future salespeople

shame email #001: authenticity

by: alex guest -
12 mins read

The Origin of Shame

I collect sales attempts. The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re looking for it, you can learn new strategies, identify trends to follow (or avoid in order to stand out), and get a healthy dose of comic relief along the way.

I’ll redact some of the following information in these posts to avoid embarrassment at an organizational or individual level because we all had to start somewhere. These misguided sales attempts span a multi-year collection across my career so I’ll provide some extra context when needed to better set the stage.

Let’s dive in…

Overall Score: D+
  • Subject Line & Preview Text: B
  • Body & Content: F
  • Exultation & Signature: D
Attempt: Outbound, First
Channel: Email
My Role: Director of Partnerships

Subject Line & Preview Text

There’s good and bad here.

Generally, I like subject lines that feel like a human wrote them. I mean, humans write all of these at some point, but I suspect that this is an automated email sent from a tool like Yesware. It could come from a marketing automation platform, but it lacks some of the cookie crumbs that those platforms can leave behind in the sender information or the email signature (we’ll dive into this in a later post and talk about how to avoid it).

This feels “like a human wrote it” because it’s not capitalized and it’s a stream of consciousness question. You can almost hear Jane Doe ask this by just reading it in your inbox. It's great to emulate that feeling when it makes sense, but you don’t want to over use it or you'll risk being inauthentic.

On the negative side of things, the keyword that's meant to drive value in the subject line and the preview text (the first 160 or so characters of the email body) are a complete miss based on my role as the Director of Partnerships; branded content.

You’ll actually see that it’s listed three times in so many sentences (subject line included). Not only is that incongruent with the primary value that I drive as a Director of Partnerships, but it’s exclusionary in its repetition. By using synonyms like, “syndicated audiences” or “sponsored research,” Jane Doe could have caught my attention using a term I’m more attached to or expanded my understanding of their offerings.

Body & Content

Two strikes in the first two sentences…

Strike one: “Everyone is talking about branded content as the future of marketing.”

She attempted to use a “Social Proof” tactic to build value around what she’s selling. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone is saying that outside the companies that make money from branded content. This feels self-serving, and again, inauthentic.

Strike two: “We’ve…”

Most sales thought leaders will tell you to avoid statements that include things like “I” while selling. It shifts the attention of the reader from their own thoughts to the perspective of the writer. In a sales email, this only makes it easier for your readers to dismiss any engagement attempts because it feels as though any intended positive outcome isn't focused on them.

I feel like “We” is a step more egregious because you’re not even taking ownership for the idea and it positions the reader in an “us vs. them” mindset. I think the one exception would be around building your organization's authority in the spirit of "we were built specifically for you/your problems/your industry." Using a collective term like this adds value to the writer by association. To be clear, if the sentiment is "we are XYZ..." you need to rewrite it into the format of "we do XYZ specifically for you/your problems/your industry..."

All this being said, I don’t believe every sales email need to be optimized for “you” based language nor should you avoid using “I” or “We” in all cases. However, if you use them, they should always carry empathy and show investment: “I was taking a look at your background and it seems like you’re the person we’ve been helping with XYZ…”

A sentence like this demonstrates that I’ve taken the time to research you (more below), we work with people like you (social proof), and I’m attempting to get in touch for a very specific value proposition that’s targeted to your role and success metrics (personalization).

I’m a bit confused by Jane's next two statements. They seem to be in the wrong order and/or they almost contradict each other.

Did you research me or not? She definitely didn’t. Or worse, she did look into my role and she reached out to me even though I don’t look like her buyer at all. Her next statement leads me to believe that she did...

She wants me to do her job for her and introduce her internally to the right buyer. Why would I do this? I'm not invested in her, she's not invested in me, and I'm not going to write a check against my internal capital for a complete stranger that will likely alienate my coworkers through her tactless sales attempts!

Asking for an introduction is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Where I’m a big fan of doing it after building value (say after a successful, yet misplaced qualification call), this application feels just plain lazy and inauthentic. Specifically, the “...then I’d be forever grateful…” No one talks like that in real-life! It’s a terrible line from a forgetful extra wearing a fedora in a low-budget movie.

Exultation & Signature

“Thanks a lot,...”

Why? I haven’t done anything, nor am I going to do anything for you. Assumptive thanks can be helpful, but it’s slimy here. It almost carries an entitlement.

“...and looking forward to showing you what we can do!”

I have a tough time on how anyone would use a collective term like “We” in an effective exultation. It’s hard to spin it in a way that leaves the reader with excitement centered on how they will benefit at the end of an email. The goal of any email should be its sole (or in some cases it's secondary) CTA. In this case, I would want my reader to be intrigued and inspired to respond immediately after reading my message with their availability. In all likelihood, this will be preceded by your reader checking your website to validate the sales message. You should plan on by aligning email and website copy. If possible, you should also have industry and/or buyer persona specific pages where they're directed.

On the Jane's job title, I like ambiguous or value building terms like “Consultant” in a salesperson's role, but you have to be careful or you’ll undermine yourself like we see here.

Her outreach is so poorly focused, written, and researched that her being a “Consultant” degrades organizational value and legitimacy at first impression. Consultants tend to be top performers and if this ACME's top-tier performance, I want nothing to do with their company nor services.

fsp Rewrite

  • Simple substitution tags that can be added and validated through 3rd-party enrichment services (...or entry-level sales development reps).
"...growing your certified partner base."
  • A 1:1 value proposition like this should be added by your salespeople before they send the email. It takes less than two minutes and it's worth it.
"...Q4 goals and how sponsored research supports your 2021 strategies?"

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