A Surprising Cold Email Best Practice

By the time a “best practice” is best, it’s mainstream … common. A cold email best practice is most often a “worst practice” in the realm of sales outreach. Starting conversations with decision-makers using LinkedIn InMail, or standard email, requires breaking away from the usual cold email best practices.

By the time a “best practice” is best, it’s mainstream … common. A cold email best practice is most often a “worst practice” in the realm of sales outreach. Starting conversations with decision-makers using LinkedIn InMail, or standard email, requires breaking away from the usual cold email best practices.

Sending cold email messages, and follow-ups, using sequences or campaigns is working less-and-less. Mostly because of a widely-accepted best practice: Adding value to cold email messages.

What?! I thought everyone knows — earning response means adding value to email messages when prospecting.

Today, I’ll challenge this cold email best practice. I’m basing the challenge less on opinion, more on experience.

Offering value — without having earned the chance to provide it — is failing most sellers. Beware.

The Case for Adding Value

“Here’s the problem with emails today, they lack value,” says Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Inc.

“If you don’t think an email needs to offer value, then you are most likely one of the perpetrators of horrific emails. Emails have to offer value,” he says.

However, our clients, our sales team and I myself are living proof: Cold emails not offering value do earn response.

Likewise when prospecting, most sales reps believe email messages need to be seen as credible by prospects. Not always true either. Trying to add value, and be seen as credible, can sabotage success.

That said, Keenan makes a compelling argument for what many believe is the No. 1, golden cold email best practice.

Your email, he says, must offer value, “Because you’re asking for something.” A meeting.

“I’m regularly bombarded with horrific emails, almost always asking for 15 or 30 minutes of my time, these emails offer nothing of value to me and just end up cluttering my inbox. I delete them as fast as I can,” says Keenan.

“Why should someone open your email or give you 15 minutes of their time if there is no value in it for them? They shouldn’t and they won’t.”

But what if your cold email didn’t strive to prove value — at all? What if you also skipped asking for a meeting in cold sales outreach?

Increasingly, clients are opening emails based on curiosity about what’s inside the email — not anticipation of value they’ll receive. Likewise, compelling a customer to take your meeting without having established a need to is an outdated cold email best practice.

An Unusual, But Effective Best Practice

Want a meeting with your decision-maker? Stop requesting them. Instead, start provoking discussions, piquing curiosity.

Stop trying to give-give-give, add value and clearly present offers. Start trying to quickly provoke. Be un-clear.

“The offer is what you are offering or giving the reader. Yes! I said giving. If you’re not offering the reader anything, why should they open it, read it, respond or even agree to what you’re asking for?” asks Keenan.

Because they’re curious. They’ve been provoked. Not because you offered clear, compelling value. This is sales, not marketing.

My colleagues and students are earning more meetings by not asking for them; instead, provoking curiosity about an issue, idea or claim which may lead to (justify) customers’ desire to meet.

Yet Keenan makes the argument we hear so often.

“To get your buyers and prospects to open your emails you need to craft an email that compels the buyer to open it, (your first ask), read it, (your second ask), then respond (your third ask) and then agree to your request for a meeting or demo or whatever you’re ultimately asking for (your fourth ask).”

In a marketing context, yes. Sales is different.

When sales people try to earn meetings by providing value, and proving themselves credible, they often fail. My opinion? Sure. But this is also my experience.

Why Adding Value Fails

In a cold email context customers aren’t asking for your value. They’re not sitting around waiting for value to arrive from a stranger. You can offer value on the first touch… and then again, and again in a follow-up sequence.

But you’re just pushing value at people — hoping they’ll find your words valuable enough to respond. Clients aren’t triggered by sellers pushing “just enough” unsolicited value at them.

Consider also: That valuable tidbit in your email message is often information clients often already know. (don’t value!)

Instead, help prospects ask you for a discussion by piquing their interest in one. Not by offering value; rather, by being vague and not asking for a meeting. (like everyone else does)

“What’s the point of sending a cold email if you’re not going to ask for anything,” argues Keenan. “The key is to make sure the ask is clear; 15-minutes of time and introduction to the CEO agreeing to 30-minute demo, etc. These are clear asks. Asking to discuss their challenges, or asking if the prospect would be open to a call are not clear asks.”

