As I pointed out in yesterday's column on sales mega-trends, email marketing is the only form of outbound marketing that still works for B2B products. Unfortunately, most companies aren't very good at writing emails that people read and answer.

For the past five years, I've published a free weekly newsletter where provide links to my latest columns and critique sales emails that readers send me. In my experience, cold emails tend to suffer from the following problems:

1. False Friendliness

While it's true that most people, all things being equal (and even when they're not equal) prefer to buy from their friends. However, any attempt to force friendship causes people to raise their emotional barriers.

In face-to-face meetings, this tendency among salespeople to be too friendly manifests itself in handshakes that last too long, compliments that are too fulsome and too frequent use of the other person's first name, etc. Ugh.

In sales emails, the "too friendly" tendency manifests itself in phony inquiries about the other person's health or vacation, over-enthusiastic praise for trivial matters and (again) too frequent use of the other person's name.

Effective sales emails are polite and professional rather than effusive and emotional.


Dear Jill:
I hope you're having a wonderful week! I noticed that Acme released a new product last month. Good work! I hope it sells well. Jill, the reason I'm writing is to find out if you're the person responsible for purchasing software for Acme.


Are you the person responsible at Acme for software purchases?

2. Self-Centered Enthusiasm

Many salespeople (and indeed many people in the culture at large) wrongly believe that expressing your own emotions will draw a positive emotional response from others.

While that may be true inside a relationship, it's not true when dealing with people who don't know you and have no reason to want to know you.

Unfortunately, many sales emails are chockablock with unnecessary and distracting emotional commentary on the sender's emotions, beliefs, motives and opinions.

Effective sales emails are about the customer rather the salesperson.


I believe that everybody wants to find the best value for their money which is why I am a writing to you. I'm certain that when you'll be delighted when you look at our products and prices and I would like to meet with you to discuss this.


My company can probably provide this product to you at a lower cost than your current vendors. Does this interest you?

3. Spray and Pray

Many salespeople weirdly believe that customers want to buy the products that provide the most features for the lowest price. But that's only true if customers have no better way to evaluate value.

Customer pick feature-rich products only when they're not clear which features have specific value to their specific situation. They want to know "what in it for me" and if they can't figure it out, they go for the feature-rich option.

To make matters worse, many customers are turned off when they're confronted with too much information and put decision-making on hold until they have time to sort everything out, which may never happen.

Effective sales email present a single, meaningful, unique benefit rather than a "spray and pray" list.


Even though our price is low, our widgets have the following features:

  1. Double, redundant framistats.
  2. Fifth-generation vebblefetzers.


Our widgets can reduce your inventory costs by reducing missing stock items by 20%.

4. Generic Benefits

Salespeople who "get" the idea that customers aren't interested in product features often make the mistake of replacing them with benefits that are too generic to be meaningful.

Every B2B product in the world either increases sales or decreases costs (aka saves time and money). Any product that didn't do these things wouldn't exist because nobody would buy it.

When customers see generic benefits, they shrug them off as just so much noise. What's worse, they're likely to feel that since you couldn't be specific you must not have thought things through.

Effective sales emails identify one or two specific unique benefits.


Our widgets will increase your sales allowing you to profitably grow your company. They will also save you time and hassle so that you can spend more time doing things that you enjoy.


Our widgets can reduce your inventory costs by reducing missing stock items by 20%.

5. Self-Praising Opinions

Some salespeople seem to think that they live in a world where customers believe something just because somebody tells them it's true. Customers, however, are exceedingly skeptical of any claim that a company makes about itself.

Repeatedly claiming that you have the "best service" or the "best product" or that your company is "industry-leading" or "innovative" convinces nobody. People just skip over that kind of marketing mush. If anything, people think you're lying or exaggerating.

Effective sales emails offer credible proof (or the potential of credible proof) for any claim.


Our industry-leading company has state-of-the-art products and the best customer service in the business!


An independent survey showed that our customers on average are happier with our products and services than with those of other vendors.