What was the last cold sales outreach you actually read and maybe responded to?

Posted November 22, 2022 in
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Even though it has changed, I would never say that cold-calling is dead. That being said, it's not as easy as "smile and dial"

As you can imagine, I get cold emails and LinkedIn messages ALL THE TIME. Of the hundreds I get, I can count on one hand the messages I have responded to or even engaged with.

Here are the things that immediately cause me to ignore sales emails:

1. A terrible subject line. This is the first (and often only) thing we see related to the email. How many times do we see subject lines like "Checking In," "_____ Opportunity," or even "[Comany name]." We have trained ourselves to ignore these. Take a look at your spam-filtered emails and the subject lines, this will be a list of great examples not to do.

2. It's all about them. I get emails that feel like an elevator pitch that I never asked for. Even if it's a great value prop, it's too easy to forget about it and never think about it again. How many LinkedIn messages or emails do you get start out with "We are a ____ that ____'s". They make lofty promises that oftentimes don't even make sense since it's all industry jargon. Emails that make the sales rep or organization the Hero of the story quickly get ignored and/or deleted.

3. They get my name wrong (or don't use my name at all). Ok, I haven't named any names yet, but here is one, Gong. I have heard that Gong has great sales emails and some genuinely quality content that will help sales professionals be better. That being said, In their system, my name is "Shay" and I always get annoyed and ignore the rest of the email.  I don't even look for value because it's not directed at me. This may be petty, but it's real.


Now that we have those things that prevent emails from getting opened out of the way, you may wonder "Stefan, do you ever open or respond to sales emails?" The answer is YES! Here are the things that get me to read the email:


1. It's "Clickable". This is more of an art than science, but let's be honest, people need to want to click it. What you need to be careful of is making it clickbait. So many times I have clicked thinking one thing, and then after reading I realize it's not what I thought it was. From there, I take a screenshot and share it with clients showing "what not to do." Please don't do this, now that I think about it, this should be on the first list, but I am leaving it here since I am already this far. That being said, the subject line is what gets someone to even think about opening the email. Make your subject line about the customer, relevant, and engaging. Maybe this is a relevant question, it could be personalized with the customer's name, and if you want to take it to the next level let the customer know it has a video in it. You need to stand out and be clicky, without being clickbait. To prevent it from being clickbait, be sure that the first sentence of the email agrees with the subject line and carries the thought forward. This is more of an art than a science. Test to see what subject lines are best for you and your customers. 

2. It's hyper-personalized. Did they reference a mutual connection, something I posted on LinkedIn, or send a personalized 1:1 video? If they did those things, I am at least interested enough to read or listen to the message. So often sales emails are all about the person sending it and not the person receiving it. I coach salespeople on their emails nearly every day and more often than not it's about the sender. This isn't terrible depending on the sales stage we are in, but if this is a cold or even warm lead making it about us could kill the deal. Hyper-personalization gets you through the door to someone that will listen. Make it about them, not you. This is essential in cold outreach, but it's not everything. There needs to be something valuable to them.

3. It offers real value without asking for anything in return. We all know that if we are being chased by a sales rep our natural inclination is to run. This is why we hold back from asking for something from them in the early stages. This is the hardest part of any real sales email. Are you giving enough value in the email to where the customer sees why they should pursue you? No, I am not telling you to give away your product/service for free, nor am I saying that we shouldn't make a specific ask, but emails that get opened are ones that the recipient WANTS to open. The emails that get responded to are ones that the recipient WANTS to respond to. It's easy to put some industry jargon into a sales email and just send over your value-prop thinking that will be enough, but rarely do customers actually open these emails. Give something really valuable, if they accept it, then maybe it's time to engage with them more personally with a phone call or a conversation, but not before.

To summarize, emails that I open and respond to are engaging, personalized, and valuable to me. If you want to get me on a phone call from a cold outreach, these are non-negotiables.  

With that, look at your sales emails and put yourself in your customers' shoes. Would you open the email? Is it personalized? Is it valuable? Is it similar to emails you open or is it similar to emails in your spam filter? 

What would you add to this list? What gets you to open a sales email? Is there something I missed?
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