Sell the Call: 5 Rules for Writing Effective Prospecting Emails

May 2, 2016 Adam Brophy

Prospecting Email

Even in our brave new world of sales technology, the telephone is still the best way to have a productive conversation with your prospect. However, getting someone to answer their phone is getting more difficult, especially in departments like marketing, IT, and finance, where there are typically dozens of sales reps reaching out to the same people within the organization.

Fewer and fewer prospects are answering the phone. So, what can SDRs do to supplement their daily dials with other value-added prospecting? The answer may be obvious, but savvy email tactics coupled with the right moves on social media can drastically increase the number of conversations an SDR can have each day.

In this blog post, I’m going to share some tried-and-tested tips to send better prospecting emails, at scale.

BUT FIRST: let me be clear about the purpose of a prospecting email. It is NOT to sell your product, to blab about all the great features you have, or to compel someone to magically ask for a contract once they open it.

A great prospecting email sells the call. It convinces the prospect that taking 10 to 30 minutes of their extremely busy day to speak with you would actually be a valuable use of their time. It builds enough intrigue, curiosity or interest to compel the prospect to say something like, “Hmm… I want to learn more about that.” Too many reps these days forget this simple notion, and it’s probably the biggest reason they’re not getting the replies they want.

Alright, now that we’ve established that we’re selling the call, here are a few tips to write more effective prospecting emails.

1. It starts with the subject line

If anyone has ever told you first impressions don’t count, they’re a liar. Your subject line is the first impression your prospect will get from you, and it will drastically affect whether or not they even open the email, let alone read it.

Try and employ a personalized approach in the subject whenever possible. (And yes — this means doing your research and getting creative.) Some pro tips for things to include in a subject line:

  • Mention a piece of content they wrote (but only if you actually read it!)
  • A mutual connection you share (use their name)
  • A mutual customer (if possible)
  • Something more personal from their LinkedIn (e.g., their alma mater — “Go Cardinals Go!”)
  • Use buyer-centric messaging from the start (words like “you” & “your” in the subject tend to get better open rates)

Prospecting Email Example

In this example, I read an awesome blog on Sales Hacker by Jesse at RingDNA, let him know how much I enjoyed it, and shared a piece of content I wrote for the same website. It’s not always possible to get this personalized, but it will almost always garner a response (or a flattering shout-out!).

2. Keep it short

In his book Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross called it the “BlackBerry test”, but given that some SDRs may have never even used a Blackberry, let’s call it the “iPhone test”: if your email requires someone to scroll through on their phone in order to read the entire thing, it’s too long.

Prospecting Email Example

The above email was short, direct, and built up just enough intrigue to drive a response.

3. Make one “ask”

This is a rule that marketers use to optimize campaigns, otherwise known as the “attention ratio”:

Attention ratio: the ratio of links on a landing page to the number of campaign conversion goals. In an optimized campaign, your attention ratio should be 1:1. Because every campaign has one goal, every corresponding landing page should have only one call to action — one place to click.  [Unbounce]

I can’t believe how many prospecting emails I see (and receive) that ask two or more questions throughout the body. *facepalm*

Don’t confuse your prospect with a bunch of different “asks.” Your ask should be extremely clear and singular. If you want a call, ask for the call, and don’t leave your prospect scrambling to answer a bunch of questions. They’ll end up answering none of them.

4. Leverage content

Your marketing team creates content for a reason, and it’s not just to generate leads for you to call. Leveraging content throughout the prospecting and sales process will set you apart from most reps and provide value to your prospects beyond a witty subject line or concise value prop.

Try to send light, thought-provoking content to help your prospect learn about something related to your company’s value set. It helps if it looks enticing, too — avoid sending “black and blue” emails like the example on the left...

Prospecting Email using Shout

...and try to include visuals and neatly packaged content as shown in the example on the right. (This email was composed with the help of Uberflip Chrome Extension, Uberflip’s Chrome extension that enables content to be easily shared via email.)

5. Be yourself

This might sound fluffy, but you can’t hide your personality on the phone. How weird and confusing would it be for your prospect if your emails were witty and humorous, but you turned out to be a more serious, calculated, and direct type of person on the phone?

Always make a point to inject your own personality into your emails and be sure that is consistent with the way you conduct your business on the phone. Even if you’re given a batch of pre-written prospecting emails, you should inject some personality into them to make them your own.

Prospecting Email Example

The example above was written by Ken (an Uberflip sales guy), who — surprise — loves football. By injecting his personality into this email, Ken was able to establish a deeper connection and demonstrate genuine interest and excitement from the get-go.

Sell that phone call

It takes time and effort to write a good prospecting email, but it’s worth it — especially if you land the call.

As tempting as it is for you to sell your product from the get-go, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes — wouldn’t you prefer receiving something clever, thoughtful, and to-the-point?

Thought so :)

Have any other tips for writing better prospecting emails? Tell us in the comments!

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About the Author

Adam Brophy

Adam is the Sales Development Team Lead at Uberflip. Prior to joining Uberflip, Adam worked as a Marketing Manager at Toronto's Venture Accelerator Partners. He holds a HBBA Degree from Wilfrid Laurier University where he concentrated his studies in Entrepreneurship & Marketing. When Adam isn't working, you can likely find him around a baseball diamond, hockey rink, squash court or a pub with good beer and live music.

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