by Brittany Ferrera, Customer Success & Marketing Manager at Communications Edge Inc

97% of cold email best practices you’ll find Googling around are either ineffective or about to become ineffective. With good reason. We live in a spammy, template economy. By the time a best practice becomes widely adopted, it becomes ineffective at provoking conversations.

Consider: How many of your cold emails earn a reply? 

The ugly truth is that prospects aren't replying to outreach email because they don’t read them. They hit the delete button or, worse, mark your email as spam and continue on with their day.

Because they’ve become experts at spotting typical spammy patterns we’ve fallen into the last few years.

But there is a surprisingly simple, yet unconventional, way to break through all those other emails and stand out from the noise.

Can cold email even get through?

“Virtually no one will get through my personal email blocking,” says Larry Downes, Director Marketing and Communications at National FFA Organization of the USA.

“Here’s how I protect my time: Was I expecting this email communication? If no, I hit the spam button.  Then a few days later I’ll get the 'in case you didn’t see my previous spam' message (from the seller) and I hit the spam button again. At this point, our system will probably drop your messages in the junk folder and I just empty that folder." 

sales email messages

Downes says he has too many meetings, too many current partners he’s happy with and too little time to appease the needs of all the salespeople from whom he gets emails.  

“As a prospect, I care about my company, and I don’t have time to brainstorm with a sales person to help them sell me,” says Downes who says the phone is even worse.  

“I don’t answer if I don’t know the number.  If you leave a spammy voicemail, I block your number.  If you don’t leave a voicemail I block your number." 

You know it’s true. We all do this dozens of times per week. Face the facts: your message is considered spam.

It’s likely you’re depending on outdated cold email outreach messaging techniques that won’t work to start conversations anymore. 

Video email messages aren't working

Are you one of the salespeople out there who is using videos in your cold emails to try to attract prospects? In our community’s experience they aren’t provoking conversations, causing a need to reconsider this tactic as a best practice.

Video clips, no matter how short, require far more time to consume than the written word.

“The data is in,” comments Jeremey Donovan, Head of Sales Strategy and Sales Operations at SalesLoft, sales engagement platform. “It has such a minor impact (and tends to jam up cadences) so I would generally avoid. What’s more, creating a video takes a sufficient part of your working hours. However, the result is unsatisfying. It is a time consuming task, which just doesn’t pay off.”

Bottom line: Video is hard to do right. 

cold email techniques

“Being authentic in front of a camera is not easy,” says Larry Downes. 

“I know I’m an audience of one. But I have to make extra effort to see your video. Click, invest time, etc. It’s not happening,” says Downes.

Embedding a video means that you want a potential customer to stop doing whatever they are doing, to concentrate on your message, click the Play button and invest time into watching the video. 

This is time that most B2B prospects don’t have.

The failing practice of adding value

Trying to attract attention by mentioning your product or service adds value? This is another method that is entirely worn out and overused. 

“I must see this (‘adding value’) phrase used 20 times a day on LinkedIn,” says Richard Smith, co-founder and Head of Sales at communication analysis company Refract.

He adds he’s not saying “adding value” isn’t a popular mantra. It is. Too popular.

“When people talk about it from a prospecting point of view, I have no idea what they are talking about. You can't add value to something that people don't even know exists.”

You add value by providing something tangible that is helping people. You have to provide something that they deem to be worth something.

A cold email does not “add value.”

“A cold email suggests, queries or positions something which might be of value,” stresses Mr. Smith. The scent of value.

These are a lot of “do not try” examples. But you probably want to know what strategies do work effectively.

A solid first step is this 3-step process. These rules of the road must be followed if you’ll receive any attention from customers.

  1. Provoke your prospect to open your email in the first place.
  2. Keep attention enough to convince them to get all the way to the end of the email.
  3. Stimulate your prospect’s curiosity, so they click ‘Reply’ and ask for more information.

So far so good. But the harder part is knowing how to make your email do each step the right way.

Go for "no"

Forget about asking for ‘Yes.’ No, there’s no mistake. Asking for yes actually brings you more no’s. 

‘One of the stupidest things I was told many years ago is make it easy for your prospect to say yes. Don't give them reasons to say no’, says Benjamin Dennehy, an international sales speaker. 

Dennehy continues: ‘It's funny, the harder I try to get people not to buy from me, the more they do. Why? 

They've convinced themselves, that's why. They overcame all the nos themselves, before I gave them anything to think about’.

What good does getting a “Sure, I’ll take more information from you” response if they’re not actually interested and don’t even want the information? 

Do you really have so much time to waste?

Here’s the formula that Dennehy applies successfully that we’ve seen be successful with members of our Community: ‘‘The easiest way to sell is to get the nos dealt with up front and early on. Why only discover on the 3rd meeting they have no money or they lack willingness to commit?”

When a prospect says no to your message, it causes them to feel safe and free of any pressures that come from constant follow-ups that aren’t done properly or bothersome spammy emails… because that’s what most prospects EXPECT from salespeople these days. 

Once they feel safe, they have the chance to start reconsidering what you actually have to offer.  

Shawn Sease has discovered the power of Nos as well. He says, “Go for ‘No!’ Getting fewer negative responses does not get you more positive responses. Find out what works.  Do what works without exception.  Don’t do what most do, do what the best do.”

Change your strategy, and instead of pushing and pushing for a yes from your prospects (yes to more information, yes to a meeting (“I’ll even buy you breakfast!”), yes to just get you to stop bothering them), try to earn a no.

Provoke response with homework

Putting in the extra effort creates undeniable authenticity. Researching, and demonstrating the results of that research, always helps cold email messages stand out. But make sure it’s the RIGHT research. It shouldn’t just be, “Wow, you’re the CEO of such a cool company!” or something… because, well, THEY know they’re the CEO, and so does everyone else who Googled the company contact information like you did. 

“If someone has genuinely taken the time to understand something about my business, and has a worthwhile insight that helps me understand a business challenge in a new way, I'll pay attention,” comments Chris Kenton, CEO and founder of SocialRep, a company focused on social media technology and methodologies.

Mr. Kenton says that those emails are untemplateable. “They are by definition one-offs, that take some investment from the sender. Problem is, since people know that can work, they try 100 ways to make them templated to eliminate their own investment.”

Cold email templates are easily recognizable. Even with the best-laid “personalization” efforts (adding a first name or position title), templates scream: “I’m lazy. I do not want to waste my time to deal with your company, but I want you to waste your time with me. Meanwhile, give me your money.”

Ian Meharg, Head of Business Development at Consectus Ltd. suggests a simple technique to get information about your prospect’s company: 

“Context can come from many sources but as a minimum I would suggest reading the company's annual report, being familiar with their business and performance metrics and what their goals are (it's all in there if you know where to look and take the time to do so).” 

It’s not complicated, but doing the right homework on your prospect helps your sales email to stand out from the noise, and it often causes the prospect to want to talk to you further.

This article took you time to read. You’re clearly doing research on how to make sales email templates or how to make your cold email messages provoke response and get you more meetings, right?

Learning the right way is worth it. Knowing the psychology behind why it works helps you enact the techniques better and be able to see through the “best practice” advice that’s all over the internet. While you’re taking time to learn what cold email techniques work, take the time to learn why and how to make a solid cold email campaign rather than just asking someone to do it for you--or Googling a template that a million other people have already used. 

Get out of the box: Pen power!

When was the last time you wrote a note or a letter by hand? Probably a long time ago. 

Sending an envelope with a handwritten message inside will make your sales messages stand out from the numerous sales emails your prospects receive on a daily basis. Many of our members use this tactic successfully. It’s an old school best practice 🙂

Why does the good old pen have so much power?

  1. Almost nobody sends handwritten letters these days. That’s why a handwritten note will definitely make an impression. Think back to when email first started and how excited you were to receive an email because it barely ever happened. Now, the roles are reversed, and not many people receive written letters but get emails by the hundreds.
  2. Sending a handwritten note means you care. It’s personal, it’s almost intimate, and the prospects will know you put time and effort into it and feel more obligated to read it and respond. 

 “You know what actually gets my attention and makes me give a sales guy a chance? This happens twice a year but it always works on me. Send me a handwritten note. Handwritten envelope.  

It might be the same copy you would put in an email, but if I get that note in snail mail NOT CLEARLY MASS PRINTED junk mail crap but an actual personal handwritten note, I can see your personal investment. And I always feel obligated to respond,” shares Larry Downes.

97% of cold email best practices are either ineffective or becoming ineffective. Because we live in a spammy, template economy. But there is a surprisingly simple, yet unconventional, way to break through all those other emails and stand out from the noise. Now you have that way! Use it wisely.


About the Author

Brittany Ferrara gives our customers and internal team everything needed to stay focused, on-task, effective and ultimately successful. She gives us an organizational, marketing & customer support edge. Brittany brings seven years of customer service, administrative assisting and marketing experience to us. She is a successful entrepreneur, having operated her own successful venture, Pro-Assist, LLC for five years before joining our team.

Brittany Ferrara

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