right to choose. You should too.

PDFs and Web Links Don’t Work

The use of PDFs and web links are usually applied in a persuasive context. Bad idea for cold sales email messages.

“I’ve attached a brief presentation explaining our value.” Or, “Please consider enrolling in this free demo of our tool …” are calls to action. And in most cases, they’re calling for action in ways working against the sales rep.

Your PDF should not out-sell you. The goal of your cold email should be to spark a conversation, not get your PDF reviewed, nor earn a demo or trial.

That’s a marketing outcome.

Generally, introduction of marketing constructs into cold sales email messages is proving disastrous. Mostly because decision-makers are, in comparison, open to having their curiosity piqued about a problem to be solved, or issue they’re grappling with.

They’ve had enough marketing shoved at them — from marketers and, lately, sales people who push marketing messages and calls to action.

Give Them a Choice

Letting the other side choose to engage or not allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.

“The problem is choice.” It’s one of my favorite movie script lines. Indeed, in The Matrix, choice is the problem for Neo, the pesky Anomaly in The Architect’s tyrannical system. Yet for sales reps the removal of choice is the problem!

Think about it. Removing choice is the ultimate marketing outcome. The way it’s executed is persuasion. A call to action fit right in with that kind of bold, brash technique.

Grab attention — then direct it. Hurry, before the customer figures out a way to wriggle off the hook.

But calls to action rarely fit the cold sales email context. You cannot tell a customer to engage or meet. You must help them want to meet — if there is justification to meet.

I’m often told, “Jeff I need a better email message — to grab attention, gain credibility and convince a prospect to talk with me.”

Wrong. That model eliminates choice. It attempts to persuade and then coerce a decision. Result: A few meetings happen but with reluctant prospects.

Also, consider your decision-maker is bombarded with meeting requests — all asking to give sellers the chance to persuade them!

Instead, let the other side choose to engage or not. This allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.

Acknowledge your prospects’ right to choose. This begins the process of helping customers to convince themselves to speak … if, in fact, the decision to engage is what they need.

Quick Example

Below is an actual example of how I helped Ben, a sales rep for a retail data analysis company targeting branded manufacturers of textiles and shoes. His original cold email call to action was not working … it was typical:

Do you have 15 mins to hop on a call so we can see what your needs are and how we can help?

We quickly created a curiosity-sparking way to structure the middle and end of an effective cold email — without a call to action. It’s working!

I have an idea for you. Not sure if it’s a fit. Ralph Lauren is using an unusual tactic to ensure price alignment, drive demand and increase revenue ~31%. Are you open to hearing how they are doing it?

Best regards,
Ben

No marketing-esque call to action. Pure provocation, focusing on the amazing story Ralph Lauren (Ben’s client) is creating for itself.

This technique is resulting in far more discussions for Ben. All without a call to action.

1 More Reason to Avoid a Call to Action

Context. Cold email arrives without any context. Your prospect has no expectation of the email. Unlike a marketing email, where the reader has opted in, the reader is not expecting nor giving permission to be told what to do.

A call to action is out of context — because there is no context in a cold email.

Your cold email is fresh, new, unexpected; however, it’s also assumed to be delete-worthy (by default).

Think about your own inbox. If a sales person’s subject line “pushes a pain” you are presumed to have — delete key. If it requests a meeting — delete key. Offers a free demo — delete key.

These are the easy-to-spot, unsolicited come-ons plaguing inboxes of decision-makers. The more we all experience these patterns, the easier it is to delete without opening.

Remember: Most sales outreach is pushing self-centered marketing copy and ending with a cheesy call to action. This creates lack of distinction for sellers who use this approach.

You blend in.

Beware: “Is this of interest?” or “Would you like to learn more?” are soft calls to action that often fail too!

Bottom line: Calls to action are bossy. They either tell or suggest what the recipient should do. They eliminate choice and that’s the problem.

Eliminating customers’ choices works in marketing (sometimes) but never in sales.

Earning more conversations, faster, demands you avoid best practices. Literally. Instead, choose emerging “next practices” to create a modern, effective sales outreach strategy.

What has your experience been?

A Popular Sales Email Best Practice to Avoid

Misrepresentation in cold email outreach and social selling is rampant. In fact, it’s becoming a mainstream idea. The result is a popular, yet ineffective, sales email best practice among inside sales teams.

