A Popular, Yet Failing Cold Email Technique

It’s shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, “You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so” and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique.

It’s shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, “You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so” and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique. Often because they’re under pressure to send non-personalized, cold emails to large numbers of contacts … in hopes of starting a conversation.

Targeted (one-to-many) email prospecting is not the best strategy to start conversations with B2B decision-makers. Tailored (one-to-one) earns better response rates. Yet targeted campaign-style messages are used by most BDR/SDR and digital demand generation teams.

2 Quick Examples

One of my students emailed me: “I think I have a good hook from a research perspective to get a prospects attention that also aligns with the service I offer.”

His idea is a common one: Write an email containing research as a means to compel his prospect to open a discussion with him.

For example, an opening email like this:

“Andy, IDC reports more that 90% of retailers are focused on improving their digital customer experience. Are you among them?”

Here’s another example from a different student:

“Hi John,

A customer service benchmark report released revealed 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, however only 8% of customers agree.

Expectations of customers are at an all-time high. Customers are busy, multi-tasking, on-the-go and are more sophisticated than ever before. Loyalty is built with positive interactions over time, therefore it is a continuous process to earn a customer’s loyalty.

It is expected by 2020 that the customer experience leader will be the key brand differentiator over product and price … “

Why Research Fails to Engage Customers

Pushing research at clients via email is ineffective because decision-makers are:

  • bombarded with long, mail-merged email “written at them” rather than quickly provoking them;
  • not swayed by research being used in a persuasive context;
  • often not aware of a problem to be solved (the pain has not yet surfaced);
  • already aware of the facts presented in the research;
  • not interested in being persuaded by a rep’s cold email message!

Telling prospects, “You should consider X solution because Y research says so” is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.

“People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters, but no one chooses to get cold emails. This simple fact is one of the most important differences between the two,” says cold email expert, Heather Morgan.

Morgan reminds us also how cold emails arrive without context. This is often the first time prospects have heard from you. Further, “you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention yet,” she says.

Context is key. Why talk at when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you?

What You’re Really Saying to Prospects

Sending research to customers (without being invited to) says to customers, “I’m biased to convince you … but know you won’t believe me … so here is someone else to persuade you.”

The technique is weak. It attempts to persuade and convince.

4 Ways to Make Your Website Work Better

“Make your website work better than what?” you might ask. Better than it has. Better than it will if you decide to make changes or build a new site based on some vague notion that the site isn’t working now.

“Make your website work better than what?” you might ask. Better than it has. Better than it will if you decide to make changes or build a new site based on some vague notion that the site isn’t working now.

1. Define Success

Moving past vague notions means finding out what really is and is not working on your website. Which in turn means defining what the website is supposed to accomplish. Without the end goal in mind, you may as well stick with vague notions, because solid data can only lead the way if you know where you want to go.

2. Dive Into the Data

Once you have defined your goals its time to dive into the data that will provide you the ability to do a real quantitative examination of your site.

For most sites, Google Analytics data is all the data you’ll ever need. I have written elsewhere about the most basic analytics data points to track, so don’t let the overwhelming amount of information stop you in your tracks. (And I’m happy to chat with you if you have questions about diving deeper.)

The data should provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your website — what areas to double down on and what you need to shore up.

3. Prospect Perspective

Once you’ve established that quantitative framework you have to decide what to do with the data you’ve found. In other words, the quantitative information leads to some qualitative questions. For example, data on how long a visitor spends on your site and how many pages the average visitor views naturally lead to questions about how to get visitors to stay longer and view more pages.

One of the surest ways to increase engagement is to double- and triple-check that your website is written and presented from a prospect’s perspective. Your firm’s internal org chart or product lines aren’t typically going to matter to a prospect. Instead, arrange the information on your site to answer all of a prospect’s questions in one place.

For example, rather than separating services completely from case studies, the services pages should include sidebar links to the case studies most relevant to that service. The goal is to bring they information to the visitor, not to make them figure out your website’s organizational logic.

Be sure that you’re taking into account not just their interests, but also their timing. You’ll need different types of content for prospects who are just beginning their journey and prospects who are much closer to making a decision.

4. Focus on Benefits and Outcomes

Laundry detergent bottles don’t tout “20% more alcohol ethoxylate!” They tout 20 percent more whitening power. You need to follow the same pattern because no-one really cares about the process; they care about the outcome. Focusing on benefits and outcomes is another part of marketing with the prospect’s perspective in mind.

However, the laundry detergent packaging also offers a cautionary tale: nobody believes “better” anymore. We’re so inundated with advertising claims, that even with “proof” in the form of hard data, we’re dubious of all claims we can’t see with our own eyes.

Focus instead on differentiators and you remove the good/better/best evaluation from the equation. You still have to back up your differentiation claims with evidence in order to best your competitors, but building credibility for that comparison should be easier.

3 Quick Ways to Bullet-Proof Your Cold Email Messages

No matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects. But starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

Patrick's email blogNo matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects:

  1. long, un-personalized “push” copy (rather than pull)
  2. persuasive marketing prose (rather than copy that embraces rejection)
  3. using words that sabotage (signal “I’m needy” or “I’m a waste of time”)

Let’s say you’re aiming to start a conversation with an executive decision-maker. You sell a product or service that takes time, involves “consultative selling,” probably requires a few yeses. Your biggest enemy is the status quo.

Starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

But increasingly chief executives and top VPs are suffering from inbox saturation, in general. Mostly from SDR/BDRs (sales and business development reps) whose approaches are obnoxious.

Moreover, it’s not effective at starting conversations.

Shorten, Personalize and Pull

Long, non-personalized messages that push meetings using “blasts” that “push on pains” are not good conversation-starters. Yet we see them all the time.

The goal of your cold email is to provoke a reaction — that leads to a short conversation, qualifying a longer one … or not. No is a great answer too.

The goal is not to get referred. It’s not to set a date for a demo or meeting. These are what I mean by pushy.

Before pressing send make sure your email:

  • contains a first paragraph proving you researched the prospect
  • takes 10 seconds or less to read
  • does not ask for a meeting
  • contains a provocation, likely to trigger a reply asking for clarification

Calling on C-suite executives comfortable with the status quo? Generating a conversation with these people takes more than a “blast.” It takes a personalized message that is short (and provocative) enough to attract the prospect.

Don’t push, pull. Attract.

Don’t Need the Sale

Want the sale. Don’t need it. Show your prospect you don’t need it. Shift the tone of your cold email by shifting your mindset. This avoids writing in ways that communicate “I’m desperate for your business.”

Some of my best students avoid these words like the plague:

  • Please
  • Love
  • Looking forward to
  • Hope

Each one of these adds up. Every word counts. The more weak words used the more you help readers feel you need the sale.

The more weak you sound the less attractive you become.

Think about it this way: If a prospect truly believed your solution could double their productivity or increase revenue by 30% would they delete your message?

No. They would immediately hit pause (on what they’re doing) and make time.

Don’t Signal “I’m Wasting Your Time”

When a prospect deletes you they actually mean “This isn’t worth a moment of my time.”

Why? Because you convinced them it wasn’t… often by using weak words.

Time is another element where your words demonstrate lack of respect. Often unknowingly. Do you ever use these phrases?

  • As you probably realize …
  • Again …
  • Obviously …

These are all words that communicate, “I’m about to waste your time” to your reader. I’m about to tell you something you already know. Or I’m about to repeat myself. Or I’m about to tell you something obvious.

People don’t have time for you when you signal “I’m good at wasting it.” Your words are powerful. Keep this in mind.

Stop Persuading

As a sales person, your goal isn’t to convince the prospect to talk with you. That speaking would be smart. The goal is for the prospect to convince themselves that talking is smart … if, in fact, it is.

Stop trying to persuade. Everyone hates strangers who try to persuade them, especially in an email.

Are your cold emails and voicemail messages helping buyers feel an urge to ask for help? Are your follow-ups helping them reach conclusions on their own? That’s different, powerful.

Or are you trying to persuade the prospect you are credible?

I know experts say, “you’ve got to write something convincing them to reply …” and “you’ve got to appear credible to earn the response.”

No you don’t.

You have to be provocative, not credible. Credibility comes later — when a customer is considering doing business with you. You don’t need to have credibility to initiate a short conversation about a longer one.

You need to be provocative.

The problem with using words that posture is… well… you’re posturing. You’re trying to appear credible to someone you don’t know. And that never works in email, nor in general, when you talk about yourself.

When we try to appear credible we actually “signal” to strangers:

  • I have my own agenda
  • I am out to convince/persuade you
  • I know you won’t believe me, so I’ll bring in 3rd parties to prove it (your research report, your Gartner praise, etc.)

Instead, challenge the prospect to challenge you!

Make your claim. Boldly. Let them react to it. Let them label it nonsense or ask you to prove it.

Now you’ve provoked a discussion.

I have many students who do well with CEOs and CIOs using the phrase, “unorthodox but effective” when describing a strategy or tactic … relating to what they sell. This dares the prospect to hit reply and ask, “ok, you’re on. What’s so unorthodox about what you’re asking me to consider?”

