It's Time to Humanize Your Sales Development Emails

Sales Wars is pleased to bring you a guest blog post from Sales Jedi Aleksandr Peterson, a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice.

Email prospecting is a vital tool for B2B sales reps. If you haven’t had an actual conversation with a prospect yet (or even if you have), a well-written, aptly-timed email can be a perfect way to get the ball rolling. That’s why 71 percent of B2B marketers say email is their most effective communication channel.

Here’s the problem: your prospects already receive dozens of sales emails in their work and personal accounts every week, and they read very few of them. Despite the fact that you’re objective is the same as every other vendor’s, you can’t send the same emails as every other vendor. Unless you want to be ignored.

What can you do to distinguish yourself and catch the reader’s attention? Instead of sending some canned email that you copy and paste to follow up with every new prospect, try being human. If you’ve forgotten how to do that, here are some pointers:

Use Data to Personalize

If your team has been properly managing the sales and marketing process, you have a wealth of data about each of your target accounts in your database — the acquisition channel they came from, their demographic and firmographic information, their browsing behavior on your site, what assets they’ve downloaded, and so on.

Use this information to personalize your messages. For starters, address them by name. I really shouldn’t have to mention that one, but my “promotions” folder on Gmail is evidence that many brands still don’t understand the value of a basic, personal touch.

Another obvious, but important point: use your own name in the email signature. Even if you’re using some form of marketing automation, you want the emails to seem like they were created and dispatched by a flesh-and-blood salesperson.

Mind Your Subject Line

There are plenty of researchers who insist that an optimum subject line contains a certain number of words or a certain type of language. There may be some loose correlations, but the truth is, every business will see different results depending on their prospect base and the type of products they sell.

This is an area where you should avoid analysis paralysis and, instead, use common sense. Think about how you would write a subject line for a personal email, and use that same approach when following up with prospects. After all, your prospects are people. Try not to sound like every other solicitor in their spam folder. I.e. Our Magical Service Will Increase Your Revenue By $90M!!

Instead, be direct and concise. Tell them why you’re emailing, and reference something specific about their company. Here are a few examples:

  • Congratulations on your recent __________
  • Quick question about _________ at [company name]
  • Hearing great things about your _________
  • Would love to meet while I’m in town
  • Will you be attending [x event] next month?
  • Have you thought about doing ________?

Avoid Over-Beautification

Stay away from fancy, stylized HTML templates. You might think they look nice — even “professional” — but to a buyer, they look automated. Template emails are usually associated with batch and blast B2C emails. They have their purpose, but it’s usually to advertise promotions and/or offer a discount.

As you know, the B2B buying process is much more complicated than that. Instead of luring people in with an easy promotional offer, you need to start a meaningful conversation about their needs and business objectives. With that in mind, your emails should all sound and look like they were sent from a human being.

Here’s an example that debuted on the HubSpot blog last month:

TechAdvice April Image 1

It’s clean, simple, and cuts right to the chase. An email like this also takes a lot less time to put together than some intricate, stylized template.

Focus on the Reader

It’s an easy trap to fall into: you need to sell your product, so you talk about your product. You talk about it’s features, it’s low price, it’s insane return on investment. But this approach will quickly dissuade a B2B buying group still in the needs-definition stage (which many are). It’s also just bad form.

To lower your reader’s guard, focus on their interests, their priorities, challenges, and goals. Heck, you can even ask them questions. I’m trying to get a better feel for the way you manage XYZ at [company name]. Can you tell me more about that? Most of the time, people are happy to talk about themselves. Remember, your objective is to start a meaningful conversation — one that places the buyer at its center.

Think Outside the Box

If all you ever do is plug names into a template, you’ll never gain the element of surprise. You’ll never grab someone’s attention in an unexpected way. Try to loosen up a little and do things that regular old people do. Be imperfect.

Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Leave a typo in your email copy: Seems counterintuitive, but proves that the sender is, indeed, human. You can always apologize later. Just make sure the typo isn’t part of their name, and try to avoid grammatical errors.
  • Tell a joke: Probably want to stay from the “guy walks into a bar” routine, but don’t be afraid of humor. Humor is one of the quickest ways to connect with a new person.
  • Deliberately forget to attach a file: Again, this may seem counterintuitive, but it proves your humanity and gives you a chance to send a second follow-up email (Woops! Forgot to attach). That second email could be just enough to stay at the top of mind, or it could elicit a quick response directly from the recipient.

* * *

Sending “human” sales development emails is fairly straightforward. The problem is that so many of us have been automating and complicating the process for so long that we’ve forgotten how to be normal.

Get back to the basics: plain text, personalization, and a direct, succinct message. Chances are, you’ll start to see a higher open rate, higher response rate, and a lot more leads converting into opportunities.  

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Aleksandr Peterson

Aleksandr Peterson

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