5 phrases that poison messages

Jeff Molander

Conversation Enablement Coach & Founder, Communications Edge Inc.

#1 "I hope you don't mind"

As in, “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you through LinkedIn.” Or “I hope you don't mind my asking.”

Yes, even “I hope today finds you well.”

In most cases, these phrases are:

- unnecessary
- cluttering your message
- wasting precious time (you have 3-5 seconds to avoid deletion... IF you get opened)

As time goes on (sorry to say!), prospects care less-and-less about politeness. They may care later in the relationship during evaluation stage.

Hope is a negative trigger. Any commonly offered phrase is seen as gratuitous. Prospects don't care about what you hope for! Sure, keep hope alive. Hope is what we all must cling to. But your hope—in a cold email and/or prospecting context---expresses weakness. Neediness. 

You cannot afford to look needy. Needy is one step away from desperate. Every word counts in your outreach messages.

Your target customers' inboxes is filed with noise. Garbage. Un-researched, copy-and-pasted spammy messages from desperate sellers.

They want noise out of their inbox. Thus, you're forced to stand out from everyone. 

You're forced to risk them minding. Get over it—and get started with a provocation rather than asking for a full-blown conversation.

#2: "Would you be the correct person?"

Or “Would you mind pointing me in the right direction?”

Why not put, "Please do my job for me!" right in your subject line? I'm sorry but if you're using the "please guide me so I can sell to your company" approach consider a new tactic. There's a reason it's not working.

I get it. We often don't know who the decision-maker(s) and/or influncers are. But in this age doing homework is simple. Easy. Nearly effortless as compared to decades past.

One word: LinkedIn! 

Asking a prospect to do your homework is dangerous. You risk looking lazy. You also blend in with the noise inside your recipient’s inbox. EVERYONE is asking your contact to guide them. They're tired of it all!

(they find it easy to spot-and-delete!)

Any idea how many “referral asks” your contact is receiving each week? Too many! They don't need another seller asking for guidance about who you can start a discussion with.

That's not their job—it's yours. Get to it.

"Statistically speaking it didn't work in years past and it doesn't work now," says Jeb Blount, author of Fanatical Prospecting. 

"It is and always has been losing strategy."

However... as usual "it depends." (on context)

Dan Frost, a Business Development professional at Simplicity Corporation, says asking for a referral works in some cases.

... if it's framed properly... but you'd better off mentioning who you think is the next best option after doing some research," says Mr. Frost. 

Isaac Liebes, a seller at Green Light Energy Conservation LLC, says asking for a referral does work when you provide incentive. He suggests:

  1. approaching someone who actually has the ability to point you in the right direction
  2. presenting information that motivates the recipient to replyeven if the recipient is the wrong contact.

#2 works very well for most of our students. 

They key is presenting a benefit to the organization. In other words, if information within your message is strong enough to provide incentive to the recipient ... to put you in touch with the best contact.

Want to learn how to do this kind of stuff? It's fun. Join us in an upcoming workshop.

#3: "As you probably know" or "As we discussed"

It's like screaming, "I'm about to waste your time---yammering about what you already know!"

Aside from this negative trigger, prefacing what you're about to say wastes precious time. Just say it. Avoid prefacing completely.

Here's another one... "Of course..." 

Prefacing comes from good intentions: Writing how you speak. When we speak, we often preface. But you'll notice the most impactful speakers don't preface. They also don't use many adjectives, adverbs or any statements that attempt to persuade. 

They just say it. Fast. Blunt. Or they don't say it at all.

You have less than 10 seconds to provoke a reply in a cold email. Even phrases like “I'm in touch today because...” wastes time and encourages deletion.

Instead, tell your prospect why you're in touch. No need to preface. Speak boldly, quickly and get to-the-point without delay.

This helps readers feel an urge to reply.  

#4 - 5: "I would love" to OR "I look forward to"

Or “I would enjoy.” What you love, would enjoy or look forward to isn't valuable to your target. In fact it's a turn-off. Don't write like you speak---when you speak weakly.

You may think these phrases are polite but they risk making you sound desperate.

Don't sound like you care too much. You cannot say, "take it or leave it, buddy." But you can be neutral and do very well earning replies... continuing conversations. 

Neutrality is often a trigger. It signals, "It's up to you IF you'll take me up on this; either way, I'm at peace with your decision."

Think of it this way: Do you believe in what you sell? If you don't then I cannot help. But if you DO then be strong. Don't sound like a typical sales person. Create a tone for yourself that takes yourself seriously. Your time is valuable too.

They know you would love 15 minutes of their time.

They know you look forward to their response.

They know you would enjoy giving them a demo or free trial.

No need to tell them about your love, hope or eagerness. THEY KNOW! Make this about your time too. Don't take a meeting with just anyone.

I've even seen people using phrases like, "in the worst case you would at least..." (if you don't meet with me you would at least get X or Y." It's like saying, "at minimum your waste of time actually wouldn't be a waste of time at all."


Empty phrases make you sound:

- common (spammy)
- pushy (typically the ask is too big, too soon)
- desperate

Our most successful students are targeting the word “please” for elimination—and finding new ways to strengthen their tone. Yes, please. Dropping please creates more response in many cases.

Keep your personal tone. Be polite but authoritative. You're here to help. Your message is the first chance they have at getting the help they need. Play it strong.  

Start here: Mindset. Shift it. As John Barrows says don't need the business; want it. Avoid putting yourself in a "mental place" of needing the business.  

When you need it comes across as desperate. But when you communicate your desire to help (your want) it's different. Sound crazy? Try it. Better yet, look at some of the needy emails flowing in to your inbox right now!

Do this instead

Think about it. People don't mind messages from a stranger. Especially short, pithy ones. You've replied to strangers I'm sure. But only if the message is really different. Odd. 

Human beings are easily provoked by messages that seem valuable. That's the key. That's the curiosity piece.

Go for a reaction, not a conversation. Slow it down. Don't rush the meeting. Don't ask for one!

Make your message potentially valuable. Let the reader smell it—without fully tasting. Seduce them a little.

Avoid attempts at being obviously valuable. I know, you've probably heard it's important to do so... to present obvious value. But this can, on a cold approach, sabotage. Instead, help them think, “hmm... this is potentially worth hitting reply and learning more about.”

That's the trick. This creates (good) tension. Copywriters refer to this kind of technique as an “open loop.”

Overall, the idea is to help prospects qualify (or disqualify) themselves faster via email (as compared to phone).

Here's what your technique should look like...

  • Use email as a means to grab attention, spark curiosity; both are important pieces
  • Once you've sparked curiosity keep it going; when the buyer replies asking for more details give a few ...
    but only a few (only enough detail to temporarily satisfy their curiosity)
  • This give-and-take can span 2, 5 or even 7 emails; within this series / cadence create tension where the customer is tempted to short-circuit the email exchange and request a meeting

An exchange of emails is a faster way to qualify the customer. The potential buyer qualifies themselves… via email… rather than wasting your precious time on the phone.

Need to get good at this? 

Consider joining us in the upcoming Spark Selling Workshop where we'll work with you, one-on-one, to practice this approach.

With your success in mind,

Sales communication coach & Managing partner

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