Are Your Salespeople Making These Two Email Prospecting Mistakes?

Sales managers are usually so focused on trying to help salespeople close already qualified sales opportunities that they overlook the prospecting messages that their salespeople are sending to new prospects every day. Unpersuasive prospecting messages decrease the number of new sales opportunities your team is working, which reduces sales results.

I’ve reviewed thousands of prospecting emails and call scripts over the years, and I have to confess that most of them are awful. What do I mean by “awful”? The messages make it less likely, not more likely that a prospect will respond positively to the salesperson.

Here are the top two mistakes that salespeople make when crafting a prospecting message. I would be willing to bet that your salespeople are making these mistakes every day!

#1: Too focused on you, your company, and your products/services.

“My company is the greatest at _____ and I’d love to speak with you.”

“We offer the widest range of _____ available in the market. Can we talk?”

Have your salespeople written subject lines like this or used something similar to open a conversation with a prospect? If yes, your salespeople are practicing self-sabotage. 

When I advise that salespeople not talk about themselves or your company’s offerings my advice initially sounds odd. After all, the job of a salesperson is to get a customer to decide to trust your company, and your company’s offering. So how can it be a mistake to focus on those topics in a prospecting message? 

What you and your salespeople have to keep in mind is that the first time they contact a prospect, the prospect is immersed in their own world. What’s on their mind is not you or the benefits your company provides. What’s on their mind is their daily challenges or opportunities they must deal with.

Problems are focused on the customers’ priorities, while benefits are focused on your company.

To stand a better chance of connecting with a prospect in an initial prospecting message, your salespeople have to focus on problems you know are common to the situation the prospect is in. 

What to do instead: Create customer curiosity!

The number one rule of writing hooks or subject lines for emails is that you need to create customer curiosity. What will make them curious? Answer: mentioning the problems or opportunities that likely are already on their mind. 

So instead of touting your company or an offering right off the bat, try using one of the following approaches instead:

  • Resolving your ________ challenges [addressing a pain point]
  • A better way to _______ [mentioning an improvement they may not know about]
  • New research shows __________ [making them aware of new information relevant to them]

Talk to your salespeople about the top one or two problems customers have that your offering can solve.

#2: Being unclear or unspecific about what action the salesperson is asking for.

I just criticized the way too many salespeople open their prospecting message, now let me criticize how they end it. Here are two examples of closing lines that I’ve seen frequently in emails and phone scripts:

  • Could we schedule a brief call? Let me know your availability…
    How is the customer supposed to know what a “brief” call is? And you’re asking them to scour their calendar and share times with you? Few customers will want to put in that much effort unless they are already highly motivated to meet with you.
  • I would like schedule a call to determine if there is anything [my company] can do for you.
    I’m trying to imagine a prospect that would be willing to schedule a call of undetermined length without any certainty that the company really can do something for them.
  • We could schedule a call or I could visit in person or would you be interested in downloading a new report on this topic?
    Way too many options here, which require the prospect to do too much thinking. In prospecting messages, you want to stick to ONE action you’re asking of the person.
  • I hope this interests you…
    “Hope” and “hopefully” are words that imply a lack of confidence in oneself, and uncertainty about whether the issues your salesperson wants to talk about are relevant to the prospect. That’s a poor message to send to a prospect.

Your prospects and customers are busy. The goal for your salespeople should be to make it easy for the prospect to say yes, and that means not requiring the prospect to do too much work. What is far more effective is to be very specific about the “call to action” you include at the end of an email. For example:

  • I’d like to schedule a 20-minute Teams call to share the must-have requirements for achieving _________. Would next Thursday the 11th @ 3:30pm work for you?
    Here, the action required of the customer is very clear—a 20-minute call. The “must-have requirements” would relate to a challenge or problem the prospect is facing. And the customer just has to check one time on their calendar. If they are interested in meeting but can’t make the specific time suggested, they are very likely to respond with an alternative time rather than saying “no.”
  • We have developed a report/paper/implementation tool that lays out key ways to quickly improve (insert your brief value statement). If you would like to see it, please reply back and I can email you the file/link.
    Here, the action required of the customer is very clear—simply reply back. They don’t have to commit to a meeting. But if they do reply, your salespeople will know that the prospect is interested in the topics addressed in the email. And if they do reply back and get the download, your salespeople then have a valid reason for following up and, ideally, scheduling a meeting to explore their problems in more depth. 

Emphasize to your salespeople that they need to stay focused on the problems, challenges, or opportunities that prospects are experiencing. That’s the best way to get more appointments!

Would you like to receive an example of a prospecting email I recently sent to one of my prospects? Email me at: [email protected] and write “Send me your sample prospecting email”

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.