What has your experience been?

Create a Compelling Direct Mail Moment

When you create and send direct mail to prospects and customers, you are creating a conversation with them. You get to control the message. So as you consider what your message is going to say, here are a few things to consider:

compelling direct mailIn order to be as effective as possible, your direct mail needs to be compelling. There are several factors involved with this. You need to send to a list of people who will be interested in your product or service — targeting to well-qualified people will make your offer more compelling to them. You need a good relevant offer and finally you need a good attention getting design. For now, let’s assume you have a good list so that we can focus on your design and messaging.

When you create and send direct mail to prospects and customers, you are creating a conversation with them. You get to control the message. So as you consider what your message is going to say, here are a few things to consider:

  • Decisions: Are you clearly stating the benefits your prospect and customers will get by purchasing your product or service? Write your messaging from their point of view — what is in it for them? They will be making judgments about your product or service quickly, so you need to have them fall in your favor.
  • Layout: Do not overcrowd your message. Be clear and concise. Use bullet points, bold key information and vary the font sizes you use. Keep white space in your design to give a calmer feel. Too much copy and imagery too close together is overwhelming.
  • Interpretation: People interpret your messaging differently based on their life experiences. It is best practice to have your messaging read by a variety of people to see how they interpret the meaning of what you are trying to say. You may be surprised that the message you thought was so clear is not.

Now you are ready to tackle the design. The first decision is what format you want to use. Do you want a postcard, self-mailer or a letter in and envelope? They can all be effective when done correctly. To make your postcard or self-mailer compelling, you need to consider more than if you use a letter. Consider the following things:

  • Images: You need to select images that convey your message and draw attention. Emotions are very important. The right images can enhance the appeal of your direct mail piece. They are the first thing people see when they look at your mail piece.
  • Colors: You need to select colors that create the feeling you wish to convey. Really take the time to plan out your color pallet. Colors have meaning, so make sure yours mean the right thing. Want more information on the meaning of colors? Check out this article.
  • Fonts: Choose fonts that are easy to read and set the mood. The sizes matter as well as the format. Consider your audience before choosing. Larger fonts for older people really do help get your mail read. We do not recommend super script fonts. They are hard to read. Make it easy for people to understand.

Compelling direct mail is really well planned. You know your audience, you know your message and you know your design are all aligned to bring you the best results. Focusing on the perspective of your audience will drive response. One thing we did not talk about is the offer/call to action. Create your offer as a special onetime thing. Give it an expiration and an exclusivity that is only for a select few. Be very clear on how they can respond to get the offer and provide multiple ways such as web pages, phone numbers, email and more. Are you ready to create the most compelling direct mail ever?

The ‘Why’ That Gets Prospects to Buy

We’re in an age where copy must work harder to be noticed and break through. The superficial message will be overlooked, and unless it speaks to the heart in a grab-by-the-collar kind of way, it’s lost. So how do you peel back the layers of resistance to deliver the deeper why?

EmotionsWe’re in an age where copy must work harder to be noticed and break through. The superficial message will be overlooked, and unless it speaks to the heart in a grab-by-the-collar kind of way, it’s lost. So how do you peel back prospects’ layers of resistance to deliver the deeper why?

In my last blog I wrote about breaking through to the big idea. Without a big idea, a headline and story become noise.

And without emotion, the big idea may not work.

That’s why copywriters and marketers must work harder to peel back the hardened layers that people add to their personas.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been on the planning team for a musical production coming this July in Las Vegas. There will be about 300 singers from two large choral groups on stage together performing before about 8,000 people.

It would be easy to stand before the audience and sing great songs. But the question we’ve pressed ourselves to answer is this: What emotion do we want the individual in the audience to feel, the moment the curtain comes down?

We’re getting closer to identifying a handful of deep emotions about the impact of singing, but one exercise we used applies to marketers and copywriters, and might be useful to help you identify the deeper emotion of a new message.

Consider the following scenario. At first glance it may seem simplistic, but look past the pure utility of whatever you’re offering to the deeper end benefit can often lead to that clarity of “why.”

A man walks into a hardware store. An employee asks him what he’s searching for.

“A drill,” he replies.

The employee shows the customer to the aisle with drills. Without probing any further, the employee says, “if you need something else let me know,” and walks away.

The employee simply assumed the customer wanted a drill. But what if the employee had known that this was more than drilling a hole? What if it was learned that the customer was building an awning on the backyard of his home? And that he may have needed additional materials or tools for the project?

Or perhaps the employee would have learned that the reason the customer was buying a drill was because he was building the awning for his daughter. Then, she would have a place to sit in the shade on a sunny day, and under protection on a rainy day.