Misrepresentation in cold email outreach and social selling is rampant. In fact, it’s becoming a mainstream idea. The result is a popular, yet ineffective, sales email best practice among inside sales teams.

I’m talking about blatant lying. Faking sincere interest in a prospect as a means to tricking them into a self-centered pitch and/or meeting request.

“What’s the biggest challenge you have as a vendor or service provider?” asks sales trainer, Scott Channell, in a recent blog post.

His answer: Your prospects don’t trust you.

“They have been on the receiving end of too many exaggerations and lies,” says Channell, who then asks, “How much sincerity do you have to fake to earn trust?”

Think this isn’t happening in your organization or daily practice? It may be.

What It Looks Like

“Hey, Jeff. Love what you’re doing at Communications Edge …”

Reality: The seller knows nothing about what my business is doing lately.

“Hi Jeff, I am very interested in what you are doing and wanted to invite you to combine forces to help your business have more exposure …”

Reality: In most cases, the sales rep is not interested in what I’m doing. Because they have no idea what I’m doing. The rep is interested in creating the illusion of interest … all aimed at earning my gullible response.

“Hi Jeff, I came across your website this weekend and was really impressed by your expertise. I was wondering if you had ever thought about teaching online? I think you could teach a great marketing class …”

Reality: The rep is not impressed. Because they’ve not examined my expertise. I’ve been teaching online for years. That fact is obvious if you invest 10 to 15 seconds in noticing. This seller could not be impressed by my expertise without noticing that fact.

Why do I mark such messages as spam, so quickly? Why are your potential customers doing the same?

Because I’ve made myself vulnerable once too many times. So have your customers.

We’re being trained by sellers to distrust sellers.

Saying whatever is needed to trick prospects into speaking is, currently, fair game. It’s a sales email “best practice.” Insincerity is, right now, a mainstream component of sales prospecting culture. So what’s the big deal?

Do Your Emails Reek of Insincerity?

Making ourselves vulnerable cuts both ways. It’s the open, kind thing to do when receiving an email appearing to be genuine. Offering consideration to anyone who asks for it, especially the sincere, is smart. Humans are programmed to naturally think positively — maintain an “abundance mentality.”

But trick me three or more times and shame on me! Hence, we all learn to distrust sellers who exploit our willingness to be vulnerable. Because it takes too much effort to sort the truly sincere from the (fake) “sincere.”

In the end, sales (and your brand) earns a bad reputation.

“Buyers have seen it all,” says Channell.

“As soon as they sense a whiff of insincerity, or that their time is being wasted, you are done. And for those that do agree to speak, the no-show rates (to meetings) are high and the closing rates are low.”

“Your closing rate is going to be lower when you start the relationship faking genuine concern and interest or rely on gimmicks. That sales relationship is built on sand.”

Lies? Misrepresentation? Surely this could not be true in your situation.

But if your inside sales team practices activity based selling (ABS) you may have reason to pause.

Most inside sales teams are becoming defacto marketers — ramping up activity “touch points” to scale outreach. More meetings or demos demand more emails, voicemails … more outreach.

This is leading to a dangerous need: Looking sincere, authentic and relevant to large numbers of people using mass email.

But is your sincerity being seen for what it actually is? (insincere)

The Problem With Activity Based Selling

The ABS culture, mentality and practice is all about the numbers. ABS helps managers know how many proposals it takes to get one deal… and how many meetings are required for a proposal… and, thus, how many calls and emails must be sent for one meeting.

With ABS, success is reduced to squeezing more activities out of inside sales reps. But there’s a hidden problem emerging: Communications techniques reps are resorting to when communicating “at scale.”

Lying. Insincerity.

Indeed, how much sincerity do you have to fake to earn trust?

To be fair cold emailing prospects isn’t about earning trust. It’s about earning a response. I get that. But how effective is it to earn replies using an insincere advance?

What kind of conversations can you expect? In my experience you may earn conversations with unsuspecting prospects. But once you engage in honest discussion (revealing your trickery) they quickly back out of the “conversation.”

Have you ever traded emails (or LinkedIn messages) with someone and suddenly realized, “hey… wait a minute, this isn’t about me after all… this ‘conversation’ is purely about them! They tricked me into listening to a sales pitch!”

Let’s set aside the issue of sabotaging one’s ability to close deals. How many times does it take for prospects to learn the pattern—becoming skeptical about all all inbound emails they receive?