Increasingly, our students do better by not asking for the meeting in a cold email; instead, attempting to pique interest in a discussion. (which may lead to a meeting)

This helps your message stand out from the pack. It’s unusual in how it breaks the typical cold email best practice (pushing value) pattern.

Eliminate Asks

Adding value doesn’t work anymore … logically and in our collective experiences. Instead, what if you could earn better response to cold email messages by not asking for a meeting?

What if your message contained no “asks.” What if your email’s goal was purely to provoke curiosity — rather than earn a meeting?

Make your cold email “smartphone short.” Do homework on the prospect. Research them. Make it obvious this is not another templated piece of spam. Avoid persuading. Avoid posturing for credibility. Care a little less.

Increasingly, clients are opening emails based on curiosity about what’s inside the email — not anticipation of value they’ll receive. Likewise, prospects are replying to cold messages based on curiosity, not value received in the message, nor anticipating value in a meeting.

What is your experience?

The Effective Follow-Up Technique in a ‘Social’ World

Getting through to C-level decision-makers demands effective follow-up techniques, and today’s best performing sellers have them. Reps who follow up — and do it well — hit quota. Those who exceed it? Yup. They have a superior follow-up technique when prospecting.

Today's best performing sellers have the most effective follow-up technique. Getting through to C-level decision-makers demands an effective follow-up technique, and today’s best performing sellers have them. Reps who follow up — and do it well — hit quota. Those who exceed it? Yup. They have a superior follow-up technique when prospecting.

Ten years ago it took roughly four attempts to reach a prospective customer. Today it takes eight. We’ve read the research. The jury is out.

To hit targets you must:

  • follow up often (seven to 10 times)
  • communicate effectively to clients
  • use email, voice mail, LinkedIn … all available tools

Otherwise you’re wasting time.

What Motivates Your Follow-Up Technique?

At the core of the best follow-up technique lies a philosophy: You either serve or push. What is your motivation? Is your strategy driven by a desire to solve customers’ problems?

Or are you driven by pressure to place a solution?

Do you believe your product is desperately needed? Or are you just pulling a paycheck?

Nothing wrong with expecting a paycheck. But have you considered how needing sales negatively influences how you communicate with customers … about their problem?

If you manage a team, have you considered how reps tasked to set lots of meetings may reinforce or diminish communications skills?

What Separates Persistence From Pestering When Following Up With Prospects?

When following up with targets, what’s the difference between persistence and pestering? How often should we follow up, with which tool (email, voice mail, etc.) and what cadence? These are all common questions. But what if they don’t serve our goal?

As sales trainer Josh Braun says about cold outreach, “What you need is an approach that doesn’t feel forced, unnatural or uncomfortable. An approach that doesn’t assume what you have is what someone else wants.”

Worrying about pestering clients vanishes the moment you shift from placing solutions to solving problems. You allow yourself to empathize with prospects.

This drives how you communicate with them. From word choice to conversational cadence.

Spark Your Prospect’s Curiosity

Forget about intruding or how many times to follow up and when. Forget about BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) frameworks. Update your mindset and tactics: Provoke curiosity.

Help customers become curious. Focus on the words you’re using when following up.

Use words to help buyers develop their own, personal reason to speak with you. Even if they’re not (yet) sure it’s worthwhile. (because they aren’t … this is cold prospecting after all!)

Instead, provoke customers in a way that doesn’t make them vulnerable to a pitch.

Quick example: Sellers tend to believe offering the right data, in the right way, to the right buyer will cause customers to engage in discussion … from cold. We tend to believe we have the important data (that clients need).

“Now let me tell you about it and explain to you why you need it.” That’s our mentality.

This is why email follow-up sequences often include research: Proof customers need to consider change.

Flashing research doesn’t start discussions. Ok, it works with customers who are willing-and-able to buy now. (Ninety-five percent of your market won’t bite!)

Sharing research doesn’t engage because customers are not open to being persuaded.

Yes, cold email follow-ups can work. But only if messages include words that:

  • prove your email is not sent randomly (is researched, targeted);
  • are biased to the customers’ decision-making process, not a sales process;
  • provoke immediate reactions based on curiosity; and
  • avoid making customers vulnerable.

This is why communications arising from a “BANT mentality” are less effective. BANT’s nature is inherently biased to sales process.

