Bang for the buck, there’s no better sales tool than email with its 44:1 return on investment. It’s free or cheap—and the direct access to customers you achieve can rarely be rivaled by even the most accurate marketing campaign.
So, why aren’t sales teams honing in on this and writing sales emails that work?
About three times per day, I get a message or email that goes something like this:
We’ve written emails for our sales team, but we’re not getting ANY traction! Can you help?
To understand what hasn’t worked, I ask to review the emails they’ve sent. After reading thousands of these emails, I’ve become familiar with the most common sales email mistakes that salespeople are making hundreds of times every day.
If your emails are landing in the black hole of your prospects’ inboxes or you’re not getting the results you think you should, see if your emails have one (or more) of these 16 common mistakes—and find out how to fix them!
Mistake #1: No clear next step
Recently, I had a client ask for a first email that would include a link to a free trial, demo request, link to their blog and asking to follow the company on social media.
Count ‘em. That’s four CTAs.
While these are all reasonable CTAs on their own, a single email shouldn’t contain all four. It’s confusing. Each CTA competes for the reader’s attention and time and, ultimately, they probably won’t choose to act at all.
When choosing a CTA, think about what one thing you want them to do next—then ask them to do it.
Mistake #2: Too few emails
“We don’t want to be too intrusive!” is what I usually hear from folks who cringe at the idea of sending more than one or two emails.
While sending one or two emails won’t be intrusive, I can guarantee that, unless what you’re selling is so incredible that it stands out in a crowded inbox, one or two emails won’t help you sell.
My recommendation? Send at least 6 emails. Even if they’re well-written and dialed in, it may take 8-10 emails before you get a response.
Bonus tip: once you figure out how many emails to send, identify the ideal send frequency. Some industries and buyers may need one email per day for six weeks while others may require just one email every 5-7 days for six weeks.
Find what works for your prospects!
Mistake #3: Writing too much
With shrinking attention spans and small smartphone screens, don’t assume that more words = more sales.
In fact, more often than not, it’s the opposite.
Keep your emails tight and concise. Delete extra words.
Your prospect is reading your email on the subway during rush hour while thinking about their day and their kid’s soccer practice. You have little opportunity to hold their attention, so make each word count.
If you do need to communicate a large amount of information, link to a landing page with more info or choose bullet points. These can prevent a block of text while highlighting only the most important info.
Mistake #4: Not testing CTAs
If you’ve tried to get your prospect to schedule a demo over 15 emails and they haven’t yet, you probably should’ve tried a new CTA a little sooner.
Have you invited them to reply with questions via email? Have you offered to text with them and sent your cell number? Might they prefer an in-person meeting or an informal chat over coffee?
Even if your end goal is a demo, your first goal should be getting them to engage.
Mistake #5: The “value add” isn’t valuable
The phrase “add value” has been talked about and stretched for so long that it’s lost its meaning. “Add value” went from providing genuine help and useful content to…
Hey (Prospect name)!
Here’s a self-serving blog post we wrote that positions our service as the perfect solution. You won’t learn anything and you’ll see right through this shoddy attempt at adding value, but maybe you’ll finally reply. Please?
Before assuming you’re “adding value”, ask yourself: what would my buyer persona actually find valuable?
It could be helpful to send internal content that gives a genuine, objective look at your product or service and a few competitors to further qualify your prospect.
It could be useful to send a quick Loom video that explains a crucial point of consideration during the buying process that few people think of.
It may be appreciated that you offer to connect your prospect with a partner who can help with the implementation portion of your solution.
It might be valuable to offer an introduction to an existing client who offers an objective testimonial.
Whatever you end up offering, make sure it’s actually valuable to your buyer persona. How often do YOU consider a blog post or demo video as value added?
Mistake #6: Using robotic language
While some cultures and industries skew formal in email communication, there aren’t enough ascot wearing executives eating Grey Poupon in the backseats of Rolls Royce sedans to suggest that emails should default to formal language.
“Dear sir or madam” is a surefire way to end up in their trash file. Overly structured, perfectly robotic emails lack authenticity and a human element—which is a problem because you’re writing to a human.
Be human in your communication—always. Don’t be afraid to write like you and your clients speak.
Which segues into…
Mistake #7: Not using customer’s words
David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” once said:
“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”
If your company calls what you sell a “next-generation email SaaS solution” but your clients refer to it as “a handy tool for analyzing email performance”, tailor your emails to match your customers’ words.
Check out the reviews of your company on your own social media channels, Capterra or other review sites. Notice the words clients and prospects use in meetings and emails.
See how real people talk about what you sell and then borrow their words.
Mistake #8: Not taking risks to stand out
Be honest: does your email look and read like every other sales email your prospect has received over the past ten years?
Even if you’re the perfect fit for them, if you can’t be seen in their inbox you might as well not have a product to sell them at all.
After all, the average person receives 121 emails—per day!
That’s why standing out and taking risks is vital. Surprising subject lines, varied sentence and email length, creative wording and being disarmingly human can have impressive effects.
It may be a risk, but using humor that won’t land you in trouble with HR or your clients is one of your best tools. Yes, that even means memes and GIFs—with the right prospects.
Mistake #9: Failing to create urgency
Like it or not, most people are happier to stay the course, not make a choice or continue dealing with a problem than make a decision or take a chance.
That’s bad news for salespeople, especially those who don’t know to introduce urgency into their emails.
