Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.

Do they actually think using that same terrible canned email template from more than a decade ago will still somehow lead to meaningful and productive sales conversations?

There's no point in sending sales emails if you're going to send vague, generic, and irrelevant messages. You won't get responses from the right people. You won't get sales meetings with people who are actually qualified to buy from you. And you won't close deals either.

If you want people to take you and your company seriously, you need to change your sales approach and start thinking about your customer first.

Here are three simple steps that any salesperson can use to become at least 3x more effective.

Step #1: Stay Focused And Clearly Define Your "Buyer Persona"

Whenever I hear someone tell me that they can't be targeted with their sales prospecting efforts because they have to send tens of thousands of emails (or more), I cringe.

Many salespeople and marketers still have the misconception that volume is the secret to driving sales.

But throwing spaghetti on the walls and praying that it will stick doesn't really work anymore. Your customers aren't stupid, and won't just go for the lowest-common-denominator option anymore. The more technology advances our options, the more we expect things to be personalized and relevant to us. Sending untargeted and irrelevant emails is insulting to customers, making them much more likely to mark you as spam, and ruin your reputation.

Instead, salespeople need to think carefully about who they are trying to start sales conversations with.

Who are the decision makers they are reaching out to? What industries do they work in? How big is their company?

Salespeople that have clearly defined "buyer personas" (ideal customer profiles) are much more effective and successful because they actually reach out to the right people to start with and don't waste their time having conversations with people who aren't qualified to buy from them.

Even if they reach out to one-tenth as many people, they'll probably still get more responses than another salesperson who is just blindly blasting out untargeted mass emails.

Step #2: Understand Your Audience Through Research

Who is your buyer? What do they care about?

What stresses them out and keeps them up late on a Tuesday night? What are their goals for this quarter? What tools and software are they already using, and what are they not using? How do they talk with their colleagues, and what do they talk about most?

You need to ask yourself all these questions, and more, if you want to get inside your customer's head to peