I'll start with a real-life Sales and Marketing train wreck in all its gruesome glory. Read the following two emails and then I'll explain 1) why the disaster happened and 2) how to avoid a similar fate.

What the salesperson emailed

TO: Jim@VVV.com
FROM: Jane@YYY.com
SUBJECT: RE: Possible Meeting

Hey Jim,

First off I just want to thank you for putting up with my extraordinary amount of emails over the past 2 months. I have to say I respect your dedication to not give in and respond, it was truly a brilliant performance on your end. While it has most definitely been a pleasure trying to connect with you I am sad to say that I am now graciously throwing in the towel (deep sigh). With that being said I hope my persistence has not gone unnoticed and that if you ever find yourself curious or interested in YYY that you will not hesitate to reach out! Thanks so much for your time Jim and I wish you the best!


How the customer responded

TO: Jane@YYY.com
FROM: Jim@VVV.com
SUBJECT: RE: RE: Possible Meeting

Dear Jane--Wow--really?

Do you genuinely think that your smart ass and condescending email would make me ever want to "reach out" to you or YYY Corp. now or in the future? You obviously are extremely confident that your cavalier attitude is protected by some presumed knowledge of me or my situation. But in fact, you do not know my company or me. You don't know if I am struggling through a life-threatening illness, you don't know if my business has exploded with a 320% growth in the first 7 months of this year, you don't know if I am juggling children, a business and a divorce. You don't know anything about me.

You just know that you didn't get the response that you wanted within the timeframe you felt was satisfying. I just wanted to let you know that your assumption that my "dedication to not give in and respond was actually a truly a brilliant performance" is beyond insensitive, unprofessional, and inappropriate. But, rest assured--every member of my 87 person staff will know your name and the name of your company as I use you as a perfect cautionary tale. Thanks so much for your time Jane and I wish you the best!


What went wrong (on the surface)

The email that the salesperson sent is what's known as a Hail Mary--a final email sent to a potential customer who hasn't responded to repeated requests for a meeting.

I've provided templates for Hail Mary emails in the past, but my templates scrupulously avoid blaming the customer for not responding.

The Hail Mary example above is supposed to be humorous and even endearing ("deep sigh"), but it's full of sarcasm and disrespect, at which the customer rightly took offense.

"Jane" writes as if "Jim" cares enough to specifically avoid her and implies that he somehow owes her something because he didn't respond.

This attitude is deadly in Sales. You can never, never, never blame the customer for not responding or not buying.

The moment you start blaming the customer, you've lost that customer. (If the customer doesn't pay after buying, that's a entirely different situation.)

I ran into that attitude a while back when I got an insurance quote from SBLI. When I told the agent that I decided to stick with my current policy with Prudential, she snipped back at me: "Well, why did you have me give you a quote, then?!" Guess which insurance company is never going to get my business.

Same thing with a roofing guy I was using. He did some emergency work for me and then, when I asked him for a bid for some other work (and went with another guy), he sent me an irritated text that burned his bridges.

The roofer guy reminded me of a woman I once saw on a talk show who said: "My ex-boyfriend said he broke up with me because I was mentally unstable so to prove that he's wrong I slashed his tires."

But I digress. The disrespect and "you owe me" attitude of the email masks the real problem, which is…

The real problem: Spammy sales emails

There's a deeper problem here, which is that Jane was committing the cardinal sin of email marketing: spamming.

According to Jim, he had previously received "about 10 emails" from Jane. The fact that there were 10 emails strongly suggests that they were being sent automatically.

While I haven't seen those emails, they were probably the automatically customized crap that email marketing software creates. Stuff like this:

SUBJECT: Big opportunity
Dear [firstname],
I hope you are well. Companies like [customer_name] face many challenges...

Jim receives about 200 emails of this type every day. So do I. So does everyone else. And everyone finds them annoying. Everyone hates spam.

I once believed it was possible to create a generic sales email that would generate new sales opportunities. I've done more research, though, and I've come to the conclusion that the mass emailing of generic sales emails alienates customers.

I'm not talking about the mass emailing of newsletters to which potential customer have subscribed. That's sending customer stuff they've requested. I'm talking about emails that pretend to be personal but which are actually software-generated spam.

When companies spam, they may get a few responses, but the benefit of those opportunities is vastly outweighed by the damage they’re doing to their personal and corporate brands.

The solution: Customize

Based upon my experience, what does work is an email that a real human being has personally customized based on actual research into that individual customer and that customer's firm.

You can start with a template, but the final email that you send should be unique to that customer. (I cover many such how to examples in my free weekly newsletter, BTW.)

It's the personalization that allows you to choose the best Subject line, the best sales message in the body of the email, and the best call-to-action.

I don't know about you, but I have never responded to a mass email except to either 1) tell the sender to get lost, or 2) block the sender from sending me any more emails.

I have, however, frequently responded to emails from strangers where it's clear they've done some research and made an effort to present what what I might need.

To summarize, the mistake that loses you customers is the mass emailing of phony-baloney automatically customized emails.

The solution is to use research to radically winnow down your list and then, based on further research, write each potential customer an individualized email.

Published on: Aug 5, 2015