The Big Problem With Sales Email Templates  

Spending time doing cold email outreach to new prospects? Trying to reignite smoldering discussions with existing customers? Then you’re probably using voicemail (the phone), LinkedIn’s InMail and email. Sales email templates are a big part of day-to-day life. The problem is they don’t work.

Nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. Yet most sellers use templates.

Offensive Intrusions

“You really need to take a look at your overall document output and how it eats into your revenue.” It may sound bold and direct but when the above seller used this line it resulted in instant deletion.

It’s bossy and positions the sender as someone who is obviously going to sell a solution to a problem the reader may not realize — but should.

Just the same, this hit my inbox recently and is a very popular sales email template. It’s popular and (I’ll bet) ineffective. I’m obfuscating the company’s name to protect the innocent.

Hi Jeff,

I am contacting you because I would like to bring [company] to your attention.

[company] provides all the resources you need to create and sell online training modules:

Create, distribute, analyze and sell your modules all within [company]. Your modules will run on any device and can be used in any language.

Last month we welcomed our 15,000th customer. In case you want to give [company] a try, you can sign up for free at [Web site].

If you’d like to know more about [company], let me know, I am always happy to show you [company] possibilities for your business.

The above email is a blatant attack on my inbox.

Let’s look at the first sentence. I have many people vying for my attention. The fact that this seller of learning management software is one of them is not a reason why they should contact me.

In fact, it’s a reason why they should provoke me to talk with them — to stand out.

Providing attention to this company isn’t important to me.

These ideas are intellectually offensive, intrusive even. And that’s too bad because the seller, in this example, is in touch with problems I may not be paying enough attention to.

Keying these problems into my consciousness is a great way to grab my attention — and provoke my reply.

A Better Template: Provocative Message Formula

Templates do not work. But a formulaic approach to message design — that is mostly template-able — does. Customization is key.

In the above example, what might be important to me are deficiencies in my current learning management system. Thus, asking me, “Jeff, are you doing everything possible to ensure device compatibility with your email prospecting lessons?”

That’s a grabber. It forces me to stop and think, “Am I doing everything possible to address that?” In my case, it forces me to realize, “Am I even paying attention to device compatibility!?”

It makes me want to read on. It provokes me.

This kind of approach also shows me that the seller:

  • Did homework on me (he knows what I sell and to whom; this is probably not spam)
  • Is smart enough to know device compatibility is an issue for people like me
  • May have taken time to research my current technology (prompting his question)

One of the strongest elements in a first paragraph of the first cold email touch is proving you’ve done homework. You signal to your prospect: This isn’t a random spam message and I’ve invested time researching you.

Aside from getting opened (the subject line’s job) this “homework element” alone is often enough to earn attention. The rest requires provocation.

Remember, nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. The reason sales email templates rarely work is simple: Most use the same, “telling” communications format.

They’re bossy, intrusive or ask silly questions. Each communications technique is lazy and ineffective. Mostly because they’re so common.

What do you think? Will a more provocative approach work in your situation?

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

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