Stop spamming and achieve cold email greatness with these tips.
I love LinkedIn. I’m a veteran of LinkedIn, proud to be one of its first million users. I love the idea that not only is my professional social network accessible to me in one place, but I can help others leverage that network to find a job or connect with like-minded people. But with every great love come some bad habits that you just have to learn to put up with especially when doing cold sales email outreach.
For me, the biggest missed opportunity of professional social networking is the cold sales email. Millions of dollars are being made somewhere using tools like LinkedIn as a bonanza of sales leads, but this technique is kind of like a soufflé – if you don’t do it right, then you are just wasting your time.
Every morning, I check my business email and find at least five cold sales emails waiting for me. Usually, it’s the fifth time someone has contacted me, and the subject line only changes the time and date of the supposed call we have already arranged. “[Name], call on Monday 2 pm” or “Re: Legal Solutions for [insert company name here]” just don’t move me, gang. Delete without reading (DWR) – that should be its own emoji.
While many of these emailers may be bots, there is still an important lesson to be learned here. Those five emails take up space. Mental space, inbox space, energy space. What that means is that valid communications that may actually have some sales potential are swimming around somewhere in all of the noise and may escape my attention.
If you are going to use email as a sales tool, and if you are going to reach out to people you don’t know, then please – by the good Lord of the Dance – abide by the following five rules to avoid the spam folder.
Cold sales email outreach is a value exchange.
Yes, you want to make a sale, but I have to want something, too. And I have to want it at that same moment I happen to be sipping my coffee and reading your email. That’s a pretty tough target to hit!
We’ve already established that you’re on LinkedIn – yay! So, by gum – use it! What am I posting about? What articles am I liking? Whose posts am I commenting on? Am I hiring for a specific role? All of these bits of research can give you an inkling about what it is that’s keeping me awake at night. If you swoop in with the answer to my fever dream, then I will love you forever. Do your research and make sure your content is something I actually care about.
Cold email should be personalized.
Do not, and I mean ever, send a form letter with “Dear [First_Name] [Last_Name].” It is so painfully obvious when an email has been written once and copied 100 times. If I’m even reading past the salutation at that point, it’s a miracle for you.
If you have done your research in step one, then you should be able to catch my attention with a statement early on. Do we share a connection on LinkedIn? Do you agree with something I posted? Even if you do a Google search on me and find out that I wrote the People column for my business school newspaper, then that’s something to use as an opener. “Mark, you love interviewing interesting people. How about learning from me about why I’m selling digital advertising?” OK, maybe not that, but you know what I mean. Your sales email outreach tactic shouldn’t sound like one.
Cold email subject lines should pose a question.
But not just any question. Don’t ask: “Mark, what was your GPA in high school?” It was a solid 3.7, but that has nothing to do with my business needs at present.
Ask a question such as, “Are you getting high-quality leads that will actually result in conversion?” That one’s a little long, but it is asking a question I might actually care about while I’m mainlining my coffee. Hmm, why no, I’m not. Let me click on this and see what they have to say.
Even better – get personal. If I’m a senior sales executive, ask me, “Mark, are you going to make your bonus this year?” Yikes! That hits me in the gut. Or you can be less controversial and comment on something you might know about me, such as “Mark, I’ve noticed you [verbed] this in your last marketing campaign. Did it work?”
I’m a pretty observant person. I notice campaigns – mostly the bad ones. I keep folders of “best practices” and “crap practices” so that I can learn from other people’s hits and misses. I’ve emailed heads of marketing to provide pithy commentary on a recent campaign, and I’ve actually gotten responses. They may agree or disagree with you, but it opens the door to a relevant conversation.
One note on subject lines. Almost all of the good email marketing tools out there allow you to do subject line testing. You shouldn’t be doing mass sales emails anyway (see step 2), but you should always do a few tests before you commit.
Cold emails should know the reader’s competitors and their business.
Has a competitor made a bold move recently that I should be thinking about? Is there something happening in the industry that might result in me having to pivot my entire campaign strategy? As we mentioned in step 1, this is a value exchange. You must give to get.
If you’re going to take this route – commit. Provide data everywhere possible. Quote some credible gurus in my industry. If I’m scrambling for every tiny bit of market share I can grab, then I will care about this sales email outreach if it gives me some kind of advantage.
Even if it’s not a direct competitor, if you can take best practice from high-performing companies and translate that for me and my business, I will be interested. “Mark, USAA just won the highest award for customer experience for the fifth year running. What are they doing that you’re not?” Again, that’s long, but you get the idea.
Cold sales email outreach should be current and relevant.
I can’t put too fine a point on this. What is going on in my world? Remember Working Girl, when Melanie Griffith reads in the society pages that her sales target Mr. Trask’s daughter is getting married? Well, she crashed the wedding, which I would never recommend, but she and Harrison Ford impressed the heck out of Trask with their knowledge and won the business! And they also found true love, which is amazing.
I may not have any society weddings coming up in my family, but I do post about other stuff besides work. Find a connection. “Mark, your centennial daughter will never work in an office. What does that mean for your business today? How can you market to this new entirely mobile generation?”
Folks, these things are not that hard to do. Take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “Self, do I really want to be doing cold emailing?” If the answer is a resounding “YES,” then please by all that is holy, follow these five steps and make a difference to someone today on your next sales email outreach.