A Sales Email Best Practice That Isn’t

“I talked to a team last week who was sending automated emails on their first touch and getting a 1.5% reply rate,” says Ryan O’Hara, VP or Marketing at LeadIQ.

“I asked the sales manager, ‘Hey … why are you guys doing something that only works 1.5% of the time?’ … they told me… ‘We need to hit our activity goal.’”

“We ran our numbers across the entire sales team and the results showed that we have to do 150 activities a day to hit our stretch goal for the year. We need each sales rep to get one or two good responses a day … to hit their quota of 10 opps per month.”

Not surprisingly, O’Hara reports the sales team had a 4.8% unsubscribe rate. The client was pushing more people out of their funnel than putting in.

Examine your sales communications technique today for any faux sincerity and misrepresentation. Seek and destroy!

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?

 

More Appointments With Decision Makers Is Not the Answer

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more. Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers?

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more.

Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers? I’ll bet you’re not.

Rushing into meetings gives your team:

  • Less motivation to hunt
  • Pipeline filled with unclose-able deals
  • More “no decisions” by clients

What it costs to generate a sale matters just as much as revenue. From a business perspective, wasting time on bad leads drives profit down — by driving cost up, profit decreases.

When salespeople rush meetings it decreases productivity. Under-qualified meetings waste reps’ most valuable time — speaking in real-time with prospects.

Because qualification happens purely in meetings. Objections are increased.

Instead, a qualification (screening) system ensures reps spend time on phone/in demos/appointments only with close-able customers.

Qualification is faster.

You Don’t Need More Appointments With Decision Makers

Here’s the rub: Courting un-closeable leads decreases what you want more of — time and money. Instead, field sellers (your closers) need pre-qualified discussions with decision makers most likely to close.

Before you say, “Obviously, Jeff, that’s why we have inside sales/marketing/demand generation people,” think about what you’re doing, right now, to earn more meetings. You’ve probably got a system in place, or are pursuing a systematic way to get more meetings.

Are you also giving reps ways to effectively qualify — to ensure better meetings and demos?

Too often, our “prospecting mindset” is bent on chasing quantity of conversations — at the exclusion of quality.

The lure: More activities put into the system, more sales come out. Naturally, without question. It’s a fact.

That’s what makes systems great, according to “experts.” Systems are controllable. Want more sales? Increase prospecting outreach. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

But is it really that simple? Is more appointments with decision makers the answer?

No and no. Spinning wheels on bad leads costs you. It drives profit down. Perhaps worse, sales people are demotivated.

Because your sales reps’ profit comes in two pieces: Commissions and time spent doing what they enjoy, working less. Or you might say there is a third component — enjoying their work.

Qualifying leads — before investing quality time with them — is vital to success.

The Truth About Systems

There’s a quality component to every system. It what makes one system better than another. Look at motor vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, aircraft engines.

Quality of systems drives quality of output: performance.

Purely? Of course not. Input matters. Quantity of fuel, air … inputs demand proper amount. When quantity and quality are in harmony resulting output is effective and efficient.

It’s the same in sales.

We don’t want more appointments. We want better quality pipeline. More meetings and more close-able opportunities.

Effectiveness Versus Efficiency

The happy marriage I’m describing conflicts with culture and philosophy of sales managers… even boards of directors … who want more, more, more! (promoting effectiveness, demoting efficiency)

Many are calling this model Activity Based Selling (ABS). This strategy (and philosophy) mandates quantity. Minimum number of activities.

ABS requires sellers to make X number of calls, push Y number of emails, share Z numbers of articles on LinkedIn. All good, so long the difference between effectiveness and efficiency is appreciated.

Time for Dictionary.com:

Effective: Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.

Efficient: Functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

In many cases, activities-focused selling is damaging inside/digital and field sellers’ ability to efficiently generate more and better conversations with potential customers.

Don’t care about efficiency? Not a priority? Then you don’t value money nor your time enough.

Scott Channel, a B2B cold calling expert, says “every call not made to the worthless is a call that could be made to the worthy … or lead to finding a prospect that is worthy.”

Don’t waste time. Efficient use of prospecting time drives what you want — and don’t want!

Why Efficiency Is Worth It

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient. Setting more meetings isn’t difficult when you take a meeting with practically anyone. Effectiveness takes less time, effort and communications skills than efficiency. But it’s not worth the trade-off.

