Personalized template not working?

(this may be why)

Jeff Molander

Sales communication coach & Managing Partner, Communications Edge Inc.

Trainer to brands like:

Nothing screams “impersonal” more than a template email script. Yet we all use templates. Me too. The trick is to:

  • Personalize them
  • Recognize the difference between Tailored (highly personalized) and Targeted (less so, but not spammy)
  • Use both Tailored (one-to-one) and Targeted (one-to-many) approaches

Full stop.

I'm not talking about lazy personalization—that seems personalized to you. I'm referring to short-cuts you might be using. For example, broad observations ... that apply to groups of prospects. Know what I mean?

These scale nicely. But fail.

Your personalized message may not be

Here's a lazy, delete-able "personalization" I saw this week: 

"With your experience at <xyz company> and over your career, you seem well in tune with the challenges of driving quality care while minimizing cost..."

NOTE: BROAD observations made via prospects' LinkedIn profiles work less-and-less. They did for a while. Now not so much. Simply because the technique is scale-able but is reaching saturation point. It's not effective anymore.

Beware: Broad observations, increasingly, don't work. Also, complements are becoming in-effective. Everyone is using this ice-breaking tactic (usually poorly). You'll blend in. Especially when you reference LinkedIn profiles.

Prospects are becoming numb to these over-used tactics. Because they are repeat-able over masses of emails. Buyers sense it.

Also, prefacing -- in cold emails -- is a HUGE waste of your reader's time. DON'T PREFACE! Prefacing wastes valuable time.

Your personalization must be:

  • Specific. Tailored. An observation about the company or prospect that proves you aren't mass mailing.
  • Researched. Targeted. Research takes time. Taking time to research is rare. Cut-and-paste "research" is common.

This way, applying the personalized tidbit, screams “this isn't spam, I did my homework on you” to the reader. Literally.

Bye the way, there is a way to be in tune with the latest effective techniques -- tapping into methods our Academy community is continually developing and testing.

3 ways value-added emails fail

It's likely your message (at quick glance) looks like what's already flowing-in to your buyers' inboxes. Mainly from your competitors. You're blending in. From subject line to first sentence and onward.

Your personalized message looks too much like what customers habitually delete.

And that is a shame. You deserve better.

Here are the 3 most common oversights plaguing our students. It might be your:

  • Subject line is too specific & common. It reveals too much about the contents.
  • Subject & message are screaming, “canned/impersonal sales pitch ahead!"
  • Your value-add is not provocative and message is still not brief enough.

If your message requires scrolling on a mobile device it's still too long. Chew it down even more. I know... crazy right? Try it.

If your subject line is too specific prospects will not be curious enough to open the message. Likewise if it reads like 90% of the inbound emails from your competitors—you're sunk!

Quick example

Below is an actual email from one of our most diligent students. We'll call him Johan to protect his privacy and change the company names, etc.

Johan sells a way to help businesses with large fleets of vehicles manage them—solving a wide variety of problems and reducing costs. His industry is called vehicle telematics. His target buyers are typically Operations Directors and business owners.

Notice how Johan is doing a lot correctly... following Spark Selling guidelines. But every word counts. There are reasons why this message is sabotaging him.

Subject: Achieving your sustainability vision - How important is it to reduce CO2?


Recently speaking with Mary Fletcher who recommended to get in contact with you.

Following XYZ Company's charity and blog... reducing CO2 by 7.5% each year is clearly an important company goal. Achieving this while also increasing the efficiency and reducing overall costs of your fleet is also no doubt a key area of focus for you.

ABC Food Service recently implemented an unusual but very effective solution by partnering with MyCompany's Telematics.

Would you be interested in having a further conversation about this?



Here's what is sabotaging the subject line.

  • The reader doesn't need to open the message to understand what's inside. No curiosity factor.
  • This Subject is the kind buyers see daily in their inbox. They delete them out of habit. Instead, it should be VERY short, odd and stand out. 
  • It signals “sales pitch ahead” by mentioning what they need. Instead, pique curiosity.

Here's what sabotages the message copy:

  • The opening referral is not connected to “the big why” (why the referral is relevant).
  • The second sentence re-states what the buyer already knows. This encourages deletion. It does not prove your smart or observant. It proves you think you know them (you don't). Instead, move faster and provoke.
  • It uses words like solution and implement. Avoid marketing-speak at all costs.
  • The seller sounds desperate. Avoid trying to persuade. Word choice is vital. Rather than say very effective, just say effective. Don't write like a marketer!
  • It asks for a conversation. Instead, provoke the reader to desire one. Then ask if they want to hear more about the provocation itself.

The email Johan should have sent

Do you see the difference between the above email and this message below?


Mary Fletcher said you would be interested in how ABC Food Service reduced CO2 -- just as you aim to by 7.5%. Saw that. ABC Food used an unusual but effective strategy.

Would you like to hear more about how they did it?

Please let me know what you decide?


The above email is outrageously short—and provocative. Look at it. It just screams, “easy to read and reply to.”

It's so short you don't need to scroll on a mobile device to read it. See that?

Here's the challenge: What works changes over time. What provokes your target today will eventually stop. Subject lines get burned out. Message techniques get spread around -- boom. That reliable technique you used doesn't work anymore.

Want to tap into what works... and STAY tapped-in? Join us in the Spark Selling Academy.

Besides knowing what technique to use, when & why... the above message:

  • Proves the sender has researched the prospect.
  • Wastes NO time connecting Mary's referral to why this email is happening (at all).
  • Connects the buyer's future goal with a competitor's current success.


Brief. Blunt. Provocative.

Notice the call-to-action. Don't ask for the meeting; instead, ask if this provocation is valid and relevant.

Want to shock your reader? (say yes) Don't ask for meetings!

Instead, ask for conversations that could lead to meetings—if and when a meeting is right. Put the buyer in control.

Do you see how powerful the difference is?

To your success,

Sales communication coach & Managing partner

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