Or, maybe with more conversation, the customer would have revealed that the deeper reason for building the awning was because his daughter was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. And sitting outside was the only time for his daughter to breathe fresh air.

After peeling back the layers, you realize you’re not just selling the simple utility of a drill. You’re in the business of helping your clients and customers get to an emotional satisfaction — of helping them achieve their bigger goal that’s driven by the “why.”

The point of this thought process, and the reason to keep asking “why,” is that even something as simple as purchasing a drill may have a much deeper emotional reason behind the purchase.

When you know the deeper persona of the person you’re reaching, or can imagine their story, your message can get to the core of a deeper emotional feeling that enables the customer to make their decision in a heartbeat.

Gary Hennerberg gives you the detail of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com.

They Replied, Now What? A Better Sales Email Follow Up

Congratulations on earning a reply to your cold sales email. But, for most sellers, what comes next hurts: lack of response. You’re not alone. Most sellers suffer from “too much, too fast” syndrome. Prospects open the door with, “Sure, tell me more” or “Yes, I’m open to hearing what you have to offer.” But this is where most of us go wrong.

Will Slack Replace Email?Congratulations on earning a reply to your cold sales email… or a lead from your marketing campaign. But for most sellers what comes next hurts: lack of response.

You’re not alone. Most sellers suffer from “too much, too fast” syndrome. Prospects open the door with, “Sure, tell me more” or “Yes, I’m open to hearing what you have to offer.”

But this is where most of us go wrong.

We reply with details about our solutions — the problems we fix and how we fix them. We talk about benefits of doing business with us. We yak about ourselves and expect potential customers to continue the conversation they just invited.

But this often results in clients “going dark.” They consistently don’t reply. Why? Because your prospects probably are not:

  • Actively interested; they’re only passively curious
  • Able to be honestly interested (the pain is dull, the status quo is in place)
  • The decision maker after all (it’s a group decision)
  • Ready to assemble the decision-making team
  • Informed about what is needed (operationally) to enact change

I could go on but will stop here. You get the point.

The worst reply (to a client’s invitation to talk) is one about you and/or your solution. Instead, drill further into your prospect’s world.

Why did they reply? Was it a passive or serious interest? Do they actually have pain — or are they anticipating it?

You want to know, right away. The best way to understand if you’ve “got a live one on the line” is to ask. Help the prospect prove they’re serious to you. Start the qualification process.

Don’t Take the Bait

The trick to earning a reply (to your follow up message) is triggering it. Talking about your solution to their problem is usually not a trigger — even if prospects ask you to. It’s a trap. Don’t take the bait. Instead, pivot. Provoke your prospect to reply with more details.

Help them qualify themselves in a way that screams, “I don’t want to pitch you … yet … so let’s talk about you first.”

Like this: “Lisa, I don’t want to waste your time. Before I provide details will you kindly tell me …?”

Make your email about them — honoring their time and asking for a little more information about why they opened the door for you.

Whether you’re trying to provoke a discussion from cold — or continue one — you’re not selling. You’re facilitating: facilitating a conversation about change.

Make Sure Prospects are Worth Your Time

When potential buyers respond to your first email don’t over-react. It may not be as fantastic as you think. You’ve been invited to reply. Great. But is this going to be an actual conversation? If so, will it be a good one?

Sharon Drew Morgen’s Buying Facilitation® model can help. Her methodology transcends sales prospecting, yet, her principles drive effective email and telephone conversations.

Especially if your prospect has yet to invest time in the decision-making process.

Here’s what Sharon Drew taught me — that creates mutually-beneficial conversations for me and my students.

Once you’ve been invited to have a dialogue, it’s time to structure your messages. Consider the desired outcomes and ask questions that help the client reveal where they are in the purchase decision process (are they in it at all?!).

Sharon Drew says this model involves both the buyer and the seller being equally served. Sellers help buyers gain control over private change management issues — thereby helping buyers become ready to buy and helping you close more deals.

Ask Facilitative Questions

Sharon Drew calls the consultative facet of her process “Facilitative Questioning.” It’s part of her Buying Facilitation® process — a change management model.

In an outbound prospecting or inbound lead follow up context, the concept is extremely useful. It helps train us slow down — think less about questions we need answered, more about questions prospects need answered.

We become the observer of their thought-process (if not a trusted guide).

“The time we spend pushing solutions rather than helping buyers facilitate their change process is misplaced, mistimed and misguided,” says Sharon Drew.

She says this results in “a product/solution push into a closed, resistive, private system.” Instead, it should be an expansive, collaborative experience.

If its not, Sharon Drew says, “we end up closing only the low hanging fruit … those ready to buy at the point of contact … unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready even though they may need our solutions.”

Give Buyers Time, Space

Basically, Sharon Drew is teaching sellers how dangerous it is to push too hard. When we just launch into our benefits  —or ask leading (biased) questions — we don’t give buyers time and space needed to prepare for their ultimate decision.

We also (usually) don’t get a chance to participate in their decision-making process.

Sharon Drew’s position can be provocative. For example, she says: “Prospecting/cold calling is driven by sellers to gather needs/information and offer solution details … all biased by the need to place solutions.”

She says traditional prospecting, “ignores the full enigmatic fact pattern of the buyer’s environment and change issues, and touches only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who could buy if ready …”

The Brutal Truth

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

So you’ve got to ask yourself:

  1. How can I get buyers to ask for help? (get into the conversation)
  2. Then, how can I get buyers to figure things out on their own? (facilitate the conversation)

Answer: An effective communications technique. Cold calling and cold emailing can help.

Once you’ve sparked interest in having conversation, focus on helping customers discover, on their own, what they want, when and why.

Ditch your pitch. Resist the urge to take customers down the path before they prove they’re ready to walk with you. When your next prospect opens the door with, “sure, tell me more” hold back. Ask questions that help them prove an active interest.

Help them reveal why they replied. Dig deeper. They’ll appreciate your doing so and are more likely to reply back.

2 Fatal Mistakes You’re Probably Making on LinkedIn

By the math, LinkedIn can be worth investing in at any level. But make sure to ask yourself the right questions to ensure LinkedIn pays you back. Using LinkedIn connection requests and/or InMails as your first point of contact is a losing strategy. While you may have some success, it will remain limited compared to the potential.

Locked cloudLinkedIn Sales Navigator is now all but required if you are prospecting new customers by:

  • Searching LinkedIn’s contact database
  • Contacting potential buyers using InMail

Whether you’re spending $500, $50,000 or even $500,000 on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you’re forced to ask yourself: Will Navigator be worth it?

How can you be sure? By the math, it can be worth investing, at any level. Make sure to ask yourself the right questions — to ensure LinkedIn pays you back.

However, using LinkedIn connection requests and/or InMails as your first point of contact is a losing strategy. While you may have some success, it will remain limited compared to the potential.

If you are getting responses you’re likely not advancing toward discussions or setting meetings. Worse, many of my students have invested time in LinkedIn’s training — and still aren’t getting anywhere!

Why Most Sellers Fail to Start Conversations

Contacting prospects inside LinkedIn can happen in two ways:

  • Connecting to prospects and messaging freely
  • InMail-ing potential buyers

Easy right? Well, yes-and-no.

Easy to send a personalized request and/or InMail message. Not easy to earn a response, let alone a qualified conversation. Especially using connection requests, even when personalized.

These are two ways sellers sabotage themselves. Beware — when trying to meet new customers, avoid making first contact using connection requests or InMail.

This may have you thinking, “Molander, where are you going here?! What other way is there to establish rapport on LinkedIn?!”

Answer: Not on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn: It’s Not “All That”

Despite the hype, LinkedIn and social selling isn’t “all that.” LinkedIn is nothing more than a database of prospecting leads.

Got a phone? Use it. Today’s most successful sellers are.

Got another database? Supplement it with data from LinkedIn.

Got a trade show list? Use LinkedIn to gather intel on prospects — make an informed approach.

Sellers with the highest social selling index often aren’t making any scratch on LinkedIn.

Sellers making the most money using LinkedIn work it using multiple tools — not just LinkedIn.

Why InMail Alone Rarely Works

It makes sense to start within the walls of LinkedIn when using LinkedIn to prospect, but in general, you will get more conversations started by making first contact outside of LinkedIn. Use InMail as a last resort — or later in your messaging cadence.

Use standard email and phone/voicemail first. Supplement your cadence with InMail.

So why invest in Sales Navigator at all? Because you’re forced to. No investment in Navigator? No access to LinkedIn’s database. Period.

Beware. These are just a few reasons why you should not start with InMail as a “first touch” when prospecting. InMails:

  1. Give you no ability to determine subject line strength (open rate)
  2. Are limited to maximum 30/month
  3. Are expensive!
  4. Don’t facilitate following-up well enough
  5. Rarely perform better than standard email

If you are sending emails to prospects without knowing your open rate … STOP. You’re wasting time crafting and then re-crafting messages that aren’t being seen. If you want to judge effectiveness of your message you must, first, inspect open rate — the effectiveness of subject lines.

Don’t be fooled into believing your perfectly good message is the problem — when it’s actually your email not being opened (because of a weak subject line).

Today’s world requires you to be tenacious and persistent. Don’t expect to send 10 individual InMails per week and get four to six responses! Unless you’ve got a dynamite communications technique, it’s not going happen.

Don’t rely on InMail. I’m shocked at how many people I meet are. The most effective sellers I know follow-up with every tool they have — not just LinkedIn.

In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes eight attempts. Time to get to work!

Never Forget LinkedIn’s Core Market: Recruiters

LinkedIn makes money in two ways:

  1. Selling access to its database (to sellers and recruiters)
  2. Selling media (page views)

LinkedIn wasn’t built for sales, nor sales prospecting. It is an online resume database that just happens to have executive decision-makers within it. It is also a social network.

LinkedIn was birthed to serve recruiters — not sellers.

One day LinkedIn realized, “hey … sellers are in here trying to find buyers.” Didn’t take long for the company to coin “social selling” and claim their leadership position as the place to shag down buyers.

Think of it this way. Like buyers we’re chasing, employed professionals don’t want to be bothered by recruiters. Thus, InMail (with its limitations) is a good match. Similarly, InMail is a good match for sellers.

But recruiters don’t rely on InMail — and top performing sellers don’t rely on it either.

Remember … using LinkedIn connection requests and/or InMails as your first point of contact isn’t working for most sellers. While you may have some success it will remain limited compared to the potential.

Sellers making the most money using LinkedIn work it using multiple tools — not just LinkedIn.

What has your experience been? Is it different?

The New ‘New’ Corporate Website

Your prospects don’t care about you. They don’t even care about what you do. They care about what you can do for them. I am fond of saying this to, well, anyone who will listen. It not only encapsulates exactly what B-to-B buyers are thinking, but also pokes a little fun at the ego with which so many marketers think of their own marketing materials.

Tom Marin blog website design illustrationYour prospects don’t care about you.

They don’t even care about what you do.

They care about what you can do for them.

I am fond of saying this to, well, anyone who will listen. (I believe it’s the phrase on which my now-16-year-old daughter perfected her eye roll.) The reason I’m fond of the this saying, aside from it’s slight snarkiness, is that it not only encapsulates exactly what B-to-B buyers are thinking, but also pokes a little fun at the ego with which so many marketers think of their own marketing materials.

To avoid this trap on your company website, you must keep the focus pointed outward, not inward. The language you use will be a big part of this focus, but the site’s navigation and organizing structure are important, too.

In other words, the About Us and What We Do pages aren’t nearly as important to your prospects as you think. You should de-emphasize those pages and/or rethink them in favor of pages that explain the benefits of what you do and the impact what you do can have on your prospects’ businesses.

With that in mind, you should make sure that About Us finds its rightful home, which is not as the first item on your main menu. That first item, which can have any number of titles, should be an entry point into the ways you can help prospects improve their businesses.

(About Us should, in most cases, be the second-to-last item on your main menu. Having the Contact page occupy the last spot has become enough of a convention that you should not mess with your audience’s expectations.)

On your home page, talking about yourself and your products or services beyond a basic introductory paragraph is a waste of valuable screen real estate. That screen space should be used for three (give or take) calls to action that draw visitors deeper into your site.

Once you have your navigation and structure properly focused, you should review your site’s copy – both its focus and its language. In addition to being all about “you,” the prospect and not “we,” the marketers, it needs to provide value to your target audience.

Your site should include tools, tips, and thought pieces. You should have landing pages devoted to your key audience segments. And your materials should be timely and relevant to the issues your prospects are facing – exactly the things that About Us and What We Do nearly always aren’t.

To be an effective marketing tool, your site has to bring the benefits of what you do to life. Content has to include useful tools and tips and how-to guides that provide value to your target audience. The marketing value is driven home as prospects come to think of you as a knowledgeable and valuable resource on whom they can rely when they move from exploring an issue to seeking a solution.

3 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Sales Navigator

Wondering where your LinkedIn Advanced Search is? Poof! It’s no longer part of your free LinkedIn user account. If you want to search for prospects on LinkedIn you must buy Sales Navigator. At roughly $500 annually for individuals — and as much as $200,000 for teams — sellers are under pressure to make the investment pay off. Here are three must-ask questions to be asking yourself — before investing (or continuing to).

Locked cloudWondering where your LinkedIn Advanced Search is? Poof! It’s no longer part of your free LinkedIn user account. If you want to search for prospects on LinkedIn you must buy Sales Navigator.

At roughly $500 annually for individuals — and as much as $200,000 for teams — sellers are under pressure to make the investment pay off.

Forget about your Social Selling Index. Sellers need new customer relationships, not vanity metrics. Here are three must-ask questions to be asking yourself — before investing (or continuing to).

  1. What are people saying about Sales Navigator? (is it worth it?)
  2. How, exactly, will my investment pay for itself?
  3. What can I do to make sure Navigator works for me?

What People Are Saying

The most common feedback I hear is how target-rich LinkedIn’s database of prospects is, however, the support provided (to make use of these contacts) is poor.

The No. 1 reason sellers cancel Sales Navigator won’t surprise you: Lack of response from prospects they’re approaching using LinkedIn InMail. Sellers find it increasingly difficult to start conversations with potential new buyers. This causes some to cancel their Navigator account.

However, LinkedIn’s recent move forces your hand. Do you need to research LinkedIn’s database to find business leads? You must pay-to-play. Previously, you could prospect LinkedIn’s database throughout the week — and avoid the “commercial search limit” on the advanced search feature.

Not so today.

Behind closed doors this is what I hear most often about LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool:

  • I wish LinkedIn helped me effectively contact prospects — not just use the tool.
  • LinkedIn’s database of contacts is large, growing and rich with profile details.
  • Some decision-makers are hiding their authority (due to overzealous sellers).
  • The company’s support team does not provide email or phone help.
  • I love Sales Navigator’s ability to help me monitor my prospects & companies.
  • LinkedIn’s training webinars aren’t helping me start conversations with customers.
  • My sellers’ Social Selling Index is not correlating to sales productivity.
  • LinkedIn’s guidance on using InMail is confusing and contradicts itself.
  • The automated leads Navigator sends me are not fitting my target criteria.

How will my investment pay for itself?

Many sales teams investing in Sales Navigator are not seeing returns needed. Some teams are pulling out — looking elsewhere for prospecting data, or returning to pre-LinkedIn sources.

It’s common for teams to invest from $10,000 to $200,000 annually on Sales Navigator. Individual sellers, paying $79 a month (roughly $500 annually), also struggle to justify the investment. What if a team of 25 sellers could go from $19 million in new client quarterly revenue to $70 million? (using Sales Navigator)

Sounds good, right? But only if we:

  • Increase number of reps actively prospecting (it’s got to be fun/productive for them)
  • Increase sellers’ ability to start conversations by a mere 10 percent

It’s true. I’ll work out the math for you. Prospecting success on LinkedIn boils down to:

  • Finding appropriate, new prospects (Navigator does well here)
  • Starting conversations with targets
  • Bringing conversations toward closure

It’s the last two where people most struggle. This is where the gold is.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator: By the Math

Here is how the math comes together — for teams of sellers. For sake of example, let’s use a three-month scenario: February to April 2017. A projection.

Let’s say you have a team of 25 sellers. Most are not prospecting much. They don’t like it. Here are the assumptions:

  • Seven reps (who are prospecting) targeting an average of 20 new clients per week each = 140 potential new discussions
  • This means 50 conversations are being started (average of two per rep: 36 percent success rate)
  • Thirty-eight new clients will likely be closed (78 percent) valued at an average of $500k annual revenue
  • Net new client revenue $19M (achieved in February-April)

But let’s say we:

  • Convinced just six reps to become better at earning conversations with Navigator
  • Increased these six sellers’ ability to provoke discussions better — by just 10 percent (and become effective at securing good meetings faster)
  • Keep close rate flat and unchanged

Here’s what that team’s performance would look like after investing in a method to effectively start conversations with prospects via LinkedIn.

  • Thirteen reps (plus six) prospecting, targeting an average of 30 new clients per week each = 390 potential discussions
  • We are now getting 10 more targets called per rep/week
  • This means 180 new conversations are started (average 8.5 per rep, 46 percent success rate)
  • 140 new clients closed (78 percent) valued at an average $500k annual revenue
  • Net new client revenue equals $70M (achieved in February-April)

What You Can Do to Make Sure This Works

Ignore LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. Instead, strengthen your and your team’s ability to start conversations “from cold.” Get good at attracting customers to talking with you.

It’s not about buying — it’s about what it will take for them to buy, eventually. Issues. Challenges. Or even the status quo. Challenge it.

Being able to consistently spark conversations with potential buyers will increase your:

  • Email response rate
  • Voice-mail response rate
  • Appointment setting rate
  • Number of customers closed per month

A Fundamental Misconception About Sales Navigator

Your potential buyer values more what they ask for. Buyers value less what you offer them. It’s human nature. Getting meetings with prospects doesn’t require Sales Navigator. It requires you to help prospects feel an urge — to ask you or invite you to talk.

