The basic idea behind selling by email is to trade emails with the client, thus creating an online conversation that can then be segued into the face-to-face, phone, or web conference that you're trying to get.

In previous posts, I've explained that your initial email to a potential client should never ask for a meeting. Instead, the initial email should ask a simple Yes/No question in order to assess interest.

In this post, I'll explain how to ask for that meeting, but in order for the technique to makes sense, here's a quick review.

A Quick Primer on Initial Emails

Most people load their initial emails up with all sorts of information and then ask the client to do all sorts of complicated things:

Wrong:

Dear Joe,

[several paragraphs of information.]

I would be happy to set up a briefing where we can discuss the matter further. Please don't hesitate to call me at 212-555-1212 to set a meeting or you can go to our website for more information.

Jane

Right:

Joe,

[two sentences: 1) a benefit and 2) why you're worth working with]

Does this interest you?

Jane

The "Wrong" example forces the client to wade through a bunch of information and then decide to call, which means writing down or cut-and-pasting the phone number, leaving the email environment, making the call, playing phone tag maybe... all hassles can get in the way of actually setting up the meeting.

The "Right" example is more likely to get a response because it's short and to the point but also because it asks the absolute minimum from the client: what I call the "five taps" (REPLY-Y-E-S-SEND).

Getting a simple "YES" has many benefits including:

  1. It gets you into a conversation.
  2. It whitelists your email address.
  3. It gets your first "YES" from the customer.

The All-Important Second Email

Let's suppose you've gotten your first "YES" and now want to set up a meeting. You do that in your second email.

NB: (To make things perfectly clear, the second email is NOT an email that you send if your initial email fails to get a response. That's called a "follow-up" and it's quite different.)

The second email provides more detail than the first email (but still in the context of benefits to the potential customer) and then suggests a meeting to discuss the matter further.

The key word here is "suggests." A suggestion fishes for another "YES" rather than trying to pin down time and date. All you want is the commitment to meet, which again is the barest minimum burden on the client. You can sort out the details later.

Here are three examples of the "close" at the end of the second email. (Assume that the body of the second email makes a convincing case that meeting is appropriate.)

Wrong #1:

I can give you a 30 minute briefing to provide you more details and to see if this is a good fit. What is the best way to get on your calendar?

Wrong #2:

A full briefing will take 30 minutes. I am available next week on Tuesday at 4pm and Thursday at 1pm. What time works best for you?

Right:

Would you be interested in a 30 minute briefing to see how much we can reduce your costs?

The wording in "Wrong #1" comes from old-timey sales playbooks. It dates back to the day when secretaries kept their boss's calendars. Today, everyone has a smartphone, so asking "what's the best way" is just plain silly.

The wording in "Wrong #2" is also old-timey stuff. The idea is to make it seem like you're SO busy that you can only meet at certain times. Your time is scarce and therefore valuable so, by gum, that client will want to make that appointment pronto!

Unfortunately, clients--at least the ones you'd actually want to have as clients- aren't that stupid and will probably see right through your attempt to manipulate them.

Even if they don't, though, you're still making the commitment to meet with you dependent upon them getting out of email and looking at their calendar. This means they'll be seeing all their appointments and all the work they've got to do... before they've committed to meet with you!

In this case, there's a good chance that they'll feel "calendar overwhelm" (a common occurrence) and decide not to add anything else to their already insane schedule. That's a dead end for you.

The "Right" example doesn't create that problem because it simply asks for the commitment without specifics.

Once you get the commitment, then you can work out the time and date in the third and subsequent emails. That way, when the client checks his or her calendar it will be to schedule the meeting, not assess whether meeting with you is a priority!

What to Do Next

Just so you know, I discuss all sorts of email technique (with real life examples from readers like you) in my free weekly newsletter. Meanwhile, here's what most important for you to remember about asking for meeting via email is:

  1. Use the initial email to assess interest. Fish for a Yes.
  2. Use the second email to obtain a commitment to meet. Fish for a Yes.
  3. Use the third email to set up the time and date for that meeting.

The general rule is to think of email as a way of having a conversation rather than as form of correspondence. Yes, emails can contain long documents but that's not its primary purpose.

BTW, once you've mastered setting up meetings in this quick and easy manner using email, you'll have the skills you need to set up meetings using SMS and texting. Needless to say, I'll be writing about that in future posts.