However, creating urgency can be done for any client, product, service or sale, although how you achieve this will vary based on what you sell and who you’re selling to.
You can go the basic route and present a limited-time offer that expires soon, although this won’t always work for more professionalized clients.
Better yet, listen to your client.
If you know they need to be up and running by Q4 and it’s nearly the end of Q2, you can help them understand that implementation will take time and, if they want to hit their target, they have to get started today.
Now, it’s you and your new client working together against a deadline, not you trying to close your prospect.
Tailor the urgency to your product or service. Listen when your clients talk about timing, deadlines or requirements that you can leverage to create urgency.
Mistake #10: Not personalizing emails
If you want to send a large volume of emails, chances are you’ll need to rely on some sort of template or form—and it works, if you do one thing right:
Many salespeople will send generic, one-size-fits-all emails to every prospect they encounter and it shows a lack of effort to prospects whose time you’re attempting to access.
At the bare minimum, incorporate their first name and company name, but do your best to speak to specific challenges your clients in their industry encounter, list your clients in theirindustry and call out a fact or detail you’ve noticed about their work or company.
Read it again before you send. If it feels impersonal to you, it’ll definitely feel impersonal to them.
Mistake #11: Focusing only on benefits OR pain points
There’s no doubt you’ve heard about pitching benefits, not features, and locating pain points. This is good advice but try offering a mix of carrot and stick (or pain and pleasure) next time.
For example, if you’re part of a channel sales team trying to recruit new partners, show the benefits of joining:
- Access to personalized quarterly training
- 20% discounts on software
- Exclusive partner referrals
But you may also explore the pain points potential partners face in the same email:
- Lack of partner support from competitors
- Unprofitable clients and poor margins
- Poor lead quantity and quality
Mixing both the benefits and the pain points shows what they get by acting and what they miss by failing to act.
Mistake #12: Targeting low-quality leads
Sometimes leads are the problem, especially if they’ve been purchased or obtained without the email owners’ permission.
Ask yourself: did the recipients ask to be on this list and, if not, is what I’m putting in front of them valuable enough to them that I can earn their business?
If your lead quality is low and you’re experiencing lousy sales, a poor sending reputation and terrible open rates, look towards the top of your sales funnel and create quality lead magnets and offers that catch qualified leads.
While this isn’t an email problem per se, it’s a problem that can lead teams to deconstruct perfectly good email funnels and subject lines.
Mistake #13: Not considering the buyer persona
There are times when I write emails for a boutique skincare supplier or doggy daycare. I’m not their buyer persona, but I can determine whether or not their buyer persona would open and act on an email through research and reviewing the buyer data my client provides.
After writing an email, imagine yourself receiving it as your buyer persona.
Would you open it? Would you reply? If not, what can you do to make it compelling to your buyer persona?
For the sales you have closed, go back and look at the communications and emails with those clients. What resonated with them and what common themes or language exist?
Mistake #14: Not challenging the prospect
If you’ve never read The Challenger Sale, let it be your next purchase.
In the book that changed how I approached sales, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson explore research that shows salespeople who sell consistently and competitively are those who challenge their prospect.
They don’t merely present product benefits, they challenge their customers to look at things differently. They challenge what the customer thinks they need. They may even make recommendations that challenge other parts of the business or reframe problems.
Your sales emails can do the same. Show your out-of-the-box thinking and uncommon ability to diagnose and provoke thought. You can demonstrate that you’re a valuable salesperson to connect with. Challenge your prospects and turn yourself from salesperson to valued consultant.
Mistake #15: Ignoring the prospect’s preferred communication
Some people love phone calls. Many people hate phone calls.
Knowing this, why do so many salespeople exclusively ask for a “quick call” or “chat”?
As a caveat, there are people who do prefer to connect in-person or on the phone, sometimes influenced by seniority, industry or culture—and it’s vital to cater your messaging to them, too.
But if you’ve gotten absolutely nothing from a prospect while asking for a phone call, invite them to send over questions via email or text. You might just tap into their preferred communication method, especially if they’re a Millennial.
Mistake #16: Forgetting to send a goodbye email
If you’ve done the right thing and sent over 6+ emails but still haven’t heard back, your prospect may be used to seeing your name appear in their inbox—and they’re expecting you to continue following up, eventually replying at their leisure.
Well, throw a wrench in that assumption.
Before you stop sending emails, send one final goodbye email. Mention how you’ve followed up several times and that you’ve chosen to stop reaching out. Leave them a Calendly or calendar scheduling link, helpful content and invite them to reply to the final email with questions.
You’ve introduced scarcity into the equation, something a salesperson doesn’t always have available to them. Shockingly often my goodbye emails led to an apologetic reply, even from cold leads, thanking me for my continued emails and a desire to continue the conversation.
Based on the volume of emails I read that miss the mark and don’t convert, it’s clear that sales teams aren’t getting the support or training they need to write compelling sales emails—and that’s a problem when email is the preferred method of communication for so many.
Sales teams train on objection handling. They rehearse role plays. They work on negotiation skills. But one of the most vital areas in sales, email writing, seems to be ignored and it leads to mistakes.
However, becoming aware of so you can avoid or fix these 16 sales email mistakes will put you and your sales on the right path, helping you connect with your prospects, bring on clients and position what you sell more effectively.
If you feel your sales emails aren’t converting or you’d prefer to have an expert craft emails that convert, get in touch here and I’ll look forward to helping you leverage email as your most powerful sales tool.