Avoid PDFs in Cold Email Templates. Always.

I’m not going to try to persuade you. Instead, I’ll just share my experience — observing hundreds of successful sellers. If you want to get more conversations started “from cold,” avoid including links and/or PDFs in your “first touch” email. Here’s why and what to do instead.

Customer-First Email MarketingI’m not going to try to persuade you. Instead, I’ll just share my experience — observing hundreds of successful sellers. If you want to get more conversations started “from cold,” avoid including links and/or PDFs in your “first touch” email.

Here’s why and what to do instead.

PDFs Are the Devil

Don’t attach PDFs or any literature to your cold email. I have yet to meet anyone who articulates “the why” behind my recommendation better than Scott Britton, co-founder of Troops, a sales productivity tool. If you’re in marketing … get ready. This might jar you a bit. But keep an open mind.

“A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can. So why send a deck and let a static document do the selling instead of you?” asks Mr. Britton.

Key words here are “within a specific context.” Our job as sales people is to apply content within context. So if you have a white paper, report, infographic, whatever … effective use means applying it in context of the “buying journey.”

This requires your assessment of the context — first. Everything else is just pushing information at someone who doesn’t want it.

Remember: Customers value more what they ask for — less what you offer them. Thus, help the right customers develop an urge to ask.

But here’s the most important reason to not include your PDF — no matter what it contains.

“If they’re not into (motivated by) your offering after reviewing their deck, there is literally no reason to hop on a call with you,” says Mr. Britton.

Need I say more?

As Scott says, “Don’t take yourself out of play, own the sale.”

Because if you rely on that PDF, well, you are all but giving up. You are also just like 95 percent of sales people out there. You’re not at the top of your game.

Don’t Rush: How to Apply Case Studies

It’s common to use case studies in cold emails, as attachments. But the goal of your first email is not to earn purchase consideration, nor a meeting. It is to earn a reply. Period.

Thus, your goal is not to get prospects to read the case study PDF. They don’t want your case. Because they’re not interested in qualifying you (yet). They’re not in a discussion (yet) that would cause them to want to qualify you.

The goal is to get them to talk with you — about how their goals, fears or burning desires. Then assess if they’re interested in qualifying you, at which time you can offer a case.

Be confident. Don’t rush to show. Get them hooked on the provocation. Once they’ve asked you for what’s in your PDF they’ve opened the door. Otherwise you’re just busting through the door saying, “hey, read this!” like every other sellers is.

Think of it like a first date: The more you promote what you want, the less you’ll get it. The more you allow them to respond and discuss, the more you’ll get it.

Get Into the Conversation — Now

Quick example from a client I’m working with: The goal of their first touch email is to get into conversation about potential clients’ trade shows. But many sellers on their team feel urges. They want to rush the conversation by including case study PDFs on first touch.

We developed a provocative approach, asking the potential client, “Are you open to a different way of attracting decision-makers to your booth? I have an idea for you.”

Rather than asking for a meeting, or if they’re interested in talking about an upcoming trade show, we conclude the email with, “How are you currently earning meeting commitments from prospects prior to the event?”

Because this is the conversation we want to be in! This is the “slow go” type of approach I’m referring to. Ask for the discussion — not for the meeting or the qualification (reading your PDF).

But many sellers on my client’s team felt an urge to add:

“I can send you the case study/testimonial of our client who increased their qualified traffic by 90 percent.”

Do you see how this pushes rather than pulls? It promotes. Instead, consider attracting that conversation to you. Tempt the prospect to ask you for the case.

Why do we do this? Why to we rush the conversation? Because you feel you should. Why? Because you’re worried — what you’ve said in the email is not going to be enough. Be confident. Don’t attach PDFs or any literature to your cold email. A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can.

What is your experience? I’m open to hearing it.

An Effective Sales Email Cadence: More Than Just Timing

Timing of sales prospecting touchpoints is important. But when deciding on a sales email cadence, avoid focusing on timing of messages alone. Communications technique is vital to earning responses and qualifying prospects for meetings.

EmailTiming of sales prospecting touchpoints is important. But when deciding on a sales email cadence, avoid focusing on timing of messages alone. Communications technique is vital to earning responses and qualifying prospects for meetings.

The power of a good sales email cadence is obvious. But a good conversational cadence is even better. Optimal conversational pacing helps your prospects qualify or disqualify themselves.

Timing Your Sales Emails

Sales expert Jeff Hoffman recommends the best timing touchpoint model. He says to express urgency wait after making your first (cold) attempt to follow up — around 12 days to two weeks. But then apply a half-life rule with each subsequent email and/or phone attempt.

Most of my students follow slight variations on this cadence — and it works.

Here’s what this timing might look like:

  • First attempt: June 1
  • Second attempt: June 13 (12 days later)
  • Third attempt: June 19 (six days later)
  • Fourth attempt: June 22 (three days later)
  • Fifth attempt: June 24 mid-day (one and a half days later)

In the above scenario the buyer senses your message is growing in urgency (yet doesn’t feel you are pouncing on them out-of-the-gate).

But what about getting your series of email messages read, responded to and wrapped-up with your appointment booked?

There’s More to Cadence Than Timing

Timing combines with your messages’ content. Proper timing (above) and provocative message content help buyers feel an urge to reply (over and over) and (later in the conversation) ask for help.

No urge? No reply. No invitation to talk about helping. No purchase. Conversational cadence is what makes the difference. It’s the speed at which your discussion moves.

Based on my work with sellers, these two trends are universal and cannot be ignored.

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

Thus, your email cadence helps provoke the initial discussion. Your conversational cadence helps the prospect discover why they want to buy, when and how.

You can call the span of conversational time the “buyers journey.” I don’t like the term.

“Have you ever heard a prospect or customer say they are on a ‘buyer’s journey?’” asks Michael A. Brown of BtoBEngage. “Neither have I. They talk about their circumstances, requirements, and preferences and their process for fulfilling them, and we should too. If they do mention a journey, it is because they are making travel arrangements.”

Helping Buyers Buy on Their Own Terms

Helping a customer realize they want to buy is a tall order. But an effective conversational cadence is the key to selling complex B-to-B products using digital communications tools.

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

As a starting point ask yourself:

  1. How will my email cadence and message combine to help buyers feel an urge to ask for a discussion?
  2. Then, how will my email pacing and message content help buyers get comfortable with buying on their own?

The 7 Things I Wish All Marketers Would Change

As 2016 winds down, let’s all make a vow — whether you use this list or make your own, let’s just agree that we all need to set our standards higher and aim to be smarter in every aspect of our marketing efforts. To get your creative juices started, here’s my list of things I am committed to change in 2017.

As 2016 winds down, let’s all make a vow — whether you use this list or make your own, let’s just agree that we all need to set our standards higher and aim to be smarter in every aspect of our marketing efforts. To get your creative juices started, here’s my list of things I am committed to change in 2017.

1. Stop using overused words, phrases and symbols

This years’ list includes: alignment, synergistic, net-net, personalized, narrative, #, and “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Oh, and try to avoid made-up words like “braggadocious.”

2. Stop adding me to your email list without my knowledge

I spend a lot of down time over the holidays unsubscribing to newsletters, alerts, sales notices and emails that I never read before hitting the “delete” button. And, if asked why I am unsubscribing, I tell them — and yes, it’s probably because I have no idea how I got on the list in the first place.

3. Stop linking Tweets to gated content

This is a particular pet peeve of mine. Clearly you’ve written an enticing 140 character intro to a topic of interest, but if it links to gated content and I’m not a member (and membership is not free), the likelihood of my joining just to access it is extremely low. Instead, it only serves to annoy me.

4. Stop sending me money-off messages after I’ve made a large purchase

Like many, I like to shop online and often a new catalog prompts me to use a new e-tailer. But after spending big bucks, don’t send me a “welcome to the family — take 20 percent off on your next purchase.” That just makes me regret my initial purchase, consider returning my items and then using the coupon to buy again at a lower price. Instead, why not offer me a “credit rebate” based on my initial purchase amount? I’ll gladly browse again knowing I have a few bucks in the bank to spend on your site.

5. Stop selling me after I call to complain

When I call a company with an issue or complaint, I simply want to be treated with respect, concern and understanding. Once the issue is resolved, I don’t want a sales pitch for another product.

6. Stop sending me cold prospecting emails asking for a meeting

The passive aggressive tone of your email (“I’m following up on my earlier request… didn’t you get it?”) is the lazy man’s way of setting sales meetings. Oh, and you must have all gone to the same sales training class, because I get at least five a week with the exact same copy, just <<insert company name/product name here>>.

7. Stop believing that social media is the marketing holy grail

Enough said.