When approaching sales prospects one of the worst things we can do is to sound just like any other salesperson. Cold emails are the main ways sales professionals get in contact with new prospects these days. It has some advantages compared to cold calls (no interruptions); however, it poses us at disadvantage, as we let the prospect be in the driver seat. Another obvious problem is that we are just one of the other 300 salespersons contacting that lead.
Finding successful opening lines for sales email has become a necessity today. Our job as sales professionals is to test, learn and improve over time. If we keep using the same method which yields the same results (hence no improvements) we are going to be just another average salesperson.
Let me give you an example:
The most common (and possibly the worst) opening line for a sales email is:
“Hi Mr. Prospect, my name is XYZ and I work for ABC”
Why is this the worst approach you can use?
- You sound like a salesperson! I am not saying we need to hide and pretend to be something we are not. But what’s the point to let your prospect’s alarm go off with the first sentence you use?
- You are saying your name! THIS IS IRRELEVANT! Your name appears in your prospect’s inbox and (most likely) also in your signature. No need to have this in your opening line. Want to give your prospect more information about yourself? Add a link to your LinkedIn profile.
- You are stating your company name! IRRELEVANT AGAIN! Your signature gives this information, right? If you want to give a reference to your prospect just add a link to your company website.
One thing I hate when reading a blog post about “the best way to do something” is that that particular writer tends to forget reality.
We are not super-human, we have got limited time and we have got to send out s**t tons of emails because we have targets to reach, and that was yesterday! This is the reality.
And the reality is also that most of us tend to create templates or a one-fit-all approach in the hope that we get it “right”. Been there, done that! I am not a super-human and I have had lazy times, but targets were still the same, so had to contact tons of prospects. And then the loop of s****y emails (with no answers) followed.
Take it as you like. You can choose to have a tailored approach for each one of your prospects (great if you can), or you can choose to have different customizable templates and test them and improve over time. This really depends on you and your industry.
Right now, I want to give you some alternative (and successful) ideas for creating great opening lines:
A) Make A Reference To A Specific Event
- “I have seen that your company has recently…”
- “I have seen that you recently got promoted…”
- “Congratulations on taking on the new challenge…”
- “Great job on the fund raise!…”
When approaching a new lead, check what the company has been up to recently. There’s an easy way to do this and it is to create Google Alerts. I usually use broad alerts to specific topics in my industry, that trigger news related to my sales prospects. Another way is to follow the company on LinkedIn and get updates when something on their end happens.
LinkedIn also helps you in finding out if one of your prospects has been recently promoted or changed job. This is the perfect time to get in contact with them as they are more open to new suggestions (usually new position means new responsibilities, which means your prospects needs to be pro-active with new ideas. Be there for him, don’t let him down!)
B) Please Your Prospect
- “I loved your post on XYZ…”
- “I watched your video on YouTube on ABC and found it great…”
- “I follow you on Twitter and totally agree with what you said about XYZ…”
You got the idea. Find something about your prospect, a blog post, a mention in the news, a video on YouTube, also a Tweet (although try not to be creepy). Boost their ego, without exaggerating. Be genuine. It’s nice to receive compliments, but don’t sound fake, that will have the opposite effect. Try also to pick a topic that you can relate your company with. Don’t just choose a random one, because you want to make a connection.
C) Show Your Prospect The Added Value
- “My product helps companies like yours achieving… “
- “Most of the companies in our industry struggle with XYZ, I have an idea…”
It is common that most of the companies operating in a certain industry face same (or similar) problems. It can be high costs for certain activities, difficulties in reaching the right people, old systems, etc… You know what bothers your prospects, bring it up and offer them a solution, a good one, not just your sales pitch! If you don’t feel like opening with your solution to their problem, you can also find some interesting topics online to share with them that talk about the common problem in your industry.
Another reality is that most of your prospects don’t have time. They are like you, just on the other side of the table. They have got targets to reach and they don’t want to be bothered, so it could be possible that they appreciate this “straight-to-the-point” approach.
“Mr. Prospect, I know you are struggling with XYZ, let me help you by showing you how my company can solve that with this new product ABC…”
D) Use Questions To Create Interest
- “Has your company being struggling with XYZ?”
- “How are you working on achieving ABC?”
- “Have you heard about [insert study/link/statistic]?
In my opinion, questions are probably the best way to approach a new prospect. Such opening lines could also become your email title (sometimes I do use them in the title and just continue with the same topic in the email body). Questions create interest in your prospect and let them think about that particular topic you brought up. If you hit the right spot, you are most likely to get an answer. Remember though that if you ask a question in your opening line, it’s important that you keep pushing in that direction throughout your whole email.
Questions create interest in your prospect’s mind and let them think about that particular topic you brought up. If you hit the right spot, you are most likely to get an answer. Remember though that if you ask a question in your opening line, it’s important that you keep pushing in that direction throughout your whole email.
E) Use Your Company Material
- “We recently released a study on XYZ and thought it could be relevant to…”
- “We are having a webinar about ABC and thought it could be interesting because…”
- “We understand that your biggest challenge is XYZ and created ABC to…”
Using your company material can be very effective. First of all, you show your prospect that your company is actively engaged in specific topics of interest, which means your company cares about their partners. Second, you are able to promote your company activities in a “softer” way, so you don’t have to come out pitching hard to them.
If your company has an active marketing team that can provide constantly material to use in your emails, take a chance and try. However, I wouldn’t personally overuse it as a first email too much. For me, this works particularly well as a follow-up email.
F) Reference To A Common Connection
- “[Name] suggested me to talk with you as…”
- “I have seen you know [Name], we used to…”
It’s important with this approach to first of all have some real connections to that particular contact you bring up in the email. With LinkedIn today we are connected also with people we never met or never talked with…
There might be a chance that your sales prospect actually knows that person very well and might ask about you, make sure you are not just creating that connection for the sake of your email. It could be embarrassing, if not closing that prospect’s doors for a long time. The best way to move forward with this approach is to ask the common connection if you can use their name. Once you have got their blessing, go for it.
In general, all these approaches can be used on a daily basis. The best way is to test different options, see what’s the result, check if there’s a pattern in terms of to which opening line prospects reply to me, there could be one, but it could also be very well that there’s no pattern. Some approaches trigger some personalities and you don’t have those insights (yet) in your prospect personality.
Do you know any other effective way to successfully opening sales email? Did you ever use any of the above-mentioned methods? What results did you experience?