by Jeff Molander, Conversation Enablement Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc.

Many claim that appointment email templates no longer work. In fact, it has been said that cold email outreach has a 98% rate of failure. But what if we told you the majority fail because they blend in with average sellers?

There is a way to stand out, earn attention and provoke response: Curiosity.

The ugly truth about appointment setting emails

Every day prospects receive dozens of unsolicited messages from marketers and sellers; a majority of which are spam. 

Even more, they all follow the same pattern:

  • Recycling of templates
  • Persuasive copy
  • Selfish bias
  • Providing "value" and unsolicited "education"

We could go on. You get the point. Persuasion, selfish requests for premature meetings and pushing unsolicited education risks damaging your image. Indeed, your professional status.

But what if you didn't ask for the appointment? Literally.

Instead, what if you provoked a discussion which may facilitate an appointment... IF the decision-maker feels it's justified.

Standing out and earning conversations (leading to appointments) means breaking the typical email template pattern.

Provoking the reader's curiosity does just that.

As odd as it sounds, it's true.

Appointment setting pitfalls (that will surprise you)

Here’s what we’re learning from our Spark Selling Academy students (sales reps & business owners).

Most cold emails and InMails fail to book appointments because they:

  1. blend in, are clearly mass e-mailed; (don't stand out)
  2. have subject lines telegraphing what’s inside; (never get opened)
  3. over-focus on the seller's objective; 
  4. ask for a meeting.

In 93% of cases our Academy members report lack of response because the sender’s goal is focused on earning an appointment

Everything (bad) flows from this flawed objective.

Pitfall #1: Subjects screaming "Appointment setting email!"

Prospects can spot appointment request email templates without even opening -- if you use subject lines like "appropriate person?" which give yourself away. If you find subject lines by:

  • asking Uncle Google,
  • borrowing from software providers' blogs or playbooks,
  • swiping from LinkedIn buddies or experts...

… you're sabotaging yourself. Customers have seen the same subject line tactics over and over and OVER.

You've got to break out.

Instead, focus the subject line on creating tension.

Yes, tension.

Tension creates curiosity.

The job of your subject line is to create curiosity about what’s inside the message. Nothing more.

BUT, avoid pain points. And avoid anything that smells like a solution to their problem. If you don't avoid these pitfalls, you’ll blend in with the pack.

EVERYONE is doing this. Trust me. Avoid it.

Don’t be cute. This always causes trouble. 

Be careful about using first names in subject lines. This is often a signal of “fake personalization.” Some buyers are VERY savvy to mail merged spam!

Make your subject line:

  • Familiar, yet also vague (don’t be overtly specific)
  • Provocative … a little bit weird … yet credible
  • As short as possible (2-3 words is best)

Never, ever trick them into opening with subject lines.

Never, ever ask for what you want in the subject line (e.g. Can we talk?).

Pitfall #2: Saying too much too fast

Do you speak about your product/service in cold outreach emails -- rather than teasing it?

You may be saying too much, too fast -- hindering curiosity from its development.

This is the rapid-fire sharing of knowledge that clearly has the implication of trying to sell someone something.

Furthermore, you can get into trouble for "adding value", educating (listing features) and/or advising prospects. Because decision makers are quick to identify these spam patterns.

You may argue, "My emails will not earn responses if they don't pose value."

However, that is simply not true. Our Academy members are living proof: Cold appointment emails not offering value, information, and/or advise tend to earn far more response.

Now, don't get confused. Educating, "adding value" and offering advise aren't the problem. Unsolicited sharing is the problem. If a prospect hasn't asked for it (yet), what makes you think they want it(now). 

Qualify (or disqualify) the conversation first.

Pitfall #3: Forgetting to focus on 'high probability' suspects

Sending your messages too widely is easy to do. It's a common mistake when trying to book appointments with customers, at scale... in large numbers.

But if your contact list includes "likely to engage" suspects you'll earn more appointments, faster.

Rule #1: It's not a numbers game. It's a relevance game.

Are you calling only on "high probability" suspects … people more likely to accept a conversation (about a future appointment)?

Let's say you have an irresistible email provocation. It should generate 60% engagement.

It'll be squandered. Unless you're relevant.

You may feel the message carries the relevancy piece.

Nope.

Not as much as your suspect list does.

In a game of large numbers -- where your contact list is wide -- we get reduced to "relevancy spammers."

Because your message will be too bland, not specific enough.

Irrelevant to most recipients.

If we have to guess at what's important to decision-makers the message won't provoke. Because the message behind your message is "I'm just guessing."

You may not see it. But they do.

However, if you call ONLY on people predisposed to engaging guess what?

(They engage in larger numbers)

Here's where to start. Relevancy selection criteria.

Define what makes contacts suspects (prospects).

Seek reasons why most will be likely to get piqued.

These are factors which should be present for the provocation to work. Suspects should be:

- under sudden, intense pressure to solve a problem forced upon them by sudden (unforeseen) change;

- unprepared to deal with the change(s) which often arise from

  • sudden shifts in competitive landscape
  • government mandates
  • overnight changes in customer attitudes, belief and behavior
  • looming change... change which is about to happen yet nobody knows when

Which specific provocation tactic to use depends on the client's awareness of the problem -- or mandate to overcome the challenge.

