how-not-to-write-prospecting-email

I know, Part II? Is a series in the making? Before you accuse me of going Hollywood and getting sequel-, prequel- and reboot-crazy in the absence of all original ideas, please humor me. First, this sequel email is as good as the original one I featured … we’re talking The Godfather vs. The Godfather: Part II or Batman Begins vs. The Dark Knight.

Second, I know everybody gets prospected, and most prospecting emails are not worth more than the tenth of a second it takes to delete them. However, I feel that salespeople and marketers (who also write/edit emails, sometimes for salespeople) could learn something from the egregious mistakes I regularly witness in my work inbox.

Prospecting Email II

Which brings me to today’s email, which actually was not sent by the previously highlighted offender. This winner comes from a sales & marketing intelligence company. The sender sent me two messages in the space of a week. I completely ignored the first one, but for some strange reason felt compelled to open the second one (pictured above), where the first two lines arrested me:

Trust you had a wonderful weekend.

Hope this email finds you well and in good health.  

What?! You don’t know me, why are trying to ingratiate yourself with false courtesy? In good health? You mean I should believe that despite not having met, you really care about my health and how I spent my weekend instead of adding my company to your roster of “over 250 organizations across the globe?”

It gets better:

I completely understand you are busy, but would highly appreciate your feedback on my tele conf [sic] meeting request (30 min), wherein we can discuss [blah-blah-blah really long sentence] …

Where do I start? First, you want to ask for 30 minutes of my time (which is already a lot to ask initially), yet you acknowledge that I’m busy in the same sentence? If you completely understand I’m busy, then why would you ask for 30 minutes to meet when I don’t know you and you haven’t qualified me? Why wouldn’t you try to first convince me with 5, 10 or 15 minutes? Doesn’t the 30-minute ‘tele conf’ (one word, by the way) come later, after you know I’m sufficiently interested and potentially ready to sign?

Also, who uses the word “wherein” … along with a casual reference to a ‘teleconf’ in the same sentence? This haphazard blending of the formal and informal is too jarring. Maybe you’re not a native English speaker, which is fine—I used to teach EFL for a living and sympathize—but this doesn’t excuse the fact that you asked for 30 minutes of my “busy” time right off the bat. This is positively beautiful! Who scripts these?

As if that wasn’t enough, let’s visit the subject line: “FW: Call request.” Is this referring to the previous message (subject line: “Conf Call Meeting request”) in the hopes I recognized it and gave some attention? Even if I remembered this initial boring email from 6 days ago, who thinks a subject line like this captivates any human being? (Let’s acknowledge the fact that this subject line could work if you’ve previously established a mutual desire to meet with an expectation that an official invitation is forthcoming, but even then, you might want be more informative, e.g., [Company name(s)] Call Request or [Subject] Meeting Request.

I don’t know about you, but I get giddy when I see a subject line telling me some stranger wants to request a non-specific call with me (especially when it includes a forwarded message). I mean, who doesn’t want to open a message that promises a purposeless conference call with a stranger?

I haven’t even brought up “the customize complimentary pilot as per your requirements” … c’mon, the word is functioning as an adjective, throw a d on that. Plus, per your requirements is redundant once you say customized.

That’s enough for now, but I urge any readers who work with sales or marketing emails: Please don’t make any of these ridiculous moves. Much worse than simply getting ignored, you’ll look like a chump, lose the sale, potentially alienate a prospect for life and maybe become the subject of a recurring blog post that dissects poor prospecting emails.

Happy prospecting!

Paul Richlovsky

About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy and editorial direction. He is an enthusiastic marketing automation practitioner and active member of the Cleveland Marketo User Group. He has written/edited multiple marketing guides, including those aimed at healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing audiences. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He is particularly interested in usability, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

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