Sales are vital for every business to succeed. Lead generation is the first step of any sales process, and it comes in all forms. One of the most effective forms of lead generation is cold email outreach. If done right, it can be very effective at generating targeted leads at a low cost. If done wrong, it will not only be a big time suck and money drain, it can even damage your brand.
I started a digital agency 15 years ago and I had to do cold sales to get my first clients in through the door. Today, that digital agency, Blue Fountain Media, is a global company with over 220 people and growing and has served hundreds of clients each year. In this article, I am going to share with you tactics on how to make cold email outreach more effective so it generates a greater response.
Any established business owner or senior employee can tell you they receive a seemingly endless stream of cold sales emails. When done correctly, these seemingly innocuous email marketing initiatives can generate new leads and revenue for your business. But when they fail, they can get your business’ email efforts blacklisted to the point that you can’t send any outbound emails without them going to recipient spam folders.
How to Do Sales Emails Correctly:
Doing cold sales emails correctly is not a quick and easy 1,2,3 task. Blasting out a template email to multitudes of leads is not the way to start a relationship, or gain interest in what you are offering. If you do this, you will come across as spam and the recipient will not respect your brand. In order to help you craft an email that has the best chance of success I’ve laid out below some simple rules to follow.
1. Don’t Use Templates
One of the most frustrating things for business owners is getting an email and immediately knowing that it’s a template that has been sent to thousands of people. Obviously if you’re trying to send email to hundreds of thousands of people writing each email specifically for one individual isn’t a viable option, but you can still do some things to make an email seem more personal. Personalized fields like first name, business name, industry vertical, location, and title are all great ways to make someone feel as if you’re actually speaking to them instead of just blasting thousands of businesses at once. While this means you might have to create a handful of extra mailers the return on investment is worth the time and effort.
2. Start with Them
A lot of companies like to start with themselves when they send sales emails. They’ll launch into a long-winded explanation about what they do and why it’s so fantastic for a business to work with them. Once in a blue moon that may work, but personally, I’d much rather hear about why you’re interested in talking to me specifically and what it is about my business that makes you a good fit to solve a need for a service or product. This can be difficult to pull off correctly, but it can be achieved by referencing their vertical and specific company name along with a simple statement about why their company is well-known in their space. Doing this shows that you care about the companies you’re trying to work with more than yourself, and this goes a long way.
3. Show You’re on Top of Trends
A great way to add legitimacy to any outbound sales email is to show that you’re on top of trends that are relevant to your recipient’s vertical. Two great ways to do this is to either highlight recent work you’ve done in their vertical or to reference breaking news in their industry in a way that ties back to the product or service you’re offering. Either of these strategies build trust with users because it shows you know what you’re talking about and that you have a least a basic understanding of what they need.
4. Don’t Get Too General
This ties directly in to showing that you’re on top of trends and not using templates. Being too general with your sales emails is a huge mistake. Make sure that your emails are tailored specifically to each recipient’s vertical in some way. Being as specific to them as possible to get their attention is absolutely essential to getting your foot in the door with a sales email. General mailers look and feel like spam and while they take less time and energy to create the return on investment is also generally much lower.
5. Include a Strong Call to Action
This one seems sort of obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I get a sales email outlining what a company or service does and then I don’t get any sort of next step. It’s great that you have the best development service in the northern hemisphere, but what do you want me to do? Should I call you? Schedule a meeting online? Drive up to your business unannounced demanding a meeting? It’s important to include a strong call to action that lets recipients know if they should email you back or if there’s somewhere you want them to go to request a quote or purchase a product.
6. Keep It Short
Most contacts who receive sales emails are busy people and have lots of emails coming their way every day. It’s therefore extremely helpful to keep your emails concise. Open with an interesting and unique subject line, hit their main pain points, show value, leave an impression and wrap it up as quickly as you can. Business owners don’t have time to read through a 500 word email and will immediately send them to the trash.
7. Add Another Touchpoint
Most businesses rely on sales emails because they are a relatively cost-efficient way to create new business without wasting lots of time and energy. Sales emails are a great start, but adding another touchpoint in the process is an even better way to make sure your business is closing sales the right way. If you have a contact’s phone number take the time to give them a follow up call to see if they got your email and if there is anything you can do to help them in person. Another option is to send print collateral if you have a contact’s address. It’s a great way to add legitimacy to your business to close potential leads that might be on the fence about working with you.
8. Pleasantries are Odd
Imagine for a second you’re at a cocktail party. You’re standing alone drinking a nice glass of wine waiting for some colleagues to show up, and all of a sudden someone you’ve never met before jumps in front of you and goes “Hi! How are you today?” Your immediate reaction would probably to either pleasantly tell them you’re fine and move on, or run away quickly.
Sales emails aren’t that different. Your emails effectively interrupt everything else that is going on in someone’s life – and that’s why they can be so powerful. That being said, starting your emails with “Hi! Hope you’re well!” is extremely odd. I don’t know you, I know you don’t really care about how I’m doing, and that you just want to sell me something. Get to it. I’m a lot more likely to interact with you if you ask me a question or introduce yourself and then quickly follow up about something we have in common. Emails should achieve that same goal by starting the conversation quickly and efficiently. Unless you know someone, a pleasantry doesn’t really get that done.
A Sales Email That Missed the Mark and How It Could be improved
As a leader of a company I get more than 20 solicitations per day from various people asking me to work with them. From IT companies to space brokers, it is rare that I get one catches my attention and makes me stop what I’m doing. It’s no easy task – but some emails are noticeably worse than others. For example, let’s take an actual email I received below:
This email violates almost all of the rules I’ve laid out above. In general, this email suffers from a myriad of spelling and capitalization mistakes, and very strangely uses “IT services” and “mobile apps development services” almost interchangeably. They aren’t the same thing – at all – and this is a huge issue before we even dive in to the body of the email because it suggests that this company doesn’t really understand the value of their own service offering.
Getting started with the actual content, let’s look at the first sentence. I’ve redacted individual and company names, but I’ve never met or heard of this company before. The fact that this person introduces themselves in the first sentence adds absolutely no value. It’s not as if the person is a well-known player in my space or someone I’ve worked with before. I understand trying to make the sale seem like it’s coming from an individual and not just the company, but this is using up valuable real estate without adding real value.
The second paragraph finally gets to the point as to who this company is and what they do, but I still have no idea why I’m getting this email or why they specifically want to work with me. Let’s forget for a second that my company, Blue Fountain Media, offers mobile app development services and if I wanted to build an app for my company I would just do it myself – if I were a business owner that actually wanted an app I would want to know what they could specifically do for me. Nothing in this paragraph is tailored to my vertical, and my interest is all but lost.
One thing that is nice is that they specify that they operate out of New Jersey. I’m in New York, so that’s a doable 2 hour drive for a meeting, which certainly makes this offer a bit more appealing. However, after introducing the fact that they are based out of Princeton the email then backtracks and says that they have development centers across the globe. Particularly in the world of information technology and development this is a big question mark. Including “development centers spread across the globe” isn’t impressive – it leads to questions about quality of work and probably should be removed.
The third paragraph has a lot of syntax and punctuation problems that don’t really put any outstanding fears about the “global development” question to rest. However, let’s focus on the call to action in this paragraph: “Shall I call you now?” While this call to action is certainly strong, it’s completely illogical. If this email is in fact reaching out to C-suite or financial decision-makers at companies, is it reasonable to think they are going to want you to call them right after reading this email? These are extremely busy people who have calendars that are already filled with tons of meetings and tasks they need to get done. A call to action like “I’d love to schedule a call with you to discuss further” is a much more efficient way to achieve the same goal of getting someone on the phone with you in person while making it clear that you respect the recipient’s time.
This email does manage to use personalized fields for my name and it does include bullet points, so there are some positives here. I also appreciate the fact this email is short, but by the time I’m done reading it I’m so disillusioned with the company because of their spelling mistakes, strange call to action, and reference to “development centers spread across the globe” that this email is going immediately into the trash.
Sales Takes Time
Whether it’s B2B or B2C, most really big sales take a good amount of time to gestate. Sales emails are similar in that they take time to perfect and often the first sales email you send won’t provide immediate ROI. It’s important that you closely track sales email performance so you can tweak them appropriately and A/B test emails to get a sense of what connects with recipients and what doesn’t. If you don’t get immediate results, don’t despair. Stick at it and remember that the reason so many businesses do sales emails, is that when they are done right it is one of the most effective sales tactics in the business.