People choose getting more meetings over better meetings because they’re too lazy to get the better ones. There, I said it! But this is slowly killing you/your business.

Cold calling expert, Wendy Weiss, recently profiled financial advisor, Jerry Iancangelo. Jerry invested in a quality-driven way to screen out decision makers with lower chances of closing.

Iancangelo says he learned, “How to pre-screen people better so I could stop driving everywhere and meeting just anybody.”

As a result he’s built a $200,000 recurring annual income while doubling his time off.

“With the extra money and time, I can now vacation in Hawaii every year … take better care of myself and have a happier, healthier lifestyle with good food and proper exercise,” says Iancangelo.

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient, but pays benefits.

Better Appointments at Scale Is Possible

Constant over-valuation of more meetings is diminishing the value of better meetings. Don’t let this culture poison your prospecting strategy. Invest in scale-able ways to drive more and better appointments with decision makers.

Beware of over-focusing on reps hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to approach C-level decision-makers

We live in a world where sales managers struggle to differentiate between marketing automation and effective sales follow-up. Lines are blurred by the tech tools.

But are they? The best sales and marketing email solutions are working overtime to help sales reps understand—sales qualifies the leads marketing warmed up. I think I know why.

Because buyers of such tools prefer effectiveness (more meetings) over efficiency (better meetings).

More meetings, they believe, requires more activities. Not getting enough deals closed? Simply pull a lever and force reps to make more outbound dials, emails or LinkedIn connections.

But it doesn’t work that way. There is no room for mass emailing messages in sales environments.

Sales is (and always will be) a numbers game. But business growth, profitability and earning more free time is not driven purely by quantity of outbound activities. Excluding quality of conversation from sellers’ strategies is a mistake.

Make sure you and your organization are not over-focusing on hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to engage C-level decision makers.

What has your experience been?

 

How to Respond to Cold Email Rejection

“Thanks, but we already have a vendor.” Or “Thanks, but we already have a solution.” It’s tough to read such replies to cold emails. Nice to get replies, not so pleasant to get negative ones. But should you stop when receiving such push-back?

“Thanks, but we already have a vendor.” Or “Thanks, but we already have a solution.” It’s tough to read such cold email rejection. Nice to get replies, not so pleasant to get negative ones. But should you stop when receiving such pushback?

One of my students, Mark doesn’t.

Mark runs a successful business helping professional association leaders grow revenues and memberships. These professionals are volunteer Board members who feel passionately about their work and give back to their industry by donating time. He literally takes over daily, mundane operations of small associations so leaders can focus on leading their associations. He allows them to outsource the boring and tedious parts of running a professional trade association.

Like most small business owners Mark prospects new customers. Unlike most of us, he does it effectively. Really effectively.

Going in Cold

Mark prospects using LinkedIn as a research tool … locating his targets and qualifying them. Sometimes he starts with LinkedIn, providing he’s connected with the prospect. Other times he goes in cold with email.

His subject line in this example was simple and effective: Succession plan?

Mark’s approach is deadly simple and effective. He wisely focuses on topics customers usually don’t consider enough … or at all. In this case, “what will happen when the Board President retires?” The question often results in prospects reflecting on it … realizing there is (currently) no succession plan. This often provokes replies and starts discussions for Mark.

Mark makes sure his email messages:

  • Are read in 15 seconds or less
  • Prove (in sentence one) he’s researched his target
  • Provoke response using a non-biased, facilitative question

He quickly points out facts that prove he understands his target’s situation. For example, “Hi, Steve. Noticing how Sally Jones has more than 37 years of diligent service in her career.”

Next, he asks how his prospect will move forward when Sally approaches retirement. He follows by asking if the prospect has a strategy in place. And, if not “What would cause you to consider discussing one?”

Not “would you consider having one?” A yes/no question is not ideal here as it is biased to what Mark wants: A discussion. Instead, “what would cause you to consider discussing one?” is a more neutral, un-biased question. This helps prospects focus on their own decision-making process, not feel vulnerable to answering your question with a “yes” or “no.” It also encourages them to provide you with valuable information in the reply.

When the Cold Email Rejection Comes

Mark’s first touch (cold) email didn’t generate a response. But his follow-up did. His target, Colin, replied: “We already have a plan in place.”

Mark immediately wrote his trusted email coach (that’s me) with, “How the heck do I respond to this??? My gut tells me to write ‘Care to elaborate?’ But, I probably need to write a little more to lighten this guy’s likely knee jerk reaction of saying ‘no.'”

As a habit, Mark rarely gives up. Like many of my students he pays close attention to word choice in responses that come back negative.

For example, a prospect may push back with “this will probably be too disruptive for us to consider.” Use of the word probably often signals a soft spot. There is a perception of too much disruption … it is relatively uncertain for the prospect. Remove the word probably and the sentence takes on a more final or definite tone. “This will be too disruptive for consideration.”

In many cases every word counts. Words contain clues.

How to Respond

Accept the cold email rejection. Embrace it. After all, rejection frees you to pursue chasing more yeses.

Most of all, study the rejection; word for word, consider it for a moment. Within rejections most of my students find gold. But only if you take the emotion out. Remove your disappointment and expectation.

In Mark’s case:

  • The prospect is not saying no to a discussion, he’s saying he has “a plan in place.”
  • Mark got him! The prospect did reply initially. If he wasn’t open to hearing from Mark again would he have replied? (at all)
  • The cold email and follow-up worked: It was provocative enough for Colin to quickly understand — and reply to. It was easy for him to do so.
  • The prospect should expect Mark might reply given his response.

Thus, Mark should reply, but carefully and casually. Without sounding needy or disappointed. This part is key. Mark’s reply should remain neutral and embrace Colin’s cold email rejection.

Mark replied: “Thanks Colin. Sorry if asking was pushy. May I ask what your plan is? If you choose to not share, it’s ok. I ask to understand, not push you.”

Affirming your prospect’s right to choose is a psychological trigger.

This tactic indirectly says to your target: “I am not threatening your right to say no. I’m at peace with your power over me.”

It’s the one really easy persuasion technique everyone should know: Affirming your prospect’s right to choose. Supported by 42 studies on 22,000 people it’s practical, can be applied in almost any situation and works consistently.

Remember: The more you need the meeting, discussion or sale the more your prospect feels it … and the more you will be rejected. Simply because your words telegraph “I’m wanting it very badly.”

How do you respond to cold email rejection? Do you politely accept that rejection yet probe a little deeper … as a habit? Selectively?

Storytelling: Why It Rarely Works in Sales Prospecting

Many a book has been written on storytelling. Especially in marketing. Today, storytelling (as a practice) is creeping into sales prospecting. But is it effective to start conversations from cold?

Many a book has been written on storytelling. Especially in marketing. Today, storytelling (as a practice) is creeping into sales prospecting. But is it effective to start conversations from cold?

Like so many “best” practices this one rarely works for sales reps. Because stories are usually presented:

  • Outside the buyer’s decision-making context (not buying context … the many parts preceding it)
  • Selfishly, in a way tries to force conversation about the seller’s value
  • To help uncover a “hidden pain” the prospect has yet is unaware of

Yes, B2B buyers are concerned more with business value, how your solution is different … less with features and benefits. But until prospects discover, on their own:

  • why buying might be needed,
  • a way to manage their own internal change

… they won’t be in a position to want your story.

In many selling contexts, this reduces your story to a self-centered means-to-an-end: A discussion clients don’t see value in (yet).

Sellers using storytelling as a conversation-starter often suffer. Especially when clients don’t routinely invest in what is being sold.

After all, why would prospects want to hear a story (about a problem they don’t know they have) unless they were ready to consider change? Biased questions create push-back.

In Defense of Storytelling

“Sometimes prospects aren’t willing to open up to sales rep’s questions which are aimed to discover and build pain,” said a colleague who co-founded a SaaS company selling solutions to leaders of sales teams. His targets are often reluctant to invest. The status quo feels just fine.

“Sometimes prospects get frustrated at answering questions without being told why. Sometimes its difficult for prospects to understand ‘whats being sold to them’ and need the context. Storytelling helps prospects resonate with a sales person as they can relate to another customer in the same sector, with the same job title, with similar objectives.”

But here’s the problem: Buyers (who are not buyers yet) aren’t interested in helping you discover pains … and build upon it.

“Qualification or discovery questions on cold calls can sometimes feel like traps to prospects,” says sales trainer, Josh Braun. “How are you going to use this to sell me? Where are you leading me? It’s like when a mall kiosk person says ‘Can I ask you a question?’ You look away because you know they are asking to lead you somewhere.”

