A Popular, Yet Failing Cold Email Technique
It's shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, "You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so" and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique. Often because they're under pressure to send non-personalized, cold emails to large numbers of contacts ... in hopes of starting a conversation.
Targeted (one-to-many) email prospecting is not the best strategy to start conversations with B2B decision-makers. Tailored (one-to-one) earns better response rates. Yet targeted campaign-style messages are used by most BDR/SDR and digital demand generation teams.
2 Quick Examples
One of my students emailed me: "I think I have a good hook from a research perspective to get a prospects attention that also aligns with the service I offer."
His idea is a common one: Write an email containing research as a means to compel his prospect to open a discussion with him.
For example, an opening email like this:
"Andy, IDC reports more that 90% of retailers are focused on improving their digital customer experience. Are you among them?"
Here's another example from a different student:
A customer service benchmark report released revealed 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, however only 8% of customers agree.
Expectations of customers are at an all-time high. Customers are busy, multi-tasking, on-the-go and are more sophisticated than ever before. Loyalty is built with positive interactions over time, therefore it is a continuous process to earn a customer’s loyalty.
It is expected by 2020 that the customer experience leader will be the key brand differentiator over product and price ... "
Why Research Fails to Engage Customers
Pushing research at clients via email is ineffective because decision-makers are:
- bombarded with long, mail-merged email "written at them" rather than quickly provoking them;
- not swayed by research being used in a persuasive context;
- often not aware of a problem to be solved (the pain has not yet surfaced);
- already aware of the facts presented in the research;
- not interested in being persuaded by a rep's cold email message!
Telling prospects, "You should consider X solution because Y research says so" is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.
"People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters, but no one chooses to get cold emails. This simple fact is one of the most important differences between the two," says cold email expert, Heather Morgan.
Morgan reminds us also how cold emails arrive without context. This is often the first time prospects have heard from you. Further, "you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention yet," she says.
Context is key. Why talk at when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you?
What You're Really Saying to Prospects
Sending research to customers (without being invited to) says to customers, "I'm biased to convince you ... but know you won't believe me ... so here is someone else to persuade you."
The technique is weak. It attempts to persuade and convince.
Sure, this technique might work on people in the market right now. Which misses 98 percent of conversational opportunities.
Persuading clients in cold emails doesn't work. Writing in ways that provoke a discussion that eventually helps customers convince themselves does.
Instead, Try This
It's difficult to understand what will start a discussion with large numbers of decision makers — in a one-to-many email campaign. But instead of pushing research at them experiment to discover effective provocations using a one-to-one, tailored (personalized) campaign.
It's easier to develop a targeted (one-to-many) campaign sequence (that works) once you have a proven tailored (one-to-one) provocation identified.
"Where you’ve had success with one-off (one-to-one) emails, try to 'reverse-engineer' them into email templates you can send out in bulk," says Morgan.
I recommend exploiting case studies as a provocation method. Succinct, data-driven success stories are often a scale-able (one-to-many) communications technique to spark curiosity. For example:
"Recently, Neiman Marcus reduced IT costs by 36%. They are reinvesting this cash in new e-commerce infrastructure – driving maximum TCO. Are you open to hearing how they did this?"
"What we say about ourselves (typical Marketing stuff) is usually average at best," says prospecting trainer John Barrows who believes what clients say is highly provocative.
"As sales professionals we need to learn about the real value we bring to our clients from their perspective and be able to share those stories to attract new ones," he says.
Dig Up Success Stories
Don't have case studies? No excuse. Barrows says, "Call up some of your existing clients and ask them 'if someone were to ask you about the value you get from our solutions what would you say?' and try to get a concrete result out of them."
Once you do, Barrows says get to work. Start making calls to similar companies, " … and say something like 'The reason for my call today is we recently showed xyz company in your industry how to (results) and I wanted to see if this was something you’d be interested in talking about.'"
Bottom line: Pushing research as a conversation-starter works less and less. Telling prospects, "You should consider my solution because this research says so" is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.
What is your experience?
Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded the Google Affiliate Network in 1999, and has been selling for 18 years. Jeff is adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s business school, a social sales trainer and author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You. Most social selling trainers teach the value of engaging customers and providing relevant content. Then they demonstrate the technology. But no one tells you exactly how to produce leads and sales—using a proven, systematic approach to content. Until now.