Yes, there is risk involved. You might look like an ambulance chaser. Also, others (your competitors) are often keen on this strategy as well.

Timing and format are critical.

What's stopping you from developing a "high probability" customer prospecting list?

Pitfall #4: Struggling to follow up with warm leads

You have a good lead generation offer or magnet---an ebook, a free lesson, or a free trial. You get a lot of interest and, in turn, email addresses. Your CRM or email autoresponder gathers and organizes them. But then...what? 

You have a bunch of email addresses, but now what to send?

Here’s what we're learning from sellers using an unconventional (but effective) method to start conversations with trial-takers and other warm leads.

In a word, templates are the problem.

Begging tone is another.

Constant nagging to set an appointment is yet another. These common practices are sources of the overall problem: You’re blending in.

Are your messages resembling this?

{FirstName}, as requested, are you still interested in _____________ [what you provide] with ___ [your product]? With ____ [your product] you can ____________. [what your product does]

or

  Hello {FirstName}, thank you for your interest in ___. I’ll be happy to jump on a call to give you an in-depth review of our platform.   Please let me know what time works and I’ll send you a calendar invite.

Here's the problem: So many other people are using them.

When you open your email to check it for the day and see the SAME subject line come up that you’ve seen so many times before… maybe you decide to give it a shot and see what they have to say. Then you notice it’s the same email you’ve seen many times before with different company information plugged into it.

What’s your first reaction when you see that?

Instead, use a research-based tactic. Show the prospect you're not a robot... and you're not out to have a call with just anyone.

When my colleague Adam Breitenstein made the decision to do it, he experienced a 700% increase, and it helped him generate a 35% average response rate.

Today, he's using flexible templates including some customization.

Just like Adam, you should apply an unconventional, "less is more" approach.

Talk less about yourself. Don't ask for a call. Break the pattern customers are used to seeing!

Pitfall #5: Treating email like a conversation

If you're treating appointment emails like a conversation you may stumble.

Remember, the goal of your appointment email is to see if a conversation is worth engaging in. Not to immediately earn the appointment. 

Have you ever considered shortening your message and sending something that makes the other side a little uncomfortable?

If you're skeptical take a look around. Witness those who speak plainly, openly about reality -- how they're rewarded for it.

Buyers are hungry to listen -- to people who make them uncomfortable.

They're tired of receiving the same lengthy, insincere messages in their inboxes.

They're tired of people holding back and faking empathy.

What they seek is brutal honesty. Wouldn't you?

Because "uncomfortable" doesn't always mean negative. Often times, being uncomfortable arises from someone telling us the ugly truth. The ugly truth we need. 

So, in addition to creating discomfort, consider shortening your email by removing: 

  • adjectives and descriptive words
  • redundancies & multiples
  • salesy words like "unique" and "solution"
  • words that make you sound overly empathetic/polite (even if you are) 

Pitfall #6: The use of "needy" language

If your appointment email consists of phrases like:

  • "Please let me know..."
  • "I look forward to..."
  • "Glad to..."
  • "I'd love to..."
  • "My name is _____ from Coca Cola..."

Then we're sorry to say, but you're coming off as "needy" to prospects.

Even more, these "needy" sounding phrases are just a few ways you can accidentally scream "I need this more than you" or "I'm about to pitch to you".

You may see it as a positive outlook, however your prospects see this as desperate.

So, leave the negative mental triggers such as:

  • "I hope"
  • "love"
  • excitement 

out of your appointment email messages. 

Instead, remain on an equal level. Stand your ground. 

Pitfall #7: Blending in with average appointment seekers.

The truth is, we're all seeking appointments -- that could possibly lead to deals.

However, our prospects don't know this... unless you make it blatantly obvious.

Which is exactly what most sellers do. 

Furthermore, we follow average patterns that:

  • recycle the same subject lines
  • prompts a CTA (call-to-action)
  • provide unsolicited information

The ugly truth: Buyers have no trouble identifying these patterns and are quick to ignore you. Or worse, mark your messages as spam.

Don't believe us? The proof is in. (Source : Jeff Molander)

Appointment email templates

Besides the many reasons people delete/ mark your messages as spam, following spam patterns are the leading cause.

If you're still in denial, it may be time to take a hard look in the mirror.

How serious are you?

Do you really believe customers will agree to a meeting based on an email request—without having established their own reason to (suspicion of value)?

Consider abandoning these beliefs. They're fantasies being promoted to low-skilled sellers.

Join an exceptional group of sellers, using exceptional tactics.

Spark some curiosity. 

Leave enough space for curiosity to happen.

Say less. Be elusive—yourself!

Learn a less coercive method to help customers feel a need to start developing a desire to meet.

Come and learn more about unconventional tactics like this in our online academy

Jeff is the authority on starting conversations with busy people. As founder of Communications Edge Inc. he teaches a proven, effective technique to spark buyers curiosity in sales outreach & marketing messages. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe. Jeff served as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

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