Prospects are very good at identifying and resisting your biased questions. Sadly, these are the questions sellers are trained to ask … which serve only their (not the client’s) need.

“This situation happened on a sales call I reviewed for one of my own reps today,” my colleague continued. “The prospect pushed back on my rep’s questions which were aimed at discovering how he could help and where the opportunity existed. As soon as he told a relevant customer story, the conversation changed for the better.”

But did the conversation continue? In most cases they do not. Prospects may get clear on what you’re trying to sell to them; however, they may become less motivated to continue the conversation!

Instead, what if the sales rep asked, “What would need to happen for you to give sales managers a way to monitor and act on how reps are interacting with prospects?”

The “why” is obvious: The rep asks because he’s interested more in the prospects’ current capabilities… less about qualifying them into a deal. By focusing the prospect on their own (lack of) capability there is no need to be put into a defensive posture.

Bottom line: Avoid the push-back completely, save the story for later.

Assume a Neutral Role First

What if your communications technique re-framed: Away from coaxing the prospect into talking about their “why” (which they don’t have), toward a neutral role.

What if you first helped the client realize a problem exists with neutral questions?

The question, “What would need to happen for you to give sales managers a way to monitor and act on how reps are interacting with prospects?” is not asking to consider what they’re missing out on. Instead, it is asking the client to consider a problem (or advantage) they don’t (yet) know exists.

Here is another neutral question my colleague should be asking when calling-in cold: “How are you measuring your sales managers ability to help reps drive qualitatively better sales conversations?”

How, not “are you.” This forces introspection: “Gee, I’m not measuring managers’ ability to help reps communicate better…. why should I be?” Now they’re on a path to developing their ‘why.’

Under your neutral guidance.

If prospects don’t have a need for your tool you cannot nurture that need out of them. You must help them, first, develop a ‘why’ that is not tied to the pre-determined need you have (for prospects to develop a why enabling your eventual sale).

Here are action items for you to consider:

1) Why would a customer who is not, yet, able to initiate the change needed (to bring you in) want to hear a story?

2) What if you, instead, got better at facilitating conversations addressing clients internal decision systems? (helping the champion navigate their internal decision process… and, thus, shaping the RFP)

3) What if you got better at identifying what created the buyer’s status quo — then helped internal champions create a business case within the framework of their decision process?

Stories may be of (better) use when we are invited to share them by the prospect — for their reasons rather than being a means to convince them of something they’re overlooking/not seeing. That feels too much like persuasion.

As Edith Crnkovich, of DXC Technology and self-proclaimed sassy storyteller, says,  there is more value in “having the sales person first seek to understand the customers business issues before launching into a story. I don’t think we spend enough time doing that and this is mostly about asking a lot of questions first.”

What do you think?

Email Subject Lines: The Worst Advice You’re Probably Taking

How believable are these statements about email subject lines? This cold email subject line earns a 34% open rate for a B2B software company: “[first name], quick call next Tuesday?” This subject line earns a 42% open rate: “Time to meet?” If you’ve sent any cold email lately, you’ll be laughing right about now.

How believable are these statements about email subject lines? This cold email subject line earns a 34% open rate for a B2B software company: “[first name], quick call next Tuesday?” This subject line earns a 42% open rate: “Time to meet?”

If you’ve sent any cold email lately, you’ll be laughing right about now. These are two of the worst performing subject lines these days …  based on my personal experience sending cold email, as well as my wider experience coaching B2B sales reps.

Yet, these claims are being made by a sales email automation software provider. In fact, these particular subject line claims come from a respected, growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) company. They’re publishing a guide book of subject line advice.

So are these subject line claims fact or fiction? It matters not. What matters is there’s a fox in the hen house.

Who Do You Trust With Sales Email Strategy?

Where do you/your reps turn for sales email best practices? How are you educating sales reps … or how are they educating themselves on email subject lines? Who do you trust with the email writing portion of your sales prospecting strategy?

Googling templates can be dangerous. You won’t find a better-than-average way to start email conversations via Google. Because Almighty G is everyone’s top go-to source for subject line short-cuts.

Most demand generation, marketing, sales enablement pros and reps are turning to software vendors claiming communication expertise. Yet 95% of folks I meet experience complete lack of success using these tips.

Here’s why: The tips and advice are garbage. There’s no other way to put it and I won’t single-out any one provider.

