Sales reps across the globe are telling prospects, “You should consider investing in what I sell—because this research says so” and hoping to start conversations. They're trying to be persuasive using research. But this is working less-and-less.

You’re under pressure. We all are. This is why we send cold emails to large numbers of contacts… trying to start conversations.

However, persuasive, Targeted (one-to-many) emails are not  starting enough conversations lately. Many business-to-business (B2B) decision-makers, especially if you’re selling a complex solution, see right through your persuasive tone.

Instead, try a less persuasive, more provocative, Tailored (one-to-one) tactic. This earns better response rates and more conversations than sending persuasive sales emails.

Targeted campaign-style messages—often used exclusively by BDR/SDR and digital demand generation teams—are seeing lower response rates. 

Two examples

One of our Academy students emailed me saying, “I think I have a good hook from a research perspective to get a prospect's attention that 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.

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:

Hi John,

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

Pushing research at clients via email is ineffective because its goal is fundamentally flawed: To convince and persuade.

Beyond an aversion to persuasion and persuasive sales emails in general, decision-makers are:

  • bombarded with long, mail-merged email “written at them” rather than 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 doesn’t work. What does: 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.

Ms. 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,” says Ms. Morgan.

Context is key. Why talk at them when you can talk with them? Why push when you can pull and attract the conversation to you?

What is preventing you from getting started on learning how to spot weaknesses in your messages? Why not start practicing them with us? I will guide you in a workshop or learn the basics in our online Academy.

What persuasion is saying to prospects

Sending research to customers (without being invited to) says to customers, “I’m biased to convince you, but I 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% of conversational opportunities.

Persuasive sales emails don't work. Instead, writing in ways that provoke a discussion that eventually helps customers convince themselves to speak with you.

Avoid being persuasive. 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. So, instead of broadly pushing research at them, experiment with different provocations. 

Discover which message earns more response in 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 Ms. Morgan.

I recommend exploiting case studies as a provocation method. Succinct, data-driven success stories are often a scale-able (one-to-many) communication technique to spark curiosity without having to use a needy or persuasive sales email technique. For example…

Recently, Neiman Marcus reduced IT costs by 36%. They are reinvesting this cash in new ecommerce 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.”

Dig up success stories

Don’t have case studies? No excuse. Mr. Barrows says, “Call some of your existing clients and ask ‘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, Mr. 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 or attempting to use a persuasive sales email works far less than provoking them.

What is your experience?

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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  • Dixie Howell says:

    Don’t have case studies? No excuse. Mr. Barrows says, “Call some of your existing clients and ask ‘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.”

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