It’s out-of-control popular. It’s a darling favorite. It’s the widely used, sequin-studded pop star of cold email templates for B2B:

The appropriate person cold email template.

“This email helped me land a million-dollar deal.”

“This is the secret to writing one email to land a conversation with anyone.”

Consider this a public service announcement for cold email: This technique does not work in most cases.

Given how many people online claim it does work, I am compelled to share: It doesn’t work for me nor our clients.

I’ll also share what is working lately when using cold email templates in B2B sales. I’ll present my (and my collective student clients) experience.

Forget about opinions; let’s look at experience with this tactic.

Boston-based, Peter Mahoney, founder and CEO of plannuh, Inc. explains what “The Appropriate Person” template looks like… 

“The basic format looks like this,” says Mr. Mahoney.

Subject: Appropriate Person?

Hi Bob,
I wonder if you could direct me to the person in your organization responsible for [buying something that is usually not directly related to my job]. My company makes the world’s best [thing that I don’t really care about] it would really be to your advantage to hear more about it.

My senior vice president (also known as another sales rep) is going to be in your area next week and he would like to meet with you.

A. Lazy Guy
Senior Executive Salesperson

“They don’t really have the right contact for their solution—so they would like me to do their research for them,” says Mr. Mahoney.

“There is a popular book in the market today promoting this type of technique,” says Jason Panici, Business Development Manager at CompTIA. “The book is ‘Predictable Revenue’… Many modern sales departments are employing the techniques found in it.”

Mr. Panici says the “appropriate person” email is one of many cold email templates sales professionals have in their sales toolkit. He recommends it.

However, he says, “Sales professionals are being lazy if this is the only tactic they use to get to the decision maker.”

Does it work?

What’s the bottom line on this technique?

To some degree, it depends what you sell—and to whom. Some say yes, others no. 

“In my experience it does work,” says Isaac Liebes of Green Light Energy Conservation.

But only when you:

  1. approach someone who actually has the ability to point you in the right direction;
  2. convince the incorrect point of contact to forward the your message onward. 

In response to Peter Mahoney, Frank Stellato, VP Sales at American Lazer, recently asked, “Why do you (Peter) call the email prospectors lazy?” 

“Did you stop to think the email was only one method they were using?”

Point taken. But what does diligence of sellers have to do with what matters most—does this approach actually work?

Increasingly, no. Not in our students’ experience, nor in my own personal practice.

Here are a few reasons why this tactic fails. The technique:

  • Is targeted for deletion by humans and spam filters (machine learning)
  • Signals “I’m not willing to do the homework on your organization” (in an age where research tools like LinkedIn abound)
  • Is a cut-and-paste template (contains nothing original/personalized)

The inbound emails have gotten so intense Peter Mahoney (a chief executive) set up an automated email filter—targeting subject lines with “appropriate person” for instant deletion.

Experienced voices

So what do others say about this rabidly popular, highly template-able (cut-paste-send) and impersonal technique?

“That whole generic ‘who’s the right person?’ approach isn’t credible anymore because LinkedIn enables us to see quite a few things about our customers,” says cold email consultant, Heather Morgan.

“The idea that you’re just looking for the right person, and don’t know who it is, is only credible if your prospect has a title that is very ambiguous or a role that could belong to different titles.”

Cathy Patalas of email software provider sees it similarly. “When I see the (appropriate person) subject line, I know right away what I’ll find inside… a sales pitch,” says Ms. Patalas.

“I know what the sender will expect me to do in the call-to-action. It feels like an old trick and I don’t want to get tricked. So my reflex is to ignore, or even delete, the email immediately.”

Jeb Blount is a sales trainer and author of Fanatical Prospecting… with decades of sales experience under his belt. Here’s what he says:

“Statistically speaking it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. It is and always has been losing strategy.”

In fact, Mr. Blount recently wrote back to a rep using the ‘appropriate person’ cold email on him. He said:

“Dear Ryan: (Rather than ask if I’m the right person) The better question to have asked is: ‘Is your firm large enough to use our software?’ I visited your company’s site—did you visit ours? In the time it took you to write/send me four emails, you easily could have looked at our site, determined we’re not a fit, and removed us from your list after the first unanswered contact. Looks like a cool product for the right customer. Best of luck targeting your prospects.”

I frankly would never suggest anyone asking such a question (‘Is your firm large enough to use our software?’) but that’s another story! You get the point.

Instead, use research

90% of cold email templates are… well… templates. They fail to exploit the most powerful conversation-starting tactic available: Proving you’ve done research on the prospect. Showing you’ve done homework on the prospect takes you into top 10% range.

When you demonstrate “I did my homework” your message isn’t perceived as spam. It’s also not targeted for removal by spam guard systems and machine learning tools!

From this point you can roll forward—avoiding other traps. For example, talking about your clients, listing benefits, positioning yourself as a problem solver … and asking for a meeting rather than a conversation.

Avoid looking like every other lazy sales slug—pushing non-researched messages asking customers to meet before they realize they need to. Or asking them to do homework for you.

Instead, get to work. Pulling, attracting clients to have conversation with you isn’t easy. Pushing is. Your prospects see the difference in every message you send. 

Email templates help you customize—not send—faster. Consider learning how in our Academy community of DO-ers. Learn from the community. 

Just like an effective call script, effective email templates are personalized. Flexible. They use mental triggers.

Scripted call and email templates fail. They’re rigid and sound canned. They’re not relevant, nor personal.

Want to start more discussions with buyers—and scale your time? Personalize your templates. Open them up. Allow for insertion of information that:

  • Proves you’ve researched the prospect
  • Sparks curiosity
  • Provokes a reply inviting a discussion

This is what we are learning from our most creative, diligent students of the Spark Selling technique. The truth about what works is in your grasp. Challenge your buyer to invite you into a discussion.  

What’s holding you back from joining our cold email coaching workshops? Otherwise, what has your experience been with the appropriate person template? Share your thoughts below in comments. 

In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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