Yes, I admit, it seems logical … turning to vendors providing sales email automation tools. But most organizations fail to realize: trusting software vendors ensures sending sellers to market with sub-par email subject lines and messages.

In fact, it guarantees:

  • sending them to battle with messages competitors are using
  • encouraging reps to form self-defeating communications habits

You cannot afford to invest in this kind of advice. It’s free but it’s not serving your best interest. It threatens you/your team.

The Truth About Your Software Vendor

Software companies are not communications experts. Period.

No, sales automation and engagement software providers aren’t evil. I get that. Many of these tools are quite handy. But setting email strategy based on advice from software providers is dangerous and foolish. Because they are not communications experts. They are tool experts whose clients need communications expertise … to use the tools.

It’s easy (for SaaS providers) to provide communications advice that won’t hurt clients, but won’t help either. Investing in quality communications expertise for software companies is not part of the SaaS business model. Even LinkedIn has invested in communications expertise to support its larger Sales Navigator clients, investing upwards of $200,000 annually.

Yet many of these sales teams end up knocking on my door… asking for help with communications technique. They often recognize LinkedIn’s communications tips aren’t on par and, in fact, are being handed out to competitors.

Relying on software vendors ensures zero competitive edge. Your tool is great. But your tactics are outdated.

Flawed Logic and Secret Formulas

Here are just a few examples of what sales automation software providers are telling prospects and customers who use their tools. They go as far as claiming to have “secret formulas.”

Catchy, compelling email subject lines will vastly increase your email open rates and engage prospects. 

This is simply not true. Catchy fails terribly. In practice, attempts to compel also fail miserably. What software vendors don’t understand is how readers are numb to catchy, see right through such attempts. They are also spotting anyone who tries to compel them into opening. Catchy & compelling don’t work. This kind of advice is clearly coming from a marketing person.

Effective email subject lines are direct, straight to the point and crystal clear.

Wrong again. Cold email arrives without context. Prospects have not opted-in to receive it. The more specific your subject is about the message contents (and your goal as a seller) the lower open and response rates it earns. From your target’s perspective, they don’t need to open when the subject indicates, “this is a cold email about a subject that 15 sellers per day email me about… to sell me.”

They delete, without hesitation.

Performing email subject lines are personal, directly reference the company or the prospect’s name.

While this is true in a minority of cases it is a disingenuous statement. Truth is, this is an old marketing ploy that also fails to work in most B2B contexts. As time progresses this tactic is trending negative. Using a database merge from your list into the subject line is, actually, a tell-tale sign of spam for humans and machines. Prospects and spam guard tools easily find and mark these subject lines as spam. Again, not in all cases but increasingly across B2B.

Marketing Creep

In most cases, marketing staff write B2B email messages for reps to apply. And/or reps turn to marketing materials, cut-and-paste into emails and press send. Marketing is creeping into sales emails and it’s not helping. For example, calls to action. We are told:

Good subject lines include a call to action.

I honestly don’t know how anyone could take this seriously… yet many folks are. Calls-to-action are inherently marketing-oriented. If you want your B2B sales prospecting email to get opened, and read, do not include a call to action. Using a call to action in your subject is a tired marketing concept, not appropriate for sales.

“RE:” and “FWD:” are powerful when used appropriately.

In other words, tricking your target prospect (into believing your cold email is, actually, part of an on-going conversation) is good practice, “when used appropriately.”

Is there ever a time to trick your prospect into believing your communication is part of something it is not? Only a marketing person could suggest this filthy tactic.

Do yourself a favor: Don’t use this technique. I know many people who do (and are successful at starting conversations through trickery) but be careful of the negative repercussions… including forming habits that, ultimately, will sabotage good communications habits. Use your precious time to start honest dialogues with prospects. Don’t insult their intelligence.

“[first name], quick call next Tuesday?” is effective at earning opens because prospects like to see their name & appreciate yes/no emails.

Truth is, in a B2B context this stopped working for 90% of us about 10 years ago. Most B2B decision-makers receive dozens of pre-mature, cold meeting requests per day. Some receive over 100 per day. If you’d like to signal, “One of the steady stream of sales reps asking for your time to sell you something” feel free to use this subject line and subscribe to this outdated logic.