Sales Navigator is nothing more than a tech tool. It is not a prospecting magic wand. As obvious as this may sound many who invest in Navigator treat it as one. Take your communications technique more seriously than you take LinkedIn. LinkedIn is merely the cost of entry.

Yes, LinkedIn’s tool set will help you:

  • Find new people to call on quickly
  • Discover knowledge about targets that can be used on your approach
  • Find “hidden” prospects in your territory that are currently being overlooked
  • Contact potential customers directly (InMail)

But your ability to earn customers attention — and request for a meeting — is the game-changer. Just look at the math!

5 Phrases That Poison Sales Prospecting Emails

Salespeople who want to strengthen their sales prospecting email technique often seek advice. That’s a good thing. Whether you’re using LinkedIn InMail or standard email when prospecting new business, I know what you’re after: response from potential buyers.

The Truths and Myths of Email DeliverabilitySalespeople who want to strengthen their LinkedIn InMail or sales prospecting email technique often seek advice from colleagues, managers and experts. That’s a good thing. Self-improvement is a noble pursuit.

But not all advice is good. In fact, some of it is downright awful. It actually hurts reps who implement these “helpful” tips.

Whether you’re using LinkedIn InMail or standard email when prospecting new business, I know what you’re after: response from potential buyers.

Over the last year I’m seeing one prevailing cold emailing trend — separating successful sellers from those who struggle to set meetings. Being lazy. I mean really lazy. Taking no risks and sounding like 99 percent of inbound emails.

Stop Sounding Like Everyone Else

Want exceptional results? Invest time in exceptional practices. Most of all, get the heck out of the box. Stop blending in with the deluge of terrible, easy-to-spot (and delete) cold email messages coming at your prospects daily.

Here are five popular email phrases that may be sabotaging your effort. These appear regularly in email messages prospects love to delete.

How many of these are you — or your team — using?

1. I Hope You Don’t Mind …

As in, “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you through LinkedIn.” Or “I hope you don’t mind my asking.” Yes, even “I hope today finds you well.” These phrases are completely unnecessary in most cases. They clutter your message and waste precious time.

Believe it or not, prospects care less about your being polite. They certainly don’t care about what you hope for! They want you out of their inbox. Because their experience cannot be reasoned with.

Most of their inbox is noise. Garbage. Un-researched, copy-and-pasted spammy messages from desperate sellers.

They want the noise (you’re caught up in) out of their inboxes. Thus, you’re forced to stand out from everyone.

You’re forced to risk them minding. Get over it — and get started with a provocation rather than asking for a full-blown conversation.

2. Would You Be the Correct Person?

Or “Would you mind pointing me in the right direction?”

We often don’t know who the decision-maker(s) and/or influncers are. Got it. But in this digital age, doing homework is simple. Easy. Nearly effortless as compared to decades past.

Point blank: Asking a prospect to do your homework is becoming increasingly dangerous. You risk looking lazy. You also blend in with the noise inside your recipient’s inbox.

Any idea how many “referral asks” your contact is receiving each week? Too many! They don’t need another seller asking for guidance about who (inside their company) you can start a discussion with.

That’s not their job — it’s yours. Get to it.

That said, Dan Frost, a business development professional at Simplicity Corporation, says asking for a referral works in some cases.

“… if it’s framed properly … but you’d better off mentioning who you think is the next best option after doing some research, says Frost.

Isaac Liebes, a seller at Green Light Energy Conservation LLC, says asking for a referral does work when you provide incentive. He suggests:

  • approaching someone who actually has the ability to point you in the right direction
  • presenting information that motivates the recipient to reply — even if the recipient is the wrong contact.

The key, Liebes says, is presenting a benefit to the organization. In other words, if information within your message is strong enough it provides incentive to the recipient to put you in touch with the best contact.

3. As You Probably Know …

Prefacing what you’re about to say wastes precious time. Just say it. Research tells us you have less than 15 seconds to provoke a reply in a cold email. Phrases like “I’m in touch today because …” wastes time and encourages deletion.

Tell your prospect why you’re in touch. No need to preface. Speak boldly, quickly and get to-the-point without delay. This helps the reader feel an urge to reply. Mostly since the message stands out from others in their inbox.

4-5. I Would Love To or I Look Forward To

Or “I would enjoy.” What you love, would enjoy or look forward to isn’t valuable to the other side. You may think they sound polite, but these phrases make you sound desperate. Beware: Don’t sound like you care too much.

They know you would love 15 minutes of their time. They know you look forward to their response. They know you would enjoy giving them a demo or free trial. No need to tell them about your love, hope or eagerness.

They know!