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5 Tips for Sales Emails: A Love Story

Howard Thurman once said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

As I embrace a keen sense of my own mortality, I am increasingly aware of what makes me come alive. One of these things is receiving sales solicitation emails. Odd, I know. I could read, rewrite, and talk about sales messaging all day. And, I have.

Quite often, I reach out to the sender of a solicitation asking one of my favorite questions, "Are you open to some feedback?" Nobody ever replies. On the plus side, it's a much more effective way to get off someone's list vs. other methods for trying to unsubscribe.

One early Sunday morning a few months ago, I was going through my "Future Clients" folder and realized I had amassed quite a collection of gloriously awful sales emails. For fun, I started autopsying them on a page with the header, "This is Where Bad Emails Come to Die." It wasn't meant to be a marketing page or even a real blog post. It was just entertainment, mostly for me.

When I met Everett O'Keefe from Ignite Press (no relation), he made a pretty compelling case for turning The Email Cemetery into a bestselling book.

Still, bad emails are the gift that keep on giving. How I love to hate emails like this one:

Hi Charlene, I am sorry to trouble you again. Our company, <XYZ Company>, has developed a <technology I probably would never use> that <does this thing I don't care about> for employees <to do something I don't understand why they would do for> their employer. It streamlines the entire <words that don't mean anything to me> process for you. Can I get 15 minutes to show you what we have? Thanks, Kevin Kevin made me come alive. The moment I read this email, my pulse started racing. I was nauseated, yet oddly thrilled. It was like one of those stories where the people seem to hate each other, then discover they are in love. Perhaps Kevin is my long-lost Darcy! (Unlikely, but let's go with it. Jane Austen fans: Holla!)

Here are a few sales email tips sponsored by my frustrating and beloved Darcy:

  1. Sorry, not sorry. When you start an email or voicemail apologizing for contacting someone, you betray your mindset. Inside, you don't believe in the value of what you are offering. You can tell me you are just being polite, but your words expose the truth. When you genuinely care and know to your core that what you do makes a positive difference, you are never "bugging" anyone.

  2. It's not about you. Emails that start with the word "I" convey to the receiver that you care more about your goals than theirs. Here's a free filter you can use to make all of your communications better instantly: Edit all sentences that start with I, We, Our, and the name of your company. Make it about them, not you. (PS: This shift in approach will serve you personally as well).

  3. Do your homework. Most of the sales solicitations I get are completely irrelevant to me. Darcy could have done some basic search before reaching out to know that there's zero chance of me needing what he's selling. However, he could have figured out that I work with lots of companies who may be a good fit. That's a different message. Also, he could have mentioned one of the dozen mutual contacts we have on LinkedIn. A personal introduction would have helped even more.

  4. Speed dating sucks. Seriously? 15 minutes?? Is this because you don't want to be a "pest"? (See #1.) Or, do you want just enough time to qualify me and move on with your life? If you're in a business that relies in any way on relationships, you want to respect and leverage the power of a mutually beneficial conversation. If it's going to take 30 minutes, ask for 30 minutes. Personally, I offer first meetings of an hour so that I can learn a lot and be as helpful as possible.

  5. The call to action matters. Hey, at least Darcy asked for something. A lot of sales emails simply end with "If this is of interest, please let me know." (They will never know.) Others, like Darcy, tell me up front that they plan to talk at me about themselves. I would rather walk barefoot through a room full of Legos. A much more effective offer includes you finding out about more your prospect, sharing how you help people like them, and then mutually deciding on next steps, if any.

As you read all this, you may think I'm confusing sales with marketing. After all, the likelihood is great that Darcy sent me a blast email through some super cool marketing automation software.

Please know this: Successful business growth lives at the intersection of sales and marketing. If your marketing doesn't drive sales conversations (or worse, prevents them), why are you doing it? If your sales effort doesn't include personalized messaging, live interactions, and meaningful conversations, why have salespeople (or you) involved at all?

A lot of business execs know that building the pipeline has to be a priority, and yet don't want to be 'that guy.' Deep down, they're like, "Sales. Ew." However, in not being more thoughtful about their mindset, messaging, and methods, they create the very image they seek to avoid. Sure - if your products and services really are great, your prospects might eventually agree to marry you / sign a contract. Like a classic novel love story, it's just going to take a really long time and be unnecessarily painful for everyone involved.

If this struggle feels real to you right now, let's have a conversation about what you're experiencing. I'm happy to share whatever quick tips I can give you based on your situation, and we can mutually decide on next steps from there.


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