Remember: You won’t find a superior (let alone effective) way to start conversations by copying everyone else, based on what you found on Google. Avoid turning to software vendors claiming communication expertise. Otherwise, what has your experience been?

Cold Email Templates: Who Do You Trust and Why?

From CEOs to inside sellers with no experience: Each week, I meet sellers using the exact same cold email templates … sourced on Google. They all report the same results. Nearly zero response. No meetings. Here’s why: Because they’re sending the exact same templates everyone else is.

From CEOs to inside sellers with no experience: Each week, I meet sellers using the exact same cold email templates … sourced on Google. They all report the same results.

Nearly zero response. No meetings.

Here’s why: Because they’re sending the exact same templates everyone else is.

Have a look at your own inbox. Do you see the same email template patterns over-and-over? For example, how many times per week do you get the “eaten by an alligator” or “chased by a wild hippo” follow-up message?

Do your emails start with, “Whenever I reach out to someone I have to have a reason. That reason needs to be timely and helpful based on research that I have done on your industry and potential risk exposure.”

How about, “My name is ____. Whenever I reach out to someone I make sure to have a reason in order to not waste your time.”

Or, “I read your comments in _________ [magazine] regarding [initiative/trend/issue].”

Or this follow-up template:

We’ve tried to reach you a couple times to introduce you to ________, but haven’t heard back which tells me something:

1) You’re all set and I should stop bothering you.

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back to me yet (scheduling link listed below).

3) Maybe this is out of your wheel house, if so, is there some one you’d recommend connecting with?

4) You’ve fallen and can’t get up and in that case let me know and I’ll call someone to help you ….

Of course, you can replace No. 4 with herds of hippos, rhinos or alligators.

Like thousands of other sellers you’ve found your way to the same cold email templates. And like everyone else you send them, looking for customers to meet with.

But your direct competitors use the same templates. In fact, those you don’t compete with (directly) but do compete for inbox space use the same templates too.

That’s a problem.

Because recipients easily spot your messages and mark it as spam. Inboxes are becoming saturated with virtually identical messages.

The Problematic Source of Cold Email Templates

Why would you expect to find a better-than-average way to start conversations, using cold email templates, via Google? (everyone’s top go-to source for short-cuts!)

Why would you trust what you found? I suppose because of Google’s perceived clout to aggregate “only the best” answers to questions.

However, consider today’s most popular (ineffective) email templates come from dubious sources. Yes, Google aggregates them. But consider the end source.

  • Cold email gurus and wannabe gurus
  • Lead generation experts and agencies
  • Email software companies
  • LinkedIn and LinkedIn gurus

At face value this seems fine and logical. A handful of online gurus, guru wannabes and consultants claim expertise in cold emailing. Most offer free templates and webinars. In return for free wisdom they hope to earn your participation in an online class or hiring them to consult … to write emails for you.

Fair enough. But why would these experts provide good advice for free? Answer: They don’t.

Likewise, lead generation experts and agencies often give away B2B and B2C cold email templates designed to start conversations with prospects. But why would these businesses give away “what works” for free? They have no incentive to. In fact, they’re under incentive not to.

Answer: They don’t give away useful information either.

Instead, they trade what doesn’t work (perhaps worked years ago) for your email address.

The biggest source of templates, hands down, seems to be software providers like HubSpot and outreach.io. There are many, these are just 2 very fine companies.

Point is: Software tool providers want your email address too. In return they hope to sell you email management sending & analysis tools. As bait they offer tips-and-tricks … better ways to use their tools set.

If you’re a customer they’ll also provide recommendations on how to best use their solution. After all, you’re a paying customer.

Why don’t these tips pay off?

Answer: Building trust and credibility using LinkedIn and email is a skill. It’s not template-able.

Why We Trust Those Who Aren’t Experts

I’m not attacking gurus and legitimate software providers. I’m questioning their authority as experts in communications techniques. None of them officially claim this domain expertise, bye the way.

Software companies operate businesses providing a suite of email management tools. Fair enough. But they are not providers of sales and marketing copywriting services, nor do they claim to be communications educators. Instead, they tend to work with gurus to curate (and add legitimacy to) experts, consultants and gurus publishing free templates. All as a service to customers and a lead generation tool for themselves.

But what if these free tips don’t work? (hint: they don’t) And why would they to begin with … when considering the source? (hint: most folks don’t consider)

Everyone likes short-cuts, after all. Templates are short-cuts to success. Or are they?