Buying process drives buying! Shift the focus from qualification to provocation.

Customers run from words that scream, “I’m out to qualify you!” Or “I’m out to influence your thinking with this research (so you’ll engage in a buying discussion).”

Clients have become conditioned to recognize these failing techniques.

Persuasion and Vulnerability

Trying to establish credibility can sabotage. Persuasion is the devil. The moment your messaging sounds persuasive customers flee. Especially if you sell complex solutions.

Are your cold emailing and follow-up techniques making customers feel vulnerable?

Consider two universal truths offered by Tom Snyder of Funnel Clarity:

  • Prospects value more what they ask for than what’s freely offered.
  • Customers value more what they conclude for themselves than what they’re told.

Your follow-up must honor these truths. It’s become fundamental human behavior… to tune-out information being pushed at us. No matter how useful it is!

As sellers we must help customers persuade themselves to become curious in speaking with us.

Not based on our ability to sell; instead, on our ability to solve problems.

Helping buyers understand if (and when) they want to buy on their own terms — is non-negotiable.

As a starting point ask yourself: How will my follow-up email sequence help buyers feel an urge to ask for a discussion? What will provoke curiosity?

Also, please consider: Where do your communications come from? How do you choose words in voice mails and emails?

Do they come from a need to serve? Or are they biased to placing a solution?

Good luck!

 

How Pushing Credibility Works Against Cold Email Success

Nothing screams “I’m trying to persuade” you louder than trying too hard to establish credibility. Ever go on a date where your date tried to posture? You detected it instantly. Meeting a customer for the first time is the same. Signaling “I want you to respect me!” is the kiss of death in business.

Nothing screams “I’m trying to persuade” you louder than trying too hard to establish credibility.

Ever go on a date where your date tried to posture? You detected it instantly. Remember back in time: They were attracted to you, but you weren’t sure.

Then, suddenly, you were. This person was not a match.

Because they started caring too much. They were trying too hard.

Meeting a customer for the first time is the same. Signaling “I want you to respect me” is the kiss of death in business.

The moment you start caring too much you risk being seen as desperate by prospects.

It’s the same with your cold emails or LinkedIn InMails.

Don’t Believe Me?

Reach into your email. Do it now. Seriously. Look for that latest spam email you received from someone who wrote in a way that screams, “I know you won’t believe me … so here is research from a credible source … to convince you to talk to me about buying my thing.”

It shouldn’t take you long to fish one out. Or maybe I’ve just described your email technique.

Truth is, most field and inside sales teams are actively told to establish credibility when cold emailing. Without being seen as credible, your email will be deleted by prospects.

Simply. Not. True.

Without being provocative your email will get deleted. Credibility has little to do with cold email success.

Tough love: Most marketing, demand generation and sales enablement professionals who’ve never sung for their supper will probably never understand this.

If your support team is under incentive to produce new client accounts they will know: Trying to establish credibility–too early — sabotages the chance to get conversations started.

Don’t fall into the trap. Don’t write to be seen as credible from cold.

Anatomy of a Failing Cold Email

Here is an example from a student I’m working with this week. I’m not using his name or company to protect the innocent.

Hello, [client],

My name is [name] and I’m with [company name]. Hopefully you have heard of [company name], but in case you haven’t, for over 50 years [company name] has helped organizations in the engineering, surveying, construction, mining, architecture, manufacturing, utilities, forestry, and government sectors to measure, analyze, design, and build more efficiently and profitably.

[Company name] national team of professionals combine software, hardware and services to provide tailored solutions to improve your workflow, from field to finish.

The email goes on to use phrases like, “I would love to get to know your company and projects better as perhaps there are X and Y products we can provide you.”

There are a lot of other cold email offenses I can flag as problematic. But do you see how using words like “I’d love to” and “Hopefully you’ve heard of us” sound a wee bit too much like the seller cares too much?

Notice how the message starts off. Do you see how talking exclusively about how established the company is can be a huge turn-off?

Be Different: Provoke

This same student, with a bit of coaching, was able to produce a totally different, effective cold email approach. Here’s the lead-in…

[client],

Would you be open to an unorthodox but effective way to reduce your inside print costs? (and potentially turn them into a revenue stream?)

He went on to describe how he did exactly what is described for an architectural firm located within the same city as his prospect.

