This may come as a shock, but successful financial advisors are eliminating templates from email prospecting. In this article I'll share what we're learning from advisors in our customer community.

We will also provide prospecting email samples. We'll cover:

  • The 6 misconceptions preventing financial advisors from engaging client conversations.
  • What to communicate in cold emails -- to engage clients who ignore you.
  • The surprising role curiosity plays in cold email outreach.

Cold email misconceptions 

What does it take to earn a conversation from cold? What is the "success formula" to provoke a client to engage?

If you've looked to LinkedIn or Uncle Google for the answer, you're likely seeing what we like to call "best practices". 

But don't take the term too literally. These communications tactics have been passed around by financial advisors for decades. Quite frankly, they've been burnt down to the last atom. Incorporating these "best practices" will likely lead to more problems than solutions.

Based on our study, the problems usually include:

  1. Subject lines are too specific -- revealing the email's intent.
  2. Message body is a template -- which the client has seen before.
  3. The email is too long & requests a meeting.
  4. Tone is too persuasive.
  5. Biased questions prevent clients from responding.
  6. Use of calls-to-action -- although common, this drives customers away.

Avoid subject line 'tells'

Is your subject line clear? Does it catch attention?

It should not be, nor should it be catchy.

The job of a subject line is not to engage -- nor catch attention. Effective subject lines provoke curiosity about what's inside the email.

That's why clients open... to satisfy curiosity.

Subject lines should be 2-3 words at most. Less is more. The more words, the more you reveal. 

Avoid allowing readers to understand what's inside without opening. Instead, provoke curiosity, avoid clarity.

Create tension.

Are you making these mistakes?

The message body of a prospecting email is not a space for promotion. You may realize this. But it's also NOT a place for templates clients have seen many times before yours.

Avoid templates. Prospecting templates only make you blend in with the noise.

No, you don't necessarily need to write individual, custom messages to each prospect. But DO consider avoiding templates you've found on blogs when Googling! 

Most advisors are using Google to discover short cuts. Thus, clients easily identify them as spam.

Here is one BAD, templated sample:

"Bob, are your savings on target for retirement? As a New York Life agent I can help. Life Insurance, Annuities, Long term care, Mortgage protection, retirement issues, savings and many other great NEW YORK LIFE Products. Let's discuss!"

This sample is quite short, a strength. But it's too persuasive. The biased question also chases clients away.

If the client IS nervous about being on target for retirement answering this question (to a financial advisor) clearly makes them vulnerable to a sales pitch!

Avoid asking for meetings

Messages get responded to more often when they can be read in less than 60 seconds. Be "smartphone short." Also, avoid asking for meetings. Instead, help the client feel a desire to meet -- if they are so inclined.

Let everything else fall away. 

Any time you begin with an attempt to get an appointment you are being rejected by 90 - 97% of perfectly good prospects. Because most good prospects are unaware they need to meet with an advisor.

Want more meetings with clients? Stop requesting them. Instead, start piquing curiosity about topics important to them.

Avoid giving-and-giving... adding value and clearly presenting offers. Instead, consider provoking.

Be un-clear. And super short.

You may ask, "If I'm not offering the reader anything, why should they open it, read it, respond or even agree to what I'm asking for?” 

Answer: Because you've provoked their curiosity... in a non-threatening way.

Not because you offered clear, compelling value.

Remember, people value more what they ask for. And value less, what is freely offered.

Avoid persuasion, maintain your status

Sometimes in life we try too hard. We add value, educate, offer help. But everyone knows why we're doing it -- to sell. Persuasion and unsolicited offers to help lowers an advisor's status in eyes of clients.

You look needy. This hurts chances of provoking the potential client's curiosity.

We've also noticed how removing adjectives and adverbs "de-hypes" messages. This makes them sound less persuasive, coercive.

Instead, attract prospects more by saying less, speaking plainly. VERY plainly.

French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, said it best. "People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others."  

Help customers persuade themselves to request the meeting. Interested in learning how? Check out our online Academy.

Rather than hook, get them curious

Clients aren't fish. So avoid trying to hook or persuade them. Consider provoking curiosity. 

To do this use non-threatening language. Here is a sample of a 'hook' question:

"Jeff, have you recently changed jobs or has your partner left you? Let New York Life help you with your retirement investment accounts..."

Surely you can see how this isn't sparking curiosity about the intent of the advisor. He's clearly out to SELL me, rather than initiate a discussion about a potential relationship. He's also guessing at what's going on in my life -- revealing he has no idea.

A better approach:

"Bob, I have an idea that might help your retirement income. It may not be a fit but it works for some of my clients."

Notice how this avoids a 'hook' question. It also has no call-to-action. It's not a marketing message.

"Bob, what would you not want to happen in retirement?"

Notice how this question facilitates the client to introspect on their situation -- in a non-threatening way.

Facilitate conversation

Here's a simple way to visualize how some questions drive customers away while others attract conversations.

"Don’t you think it might be time to get a haircut?"

Notice how this question offers no route to enabling choice or collaboration. It encourages resistance, partial answers and lies.


"Do you think your hairstyle works for you?"

This question facilitates a safe space for conversation. Whatever the answer is will likely not entrap the other person -- nor will the seller gain any advantage over the conversation when the answer comes. 

We call these Facilitative Questions. They have a few characteristics; one being they avoid being biased to the desired outcome of the seller.

Thus, the question asks the customer to introspect on the status quo (as this one does) BUT in a less biased manner. 

This type of question is part of a technique our advisor members practice -- as they prospect new clients using email and LinkedIn.

A different way to prospect clients with email

Too often we're told, "Make your prospecting email get straight to the point, use an engaging subject line, and make it easy for your prospects to take action."

This advice is outdated. Clients are jaded. They've seen it all before.

Remember, sales outreach is continuously morphing. What may have worked 20 years ago might not work today and vice versa. Hence, we recommend and facilitate experimentation and practice in the Academy.

Even more, we recommend unconventional, yet effective, tactics.

  • Avoid explaining, educating or adding value (this condescends)
  • Reduce use of I, my, our, we (self-centered tone)
  • Hold back; don't spill too much information too fast (this fosters curiosity)

Humans instinctively value more what they ask for -- less what is offered. Likewise, we easily detect an ulterior motive from business people who say, "I'm here to help."

That's why it's best to get them curious. So when writing, go against the grain. Be less specific. This helps clients want to ask for more clarity -- on the thought you just provoked.

Give them space. Allow them to become provoked. Rather than offer to scratch the itch completely, scratch just enough to temporarily satisfy it.

How serious are you?

Have you considered how a minority of customers are willing (and able) to act on your cold outreach? The majority don't see speaking as a priority -- because the status quo is comfortable.

Even if it's hurting -- or threatens -- them.

Often, less than 1% are willing to engage in conversation about buying. However, 60-70% of customers are often open to a conversation -- about a potential meeting or considering investing.

How serious are you about accessing that majority? Are you ready for the "new way" of starting conversations?

You can do this on your own. I'm sure of it. But you'll be best to do it with a group of like-minded people... much faster... avoid pitfalls.

Is there something stopping you from sharpening your conversation-starting skills?

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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