A Cure for the Common Cold Email

In any B2B role, you’ve likely received a god-awful prospect email from a salesperson. Whether it’s impersonal, irrelevant, grammatically flawed or just plain ugly, a poor cold email can kill a prospective deal before it’s even off the ground.

I’ve come across a number of these ugly emails in my own inbox, and as a content marketer have fought the (admittedly rude) urge to reply with grammar and spelling revisions. I have spoken with sales reps and executives on the Seismic team about the dud emails they’ve received, and together we have come up with a list of ways to cure the common cold email.

  1. Know who you’re emailing. Make sure whatever you’re selling is of use to your recipient. Research their company and title and gauge what their everyday responsibilities include. In doing so, you should be able to assess whether you and/or your product could be of use to them.
    Bonus: Make sure you’re not emailing a competitor. Executives on our team have received far too many prospecting emails from competitors, which essentially gives us a peek at their secret sauce. If you’re using email templates, make sure you’ve eliminated competitors’ email domains so they don’t slip through the cracks.
  2. Be consistent: Don’t change up the font size, type or color in your emails. This would seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many emails are sent with erratic fonts and colors. These emails come off as impersonal and unprofessional. If you’re trying to make a human connection, don’t type like a robot. Consistency also pertains to emails after the initial cold email; don’t expect a prospect to remember your name and company or that you’ve even spoken before. Either keep the same email chain going (whether the prospect responded or not), or remind them what it is you’re reaching out about. A “just checking in after my last email/call” does not resonate or entice a prospect to respond.
  3. Keep it classy: You can be casual and friendly in an email while still being professional. This is your first email introduction to a potential customer; using language that you may use with your friends may not fly with senior executives. Even if your own company is informal and laid-back, be respectful by avoiding slang like “What’s up,” sign-offs such as “Later,” or any cuss words (yes, these have all happened). Also, make sure you use some sort of email sign-off, especially in your first emails to a prospect.
  4. Don’t talk about products. This is your first interaction with someone. Name dropping customer logos, pricing or product benefits is of absolutely no interest to them at this point. Think of cold emailing as the first step in the long-con: introduce your company and include something helpful with the prospect (a statistic, article, etc.) before asking them for anything.
    Bonus: Share relevant sales materials (guides, whitepapers, tear sheets, etc.) with them based on their industry and role. Since this is a cold email, they likely have no information on your company or what you do, so make sure this is a more general piece.
  5. Track, adjust, repeat behavior. I recently came across a blog post from InsightSquared that was a response to criticism of its sales reps’ follow-up emails. While anyone (including myself) can have an opinion about what constitutes a good or bad sales email, opinions really don’t mean anything unless you can track the effectiveness of that email. InsightSquared and Seismic both use data to gauge the success of email campaigns, which allows companies to assess what is working and what isn’t.
    Bonus: Include sales content in your emails and track how the recipient is interacting with it. Seismic’s LiveSend feature allows you to both offer something helpful to a prospect and see how they interact with it—what pages/slides they spent the most time on, whether it was forwarded to others in the company, and how many times they viewed it.

At the end of the day, sales reps will continue to craft and send their own emails, and some will be better than others. These are just a few guidelines to help enhance those emails, as there is always room for improvement. The most important “cure” to the common cold email is ensuring that you can track and modify best practices so your team is having the most successful sales interactions as possible.

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