What the seller described above is provocative because it’s short, sweet and focused on the potential client’s open-ness to hearing about a different way to achieve a goal he/she probably has.

There is no need to attempt to establish credibility in the first stage of a conversation. Because there is no decision being made here — other than replying to an email message.

Leverage Neutral Credibility

Trying to appear credible causes readers to run the other way, hit delete. It feels too persuasive. These days we are all bombarded with messages trying to persuade us. Those that do manage to persuade us are neutral. They don’t try to instantly persuade.

Consider the above re-write. Notice how the seller does not try to persuade. He doesn’t try to look credible. Instead, he hits on a subject the client likely cares about … in a way they cannot resist acting on.

That is credible. Especially when all the other emails hitting his clients’ inboxes look like his first message — desperate! The fact that my student’s message is not posturing and trying to persuade is, in effect, credible enough to earn a reply… in comparison to the competition.

The idea is to provoke a conversation, then earn consideration for a serious discussion (and perhaps a future purchase).

Bottom line: Credibility is over-sold as a means to get conversations started. When we try to establish credibility the first thing we reach for is “our story” or third party research.

Because we feel it’s necessary to convince clients we’re worth talking to.

Stop.

Instead, provoke reactions in ways that do have credible elements (tied to customers’ goals) but do not posture (look desperate).

Need more examples? Have some to offer yourself? Let me know in comments or shoot me an email!

Should You Be Cold Calling When ‘Social Selling’?

Ever notice how the argument against cold calling is actually against cold pitching? (a concept that has never worked in B2B.)

Mobile megaphoneEver notice how the argument against cold calling is actually against cold pitching? (a concept that has never worked in B2B.)

“The best cold call I ever overheard was 15 minutes of a sales development rep (SDR) discussing how the consolidation and vertical integration of the optical industry made it harder for new players to gain space on the board in the shrinking independent retailer market,” says Brandon Gracey, VP of Sales at Handshake Corp.

“If that leaves you scratching your head, it’s probably because you don’t work in the optical industry. Neither did the SDR in that call, but he booked a meeting with a prospect who eventually bought from us. In part because of that call and how we understood their industry and specifically addressed their challenges.”

Gracey says every buyer out there is receiving the same “Who should I talk with?’” email, going through the same screening, getting the same spin about “a product specialist who will be able to dive into that deeper.”

Fact: Successful B2B sellers use cold calls (not just email) to open discussions; not pitch.

Top sellers find prospects, qualify buyers and close them — using all available tools.

Want to consistently out-perform your peers? Become a superior researcher, be a diligent hunter and an exceptionally un-biased communicator. Don’t make calls biased to the meeting or demo you seek.

Don’t ask for the outcomes you want. Avoid having them on your mind.

Instead, use the phone to facilitate change-focused conversations that put customers in control.

An Absurd Debate

“Some CEO is in his office, busy running the company, a thousand things on his mind and suddenly … ring ring ring … ‘Want a demo?’ Some pimply faced SDR is pushing a demo on this dude,” says Noah Goldman, adviser to CEOs of early stage companies.

“Think of the absurdity of it … and you wonder why your cold calling sucks?”

“You wonder why your ‘opportunities’ (Hint: they never were opportunities) push or go dark?”

If you’re using the phone to prospect, successfully, you’re not cold pitching. You are helping buyers either qualify-out or get ready to buy.

What Is a Cold Call?

“If you ever walked up to a stranger at a bar and said ‘h=Hi,’ that was a cold call. But unless you were a total dunce you didn’t say, ‘Hi … want a date?’ right off the bat,” says Goldman.

There’s nothing wrong with cold calling — people do it every day.

“There’s a little preamble that is required. And you know that! So why would you treat your sales communications differently?”

Goldman says cold calls:

  • serve to move you from unknown entity to known entity…
  • do this in a way that is well received…
  • over some medium that is well received.

However, he also says we endanger the entire process when we ask for things that are unreasonable — given that level of familiarity.

“So the next time you think of cold calling … and fear shoots down your spine … realize that’s a sign that, yes, you are doing it wrong,” says Goldman.

“You are asking for too much. But when you step back your asks … and things become more comfortable … realize that’s a sign you are doing it right.”

