Marketing Strategy Blog Articles

4 Ways I’ve Offended Prospects With Sales Emails

Over the years, I’ve sent a lot of emails to SmartAcre® prospects and to our clients’ prospects as well. One-to-one emails, automated nurtures, bulk emails, emails sent on my behalf by other people, Salesforce emails, event invites. Lots of emails.

I’ve also received a lot of email responses. Some have not been so favorable. Even though I’m sure I have not sent my last email that will offend someone, I wanted to share the top 4 email mistakes I’ve made to piss off prospects.

1. Using bad data for email personalization

When you send a marketing or sales email that uses bad data for personalization, you’re just asking to be a punching bag. We’ve all sent and received these emails.

Hi [Stevo],
We know in your role as [junior copywriter], that getting the most out of your [Pardot] investment is a priority…

Using bad data for email personalization

When it turns out Stevo is really Stephanie who is the chief marketing officer of a company who is using Marketo for marketing automation, you can expect an unpleasant – or no – response. “Stevo” will be sure to remind you of your mistakes, your clear incompetence, and assert that Pardot is inferior to Marketo. She’ll then demand to be removed from “this email list”…but she won’t unsubscribe on her own.

You get it. I know I’m not alone. It’s a painful reminder of the importance of maintaining and utilizing good, clean data, and knowing your audience.

The Fix

You are only as good as your data, and cleaning data is easier said than done. I recommend using an email cleaning service like NeverBounce at a minimum to ensure your email addresses are accurate. Not only will you avoid pissing off contacts, you will also avoid getting penalized for a high bounce rate if you’re sending from a bulk email tool or from marketing automation platforms like HubSpot or Pardot. In addition, there are many CRM data cleansing tools like DiscoverOrg and Experian which are great for larger scale projects depending on your budget.

If you’re sending 1-to-1 or smaller batch sales emails, make sure you’re targeting high-value prospects and put in the time to do a little manual research to get the data right. At least spot check your data. Look at the list and the critical form fields before hitting send. You can get a pretty good gut check by actually looking at a contact record, or you might catch really simple mistakes like having a bunch of first names that say “null” instead of an actual value. Lastly, test and test again before sending.

2. Revealing prospect data collection in your follow up email

I’ve made this mistake a few times and was surprised at the fiery responses I received when prospect data was included in a follow-up email. Typically, when I follow up with a lead (for example, a form submit on our website), I’ll reply to the email that contains the form data and copy and paste the recipient’s email address in the “to” field.

Revealing prospect data collection in your follow up email

SmartAcre has used both HubSpot and Pardot for automation and lead capture forms. Each platform can be configured to append prospect data to the form submission such as lead source, activity, and other CRM fields to inform sales. This information will be included in the email thread when I reply unless I manually delete it.

I do this for two reasons.

First, it’s easy. Read the form submission, copy and paste the recipient’s email address, and respond quickly to the warm lead. Done.

Second, it provides a reference as to what the inquiry was about for the prospect. I often find if the original message isn’t included, the prospect will have amnesia as to who you are and what they even requested, as they may have sent the same inquiry to multiple companies.

My assumption here is prospects feel a little violated or vulnerable when they see what data collection looks like in black and white.

In the interest of maintaining compliance and protecting personal data, I won’t be emailing any of this information in the future and we’re taking steps for SmartAcre and our clients to increase data security and privacy.

On a side note, a good old-fashioned phone call in the minutes after a lead is generated often produces immediate results and an opportunity. If they pick up the phone, great. If not, I can follow up with a quick email noting I just tried to call to address their challenge and attempt to schedule an intro call.

3. Checking in or following up too frequently

Checking in or following up too frequentlyEveryone is busy. However, after a discovery call, presentation, putting together and reviewing a proposal, and introducing you to additional references, a response would be nice. An acknowledgment, an update, a LinkedIn message, a text. Something. Anything would be nice.

But, an update doesn’t always happen and when a lead goes dark, it’s frustrating.

I probably trend more on the annoying side of the scale in trying to get a response. Sometimes the prospect tells me to take a hike. I’m not sorry about it. It’s my job. But, finding the right balance between being a pain in the ass and moving a sale forward can be difficult and very different one opportunity to the next.

My tip for avoiding being on the receiving end of an angry email or pushing your lead to go forever dark? Establish expectations on the first call for a timeline, communication, and next steps. The prospect is asking for your time and vice versa, so clarifying what you both expect from each other as human beings are perfectly acceptable. I’ll try to take my own advice here.

4. Not keeping emails professional

It’s easy to throw in a joke here or a jab there when you are working with clients or prospects you’ve known for a long time. But, never assume you can let your professional guard down when talking business through email. The medium leaves too much open to interpretation.

Not keeping emails professional

I recently reconnected with a former client who reached out to me in the exploratory stages of looking for a new agency to work with. I sent her a few proposals she requested after a quick discovery call and began to follow up weekly to schedule a time to review as we agreed. She went dark for a month. No, “I just haven’t gotten to it yet.” No, “It’s not really what we need right now.” No, “I’m just using you because I need 3 quotes.” Nothing. Finally, I sent an email that simply said, “What the heck?” The tone she interpreted from my “playful jab” didn’t sit well with her. She selected another agency.

Lesson learned? Be cautious and do not let up on being professional with your emails. In the appropriate setting and context, I think it’s acceptable to loosen up a bit. Perhaps if I had been in person or on a call, where tone and body language could have contributed to what I intended to be a more playful jab to get a response, the outcome would have been different.

First, regardless of how well you think you know your audience, keep it professional. Written communication can easily be misinterpreted and cost you the sale. Second, use templates. You’ve written these sales emails a thousand times. Grab your best or most frequently used ones, copy, paste, and personalize. Check out a sales enablement tools like Salesloft or email templates in Salesforce to help save time and be more efficient with sales communication.