The root cause of prospecting email trouble
(and a template-able example to get it fixed)

Jeff Molander

Sales communication coach & Managing Partner, Communications Edge Inc.

Trainer to brands like:

You're not lazy. I know that because you just clicked :)

But seriously. Writing about solutions to customers' problems (too soon) might be most of your problem.

Don't let it be.

Instead, write only about the potential buyers' problems—not your solution. Not yet.

This may not be the only problem

Ok. There may be other problems sabotaging your cold email approach.

  • A subject line that is too “telling” about your message
  • Length of your message and/or lack of a provocative element 
  • Use of words that subvert your goal, don't trigger an immediate reply

But the issue of breaking-the-ice is the most common problem when prospecting using email. How can you start a relevant conversation when you don't know what to talk about?

How to break the habit

The fastest way to stop talking benefits is to take action right now. Literally.

First, let's put the problem into context.

Talking about benefits with your prospects isn't the problem. The problem is your entire approach style. The premise of your approach.

Your first touch email must not:

  • Attempt to earn a meeting, appointment or demo
  • Take longer than 20 seconds to read
  • Reference you, your client list, products nor benefits

The meeting will come. Trust in it.

Be brief, blunt & provocative.

Talk about this instead

Real life.

If you're not in touch with the day-to-day nightmares, problems, hidden challenges, big opportunities and nagging suspicions of your customers nothing will help you. Period. You must be willing to research, understand and know your prospects inside-out.

No exceptions.

This is where to start when writing prospecting templates and scripts. LinkedIn, standard email... even phone scripts.

The only way to grab prospects' attention—and get invited to talk—is to talk exclusively about them.

Right now, jot down something your prospects:

  • don't know (but should)
  • do know—but they don't want to act on (yet they must)
  • cannot see—that will hurt (or is risky for) them
  • cannot see—that will speed-up progress toward a goal

This is one of a few ways we help sellers, personally, in our upcoming Email/InMail Writing Workshop. 

Jot down a few ways to provoke your prospect.

Surprise them. Warn them about an approaching deadline or unseen trend. Show them how competitors are taking action, improving or deftly avoiding problems.

Then ask for a continuation of the discussion. Not about what you're selling, nor a meeting.

About their challenge, objective or fear.

A real life example

Here's what it looks like—to go from talking benefits and asking for meetings to provoking a problem-solving conversation.

One of our students (we'll call her Susan) needs to set appointments with business owners. She's selling Verizon's Fleetservices service set. It's a pretty cool GPS-powered service for a variety of industries. It helps fleet owners:

  • control costs and discover better ways to use vehicles
  • access roadside assistance & improve longevity of vehicles
  • reduce losses from theft
  • diagnose and treat vehicle problems faster
  • streamline compliance with Department of Transportation laws

Anyone with a fleet of vehicles is a good match for Susan's service.

While Susan's competitors are blasting emails with these same benefits in long-winded emails she is taking a different, provocative approach.

Unusual? Yes.

Effective? Oh, yeah.

Anatomy of a failing message

Here's what most sellers of wireless fleet management services are emailing potential customers. This was the "before" approach Susan was working with. 

Before we started free associating about her typical customers' struggles and fears in day-to-day life.

Subject: Help with fleet management for [target company name]

Dear business owner:
Whether your fleet is public or private, small, medium, or large, Networkfleet enables you to track, monitor, and manage your fleet efficiently and effectively.

Onboard vehicle diagnostics, GPS tracking, and roadside assistance are just some of the [product name] features that will help you keep your business operating at peak performance.

Vehicle and Driver Management and Diagnostic Reporting
Any good GPS management system can collect a lot of data. It’s the presentation of the data that makes the difference. Networkfleet’s customizable reporting features make it easy to organize information in a way that meets your unique fleet management needs.

Asset Tracking
Networkfleet allows you to protect and manage every asset in your fleet, including trailers, generators, heavy duty equipment, sheds, and more.

Our nationwide network of dedicated service professionals provides the tools, resources, and support you need to get the most out of your GPS fleet tracking system.

Roadside Assistance
Save time and money with Networkfleet’s Emergency Roadside Assistance Plan – available at no additional cost.

Maintenance Alerts
[product name] helps to lower costs and streamline the maintenance process with our engine monitoring system. Our preventive maintenance program can help you keep your fleet vehicles well maintained and in top running condition.

DOT Compliance Integration
Streamline your Department of Transportation compliance and fleet management processes. Efficiently manage critical compliance requirements, such as hours of service, driver and vehicle inspection reports, fuel taxes, and more.

Safety & Security Management
With Networkfleet’s fleet tracking systems, you can protect your drivers and your vehicles with a variety of fleet safety management tools.

I would like to send you a copy of our slide deck to see if you think we may be a good fit to assist you with your fleet management needs. May I send you the information?

If this is something that you are not interested in, or, if I should be reaching out to another party in your organization please let me know.

Thanks for your considering,

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.

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 when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you? 

A better approach

Here's what our student, Susan is using to effectively provoke conversations with potential customers.

Notice how she is using real life worries ... issues that are keeping her prospects up at night ... in combination with other problems they probably don't know exist.

Subject: which hurts more?

Hi, [first name].
Are you doing everything possible to secure your fleet against abuse from employees? Like 
- using your vehicle for personal use
- speeding
- slamming on the brakes

Or maybe they use your vehicle to work for others on weekends. Most construction companies aren't doing anything about these flagrant abuses.

This may be reducing the life of your vehicle fleet. These kinds of abuses may also be negatively effecting your brand image, safety and/or expenses.

Are you open to an unusual (but effective) approach to prevent these kinds of abuses? Let me know what you decide, [first name]?

Thanks for considering,

Do you see the difference? 

Susan's email is brief, blunt and basic.

Most of all it is focused exclusively on the potential buyer's real-life problems. Both known and, probably, problems customers don't realize they have.

The subject line sparks curiosity. “Does what hurt more?

”The first sentence helps the prospect introspect, “Am I doing everything possible to prevent these from happening?!”

[ These are just a few of the techniques you can learn too -- in the upcoming Email Writing Workshop ]

The remainder of this message shows how Susan:

  • researched the client (isn't just mass emailing)
  • is focused on construction companies (“just like me”)
  • is challenging the reader to perform at an exceptional level
  • asks the reader if they will consider something unusual, effective
  • not saying what the unusual, effective approach is (this triggers readers to reply)

Susan's email triggers a response. An invitation to talk about the customers' problem in a way that (eventually) connects to what Susan sells.

What do you think?

Do you have questions about making this technique “come alive” for you or your sales team? Let us know!

Jeff Molander

Sales communication coach & Managing partner

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