Proof: Calling Works in Most B2B Scenarios

Meet Mark Hunter of Omaha-based The Sales Hunter. He has a story of coaching a large national sales team, where his reps were selling to IT departments:

“We had huge success by integrating the telephone, email, social media and even in-person meetings together. The sales reps who had the most success were the ones that used the telephone the most,” says Hunter.

There were reps who claimed the phone didn’t work. In fact, they fought it.

“But it was a short fight,” says Hunter, “because their results were so poor. The phone worked because it was used in conjunction with other prospecting tools.”

The First Step to Better Cold Calls

Success in sales demands a facilitative communications technique. But where to start?

Re-frame it: What if the purpose of your call wasn’t to get anything? (e.g., information qualifying the prospect as a buyer)

What if you put the decision (to speak) 100 percent into the hands of your target? And what if you started the conversation in a way that didn’t expect, nor hope for, another call?

Josh Braun, of Sales DNA asks, “Are you tired of the debilitating feeling of rejection when cold calling? Don’t like cold calling because it feels bad to intrude on people? Don’t like getting cold calls because it feels bad to be sold?”

Braun says stress comes from the pressure of having to get something from the call.

“The root of rejection comes from assuming what you have is what someone wants. But what if the purpose of a call wasn’t to get anything at all?”

Indeed, what if your goal was to see if the person your calling is open to how you might be able to help them do something better? Even better, what if the purpose of your call had nothing to do with you taking information from the customer?

The idea is to align with customers earlier … during their pre-sales change management steps that drive the eventual purchase. But how best to insert yourself with a call?

There Is No ‘Getting’

When calling resist the urge to qualify customers based on their need, purchase capability, or timing. Because this ignores the many people who don’t know exactly what they need yet!

Braun says the purpose of a cold call is not to get a meeting nor demo. He’s right.

The purpose of a cold call is to see if your prospect is open to learning how you may be able to help them do something better.

“If the prospect has no interest, it’s because you’re not interesting to them at this moment in time, which is a perfectly reasonable outcome,” says Braun.

“There is no ‘getting’ or setting meetings because you don’t know if the person your calling needs your help. It’s the assuming that creates pressure for both you and your prospect.”

Tactically speaking, you mantra is: Don’t assume they do. And don’t try to place your solution. Just don’t!

Instead of starting conversations with “getting qualification information” in mind, take the pressure off. Qualify customers by focusing on their internal change. Research what may be happening before your call.

Put yourself in a position to help them manage it — if and when it’s what they want.

Focus your approach technique on how they will go about becoming excellent. Address what has likely stopped them until now. Focus on what will they need to do … to ready themselves for change you see on their horizon.

Until buyers are able to avoid disrupting their status quo, they will not buy.

What is your experience?

A Fundamental Misconception About Cold Email

There are so many ebooks and websites all pushing cold email templates that “work.” Problem is, they don’t because the theoretical basis of most cold email techniques is outdated. Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational. Fact is, it’s not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.

When Do Email Autoresponder Subject Lines Cross the Line?There are so many ebooks and websites all pushing cold email templates that “work.” Problem is, they don’t because the theoretical basis of most cold email techniques is outdated.

Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational.

Fact is, it’s not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.

Email Is Transactional, Not Conversational

B2B decision-makers are on a mission. Just like you are: delete the inbox noise. Day in, day out. Multiple times a day, decision-makers delete spammy come-ons from reps. But they also make quick replies. Transactions.

The way decision-makers are using email today is transactional. Choices are:

  1. Delete
  2. Reply immediately
  3. Reply later (as good as deleting)

Which cold emails are earning response? The shortest ones. Those that waste no time getting to the point. The emails that best allow prospects to get back to work earn more response!

Everything else is deleted immediately or put off (just as good as deleting).

So why are you trying to start conversations with decision-makers who are excellent at spotting and deleting people wanting to converse?

Why are you still trying to persuade clients to talk in the first, cold email message?

Don’t Qualify and Persuade, Provoke

Most sellers are trying to persuade rather than transact. For example, are you trying to be relevant in your cold email? Are you referencing yourself or your business? (at all) Are you working to build credibility … and building a case for prospects to meet with you?

You’re probably failing. Instead, start provoking. Provoke. Irritate. Cause an immediate response based on a sense of curiosity or a nagging fear. Transact with the customer.

For example, one of my students uses this kind of approach:

John,

Noticing you added chat to your contact center mix 3 months ago. This triggers me to ask: How would you know when it’s time to consider adding screen sharing?

Brief, blunt. Provocative. This message proves the seller researched the client’s organization and ties the observation about John’s current situation to his decision-making process … in a way that helps John think about his situation.

Notice: This provocation is not asking for a meeting, nor positioning the seller as credible. The message is not trying to create a sense of urgency or pushing a call-to-action. This message asks a question that doesn’t lead John to a conclusion the seller wants. Instead, it asks a question that John needs to be asking himself in the future.

See the difference? This is a “grabber.”

The message isn’t conversational. It’s transactional. John doesn’t need to scroll on his mobile device to read it and quickly respond.

This is what works in cold email. Transactions that provoke conversations. Short, pithy messages that stand out by not talking about anything other than the prospect.

The above message isn’t accidentally signaling “mass email social selling approach.” It avoids recognizing the prospect’s:

  • recent accomplishment or promotion
  • blog article or post
  • social media trigger
  • decision-making authority

These tactics are working less in cold email. Because everyone is using them. They’re cheap and lazy … and commonplace. Clients are being deluged by long, conversational emails that just plain take too long to read and signal “this person wants a premature meeting.”

Instead, provoke the conversation and progress it to a meeting.

Why Conversations Won’t Serve You

A sales training company uses the below as a good example of a second paragraph in a cold email. The below paragraph provides relevancy to the target’s work life and puts forward an issue the seller believes is of interest to the buyer.

But is this effective lately? Have a look:

“I understand you are overseeing the demand generation strategy, Phil. We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who tell us they are not satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products and internal systems and processes — they just don’t have enough time to cover sales training.”

How long did that take you to read? Multiply that by four and you’ve got the size of the complete email I borrowed this from.

You have less than 15 seconds to transact. After 15 seconds you’re deleted. The above is too conversational  where the seller is trying to demonstrate:

  • Research: Stating his/her authority
  • Relevancy: Stating an issue known to be of concern
  • Clarity: The answer is sales training

Here’s the problem: The client doesn’t have time to cozy up to 30 or 40 of these types of messages per week. That quantity of messages equates to a full hour or two of lost time per week … even if the emails take 90 seconds on average to read!

Besides, on a cold approach, don’t state customers’ decision authority as research. They see “I see you’re in charge of what I sell” as a prelude to a spammy pitch. They’ve been trained to based on all the spam they receive each day.

Clients are not open to your introduction of issues you think are challenges for them. Simply because every sales person on the planet is making the exact same approach. Bet on it.

Again, they see it as spam. And frankly it is.

Never Persuade or Posture

Email is here to serve us as a means to get into a discussion about a sale … not to conduct the sale. As you read your cold email draft aloud to yourself (and you should), make sure you aren’t trying to persuade, posture or qualify yourself.

The moment you begin an attempt to persuade STOP. You’ve crossed the line.

Don’t walk your customer down a road that leads to your sales pitch. They’ll cut you off. Believe me.

For example, read this paragraph and tell me how long it takes you to figure out what I’m up to …

“When speaking with our high-growth clients, we’re hearing that hitting revenue targets is dependent on the sales team’s ability to consistently develop new business. The sales leaders say the problem with most training programs is they presume sellers already have an opportunity in the funnel – rather than teaching them how to qualify an opportunity.”

Maybe it was the first sentence — where I spoke all about myself and told you something so obvious it insulted your intelligence. I tossed in words like “high-growth.” Why? To communicate I have them … and imply that my sales training is helping create growth. Something I know you want.

Cheese.

Or maybe it was the last sentence where I position to know the secret to success: Sales training qualifies prospects. We write these words hoping clients will think, “Hmm. That’s something to consider. I wonder how Jeff can help?” and hit reply.

Truth is, we’re wrong. We are insulting clients’ intelligence, blending in with the carpet, and training customers to not respond and engage in conversations.

What is your experience?

3 Sales Prospecting Tactics That Don’t Work

From cold calling and cold emails to follow-up communications techniques … and responding to clients who open the door, most sales reps are practicing “best practices” that are, in reality, the worst. But they keep on keepin’ on. Are you sabotaging yourself by copying what most sellers do? If yes, I’m not here to blame you. Because the truth is you probably don’t know of the below options.

Using Social Media to Generate Sales EffectivelyFrom cold calling and cold emails to follow-up communications techniques … and responding to clients who open the door, most sales reps are practicing “best practices” that are, in reality, the worst. But they keep on keepin’ on.

Are you sabotaging yourself by copying what most sellers do? If yes, I’m not here to blame you. Because the truth is you probably don’t know of the below options.

1. Congratulating LinkedIn Contacts on a Trigger Event

Decision-makers are inundated with congratulatory emails that are a prelude to a spammy push-style InMail or email message. If you’re using this tactic and not earning response this is why.

Sales reps you compete with for “inbox space” are using the same, lazy, automated technique. Worse, they are lying. Maybe you are too.

“I just read your amazing post here [insert link] and I totally agree …” etc. etc.

You didn’t read the post. You’re simply trying to use the post as a point-of-proof that you’re not lazy … which you are. Customers understand as much. Plus, they’re under assault from dozens of such emails each week.

“I usually get a good response when I congratulate someone on promotion etc.,” says construction industry marketer, Joe Large. “Are you saying that’s an ineffective cold email starter, Jeff?”

Yes. Not in all sectors. But most B2B congratulatory messages are becoming a prelude to a spammy sales pitch. They are easily spotted and deleted. Simply because so many sellers are doing it, and doing it poorly.

I’m not saying it will not work. I’m saying my students’ collective experience is this: At best, it works in the short term. It’s working less-and-less, not at all in many B2B sectors.

Mailing and shipping industry expert, Marc Zazeela agrees. “As more and more people do it, it becomes less effective. (generally) When you are doing the same things as everyone else, you are doing it wrong.”

Zazeela correctly identifies automation as the main cause of this tactic’s failure. Even though the tactic seems based in personalization it’s not. Prospects see this. LinkedIn’s automated notifications (of a promotion, job change, etc.) are triggering sellers to pile-on, rapid-fire.

2. Mentioning Why You’re Reaching Out

You’ve got a reason when cold emailing or calling. But stating it rarely works. Because most often, sellers are reaching out to:

  • Set meeting or demo dates
  • Get referred to the decision maker
  • Ask biased questions that lead the customer toward being vulnerable

All of the above reasons are based on what you want. Your customer is smart. Even if they’re not, they’re being trained (day-by-day) to delete messages like yours.

Why are you making it so easy for them?

Mentioning why you are contacting the prospect is the kiss-of-death.

Instead, show the prospect you are different. Stand out. Not looking like 95 percent of inbound emails is 70 percent of the success equation.

In cold prospecting, why you are contacting the prospect is directly implied. To sell them something! Your job is to immediately defuse the tension.

Here’s how: Look dramatically different than other cold emails. Avoid the above tactics.

Instead, try:

  • Writing messages taking less than 15 seconds to read
  • Researching prospects and proving your knowledge in the message
  • Not asking biased questions that lead to an answer you want
  • Asking a question challenging prospects’ decision-making process

If you/your organization practices Challenger selling, this sounds familiar. You may already be using this technique.

Inventor of the Buying Facilitation method, Sharon Drew Morgen calls these questions Facilitative Questions. These are “a unique type of question that help people recognize all of the internal criteria they’ll need to include and address before making a decision,” she writes in her book “Dirty Little Secrets.”

“They are unlike conventional questions in that they do not gather information and are not focused on understanding need or placing a solution. Instead they are unbiased, systems based. Each Facilitative Question demands some action. The gleaned data is for the decision maker’s edification.”

Hence, Facilitative Questions are inherently provocative. They are certainly different in how they do not allow you to start a sales-focused discussion.

Your challenge is to strengthen how you write by provoking problem-solving discussions. Or status-quo challenging discussions that tie to a danger, aspiration or goal.

Here’s an example of a biased question: “Did you know you can negotiate benefits brokerage fees?”

Even if the client does not know (and should, as in this case) the question is biased toward the reader saying, “no” and making themselves vulnerable to a sales pitch.

Here’s an example of a Facilitative Question: “How would you know when it is time to negotiate your benefits brokerage fees?”

See the difference? The Facilitative Question is not biased to the seller’s desired response. However, a response to this question serves to connect the seller’s solution to a potential, unseen problem (excessive costs).