Take this like the thick-skinned sales pro you are: Prospects and customers don’t like your email.
But take solace in the fact that it’s not just you.
People are overwhelmed with email. They read just a few and act on even fewer. So it’s no surprise that writing an email that gets read is difficult. Writing email that gets action is even more difficult.
Rise above the average sales pro by knowing what makes email suck – and tweaking yours so they don’t.
Here are the 16 worst mistakes in email prospecting, plus tips to be better:
1) Terrible subject lines
If subject lines don’t intrigue prospects or speak to their needs, they’ll delete without ever opening.
Subject lines should quickly intrigue prospects without completely giving away the content. Some best bets include:
- Hi (Prospect name), this is how we can help (prospect company)
- The (X) reasons (prospect company name) needs (your product)
- Hi (Prospect name), here’s an idea for (achieving a success)
- If you struggle with (known challenge), you’re not alone
- (Prospect name), I think you’d really like this blog
- (Prospect name), saw you’re focused on (a topic they commented on in social media or looked at on your website)
- Feeling stressed about (prospect issue)? This will help
- Do you want to make your (life, work function, goal) (X%) easier?
- Are you making these mistakes in (industry, work function)?
- A new (work function) strategy for (prospect company name)
- Might be off base here, but …
- Will I see you at (upcoming industry event)?
- Don’t open this (unless you want to be more awesome)
2) Oddly sized subject lines
While the content of a subject line is important to open rate, so is the length of the line.
Turns out, prospects respond best to very short or relatively long subject lines. Propsect.io researchers found out this about subject line length:
- 3-12 characters = 44% open rate
- 81-86 characters = 43% open rate
- 98-111 characters = 54% open rate
3) Awkward introductions
Many sales prospecting emails start with, “I’m (name) with (company name)” or “I’m (name), a sales rep at (company name that prospect has never heard of).”
Opening lines need to be about prospects. Not you.
Do some research and focus on prospects like this:
- Congrats on …
- I really liked your post on …
- You did an outstanding job on (subject) at the (event) last week
- (Prospect job role) like you face (challenge) every day. Here’s how we can help
Questions like, “How’s it going?” or statements like, “Hope you had a good weekend” waste valuable space and time. Don’t pretend you know prospects or care about how they are today.
Get to the point. Open with a focus on prospects’ pain, need or challenge.
5) Lack of familiarity
On the flip side, email messages that don’t feel personal won’t be opened. “Dear Sir or Madam,” “Hello there” and “Hi!” are signs of mass-produced and automated messages.
Add a name, or don’t send.
6) Cliché assumptions
“I know you get a lot of email.” “I know you’re busy.” “Sorry for the interruption.”
If these (or similar) are in the subject or first line of an email, you shouldn’t send it. They’re outright excuses and justifications for prospects to hit delete.
Give them a reason to open the message:
- You can read this in 18 seconds and have a solution to (challenge)
- You don’t have to struggle with (challenge) anymore
7) Justifying your message
Time and space are wasted on phrases such as, “I’m writing because …” or “I’m reaching out for …”
Instead, take advantage of the fact that people love to complain. Ask:
- What’s the biggest challenge you face right now in terms of (role, industry, function)?
- How many hours a week do you allocate to (issue)? Seems like too much, right?
- How has the recent (industry shift, crisis, issue) affected your ability to (activity your solution helps)?
8) Making prospects do the work
Customers will delete email with phrases like these, “I was wondering …” or “I’d like to know …” because it’s obvious that you don’t know anything about them.
Pre-email research to qualify prospects and uncover potential challenges should eliminate this language. Say:
- I see you’ve done (something significant) and it’s affected (something they’ve mentioned in social media, to someone who’s referred you or at an event). Here’s how I think I can help
If prospects don’t feel an immediate connection, they will delete you. Ambiguous references such as “companies like yours,” “helped increase,” “helped cut” or “made a significant difference” don’t help the cause.
Instead, give concrete examples:
- We helped (happy customer company name) reduce (important factor) by 15%
- We worked with (happy customer company name) and helped them increase productivity by 28% within six months
10) Long, wordy sentences
If prospects have scroll to get to the bottom of an email, they’ll delete it. If they have to re-read a confusing sentence, they’ll delete. If sentences aren’t short, they’ll delete. If the message is riddled with jargon, poor grammar or text-style language, they’ll delete.
Bottom line: Short sentences, white space and informal, simple-language messages get read.
11) Long messages
Wordy sentences naturally create messages that are too long. But too many short, clear sentences can also build a message that’s too long – and won’t get read.
Limit messages to three or fewer paragraphs with three or fewer short sentences in each. It should take fewer than 20 seconds to read.
12) Talking down
Questions are a powerful way to build intrigue in the subject line and/or the first paragraph of email. But “easy questions” that oversimplify what prospects feel are a turnoff.
For instance, “Do you like to get more done in less time?” “Do you want to make more money?” or “Do you want more freedom in your work?”
Almost everyone wants those things. And almost everyone knows that there’s no easy solution to any of them.
Instead, skip the obvious questions, or ask questions that recognize that their struggles are real:
- How much has the recent (negative industry trend) affected your ability to (handle a relevant issue)?
- Has your reaction to (negative industry trend) been enough to overcome (a known challenge)?
People don’t want to be sold a product or service – especially in an early email. Messages that focus on product or service features are sales pitches, and they won’t have it.
Instead, appeal to their current need, challenge or issue and do no more than mention a benefit. Try:
- If you struggle with (issue), you probably care about (benefit your solution provides). I think we can help
- I see you’re facing some concerns with (known issue) and want to (reach a goal your solution can help with). I believe we can help
14) Overwhelming their eyes
In an attempt to make email stand out, some sales pros try using non-standard fonts and colorful or animated images. That usually sends emails in spam filters or gets them deleted.
Instead, stick to standard fonts and no images. Well written messages sent to qualified prospects is enough.
15) Multiple calls to action
Customers don’t know what to do with a message like this: “Can we set up a meeting for next Tuesday? In the meantime, here’s a white paper that you might like. Let me know what you think.”
Stick to one email. One important piece of information. One call to action.
- Can we talk for 15 minutes Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon?
- Please set up a convenient time to chat on my calendar (embedded calendar url here)
- Do you want me to submit the final quote by Thursday or Friday morning?
16) Bad timing
No send time is perfect. After all, you’ll never know when prospects read the messages you send.
But prospect.io researchers found that response rates were their highest – 8% – when messages were sent at these times:
- 5 to 6 a.m. (so it’s near the top of the inbox when prospects start the day), and
- 7 to 9 p.m. (when most competitors aren’t sending messages).