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…


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.


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!