We don't tend to talk a lot about how to do sales on this blog. Lots of other people do that better than us. Instead, we focus more on structuring sales teams, scaling operations and processes, trends in revenue orgs, stuff like that. But sometimes a very tactical sales thing comes up and we've just got to chime in.
Today, that thing is creative outreach tactics to get a prospect's attention. It can be hard to stand out in someone's inbox, so sales reps come up with all kinds of creative ways to catch someone's attention.
I know how difficult sales is. And I also think most reps are doing it right - trying honestly to get someone on the phone, doing what they can to add value in every exchange, sending personalized communications, following up on a reasonable cadence, and so on.
And we've seen all kinds of cool, creative ways to do outreach. More on that in a minute.
But sometimes reps get busy or behind on quota, and feeling the pressure, they're willing to try anything. Sometimes reps are stuck with bad managers who give terrible advice. And every now and then, a few bad apples are just lazy (no one reading this is one of those bad apples, but you've probably met one).
The problem with a few bad apples is they make things harder for everyone else. If even one rep on your team is using these scammy tactics, they damage your brand reputation. They poison the well for future outreach. They may even lead to your company's domain being blacklisted, and all future emails could go straight to the spam folder.
Please do not use these sales outreach tactics
No matter what, there are some things you just shouldn't do in your outreach. For example, let's look at the following suggestions I saw on LinkedIn recently:
Do not ever fill out a lead form for someone else on your company's website. It actually never occurred to that anyone would do this, but now that I've seen this "tip" I realize that people have been doing that with my email address forever. It's annoying to the prospect, but worse, it's impacting your company in all kinds of ways. If your marketing team knew you were doing this, they'd be so mad! It's negatively impacting their metrics, it's wasting your BDR team's time, it's improving the likelihood that your email domain will be considered spam. And it's just dishonest.
And yes, 100+ LinkedIn notifications will get you noticed, but not in a good way. Any prospect will see through that tactic in a second. The only person who can get away with liking every one of your old posts in a row is your great-aunt, who only logs into social media once a year and has a lot to catch up on.
Next, please don't mail things physically. People already receive far too much junk mail - catalogs, credit card offers, flyers, etc... The amount of paper I have to recycle every week from mail I never asked for is absurd. Don't add to that pile. At least emails don't end up in landfills.
I know there are all kinds of tips about follow-up cadence. How long should you wait before sending another email, just in case a prospect missed your first one? How many emails do you send before you give up? The image below is a snapshot of my spam folder. I didn't mark any of these emails as spam; Gmail did that automatically. And these are just the emails Gmail has decided as spam today.
There's a fine line between consistent, timely follow-up and badgering, and it can be very hard to get this right. Think about what your prospect's email (or voicemail) inbox looks like. If you send a new email every day, you're adding to the pile. Give them some time to respond before you send another message.
Let's talk about subject lines for a minute. Who's telling reps to put the prospect's company name in the subject line? That's a waste of the most valuable email real estate! Okay, it might help the email stand out in the rep's inbox, or maybe it's important to the email automation tool you use for categorization or something. But I don't care - it's a terrible experience for the prospect. Instead of putting the prospect's company name in the subject, use those precious characters for something more personalized or interesting.
And why would you put the prospect's name in the subject line? I've seen this recommendation a lot - it's a top to make an email seem more personalized, but would you ever do this in any other situation? "Hi Mom, did you see this article?" No, you wouldn't. Again, it's a waste of the most precious outreach real estate you have.
Don't try to trick prospects into opening your email with a "Re: our last email" subject either. If you've actually talked with your prospect before, reference the specific thing you discussed in your subject, just like you'd do if you were emailing a friend.
Definitely do use these sales outreach tactics
I just spent a few hundred words on what not to do. So what should you be doing? There are so many cool, not-annoying ways you can stand out to a prospect. Use those! Be creative, be authentic, be bold.
Be relevant and clear. If you can be concise, use simple language, and connect to something important to your prospect, you'll be more successful. See what you can convey in a few sentences. Just provide enough information to pique their interest for more. Everyone is overloaded with too many emails that are all way too long. A short email may get attention.
Be targeted. It takes more time to find a true personal connection with a prospect, but that time is almost always well spent. Find one of their recent LinkedIn posts or tweets that describes a recent business problem or milestone, and mention it. I will always read the outreach emails that mention something that I've been thinking about.
Be creative. Find a unique hook that will make your outreach stand out. What are your competitors doing? Try something else. For example, we know that a hundred other reps are sending the same outreach email sequences we saw in the screenshot above. So what you can do that doesn't look like that? It's okay to take some risks to see if you can get someone's attention.
Be genuine. Find a way to connect on a human level. Use your authentic voice. I'm a lot more likely to respond to an email that sounds like a real person wrote it, versus an email automation platform. Avoid generic copy as much as possible.
Be positive. The world is a stressful place. People have so many things on their mind, and a lot of them are heavy. What can you do to brighten someone's day? That will stand out. You could include a compliment ("I loved your recent blog post!"), or a cute GIF (who doesn't want to see a kitten in their inbox?), or something a little more work-related. Try framing your pitch in the positive instead of the negative. For example, instead of the negative "Broken prospect targeting" subject line, say something more positive like "Connect with more prospects with targeting." It's a subtle difference, but makes a difference.
So this is a start, but these tips are pretty non-specific. I'd love to hear some real-world examples of good sales outreach. What have you done? What have you seen? It could be anything interesting or creative or effective. Let me know on LinkedIn.