10 Simple Mistakes Sales Development Reps Make When Emailing Prospects

May 26, 2015 Sam Laber

Most sales reps assume that their “A-list” prospects are flooded with more sales emails than they know what to do with. We disagree. Your prospects know EXACTLY what to do with 99% of the cold emails they receive: Select –> Delete. Or perhaps for the less fortunate: Select –> Report Spam.

Getting your email to the top of a prospect’s noisy inbox is a lot like getting your content to rank high on a Google search results page. You need a concise copy, a landing page (or email body) that reflects the ad title (or subject line), and a clear call-to-action that makes people want to click. In the below, we spell out ten common errors that cause prospects to grit their teeth and move on to the next one.

1. Beginning subject lines with “Re:”

This one’s pretty brutal — allow me to explain. When a sales rep puts “Re” in a subject line, open rates will most likely increase because prospects get tricked into thinking that there was a previous exchange. That’s all good and great, but how do think your prospect feels after they realize they’ve been duped? Do you think they are more likely to reply? Similar to ad copy that would be considered “link-bait”, using misleading subject lines will frustrate prospects and ultimately decrease your reply rate. Keep it classy yo!

2. Capitalizing Every Single Word In The Subject Line

Sometimes we go overboard in our efforts to be exact and professional. Unfortunately, nothing screams automated email louder than subject line capitalization. Look back on every webinar invite, newsletter, and daily digest you’ve ever received and then compare these to messages you’ve exchanged with friends and coworkers. If you want prospects to treat you like a human, act like a human. This means overlooking the nit-picky formalities of email and getting to the point as quickly and clearly as possible.

3. Name dropping the wrong customers

If you don’t have one or two notable clients to reference in an email, don’t reference clients at all! In this case, it’s much better to say something like “We help small B2B startups like yours…” rather than mention two clients that completely miss the mark.

4. Forgetting to “remove formatting”

We’ve all scrolled down in random email threads to find that certain paragraphs we wrote have different fonts and font sizes than others. Unfortunately, even if your email looks good on the way out, it may display incorrectly in your prospect’s inbox, making them think you copied and pasted from a template (darn HTML!). To make sure it looks good, be sure to select your entire message and clear formatting before sending. This will alert you to any formatting issues and clean things up.

5. Not using the name a prospect goes by

This one’s pretty simple — do your homework! If certain prospects are in your CRM as Michael, Elizabeth, or Peter, make sure they don’t go by Mike, Liz, or Pete. A quick LinkedIn or Twitter search will suffice.

6. [For follow-up] not copying the initial email

The goal of any follow-up message should be to get your prospect to read your initial email — you know, the one that came from arduous amounts of company and contact research. All too often, follow-up emails get sent that say something nebulous like: “Hey Jim — wanted to circle back on my initial offer. Are you free to chat this afternoon?”. What offer? I don’t remember reading about any offers… Select –> Delete.

7. Not being role specific

You’ve spent the time to write a concise, poignant value proposition that clearly outlines the benefits of using your product — but for whom? For every person you contact, be honest with yourself about whether or not the value points you listed will actually impact your prospect’s individual role in the company. For example, if your prospect isn’t a director or VP, the value proposition may not need to mention revenue or the bottom line.

8. Bolding half the words in the email

We know it’s difficult to convey tone and show emphasis over email, but try not to bold too many words in your initial message. Spam filters are getting pretty savvy these days; don’t let them keep your message away from your prospect’s main inbox.

9. Being unclear about next steps

Before you hit send, make sure your prospect knows exactly what action you’d like them to take after reading the email. Should they book a demo? Start a free trial? Register for an event? Whatever it is, a best practice is to mention it first before you say anything else. Put the offer on the table and leave it for them to decide if it’s worth their time.

10. Closing with a yes/no question

A fairly common mistake reps make in their closing line is asking a yes or no question. Closes like, “Are you free for 15 minutes next week? and “Can we put some time on the calendar for a brief chat?” are all easy to reject in one word — NO. Instead of yes/no, consider turning these closing lines into more complex questions like, “When is the best time to connect for 15 minutes next week?” or “When can we put some time on the calendar for a brief chat?”.

About the Author

Sam Laber

Sam is the director of marketing at Datanyze. He's a big John Hughes fan who occasionally fills the DZ office with the sweet sweet sounds of 90s rock giant, Creed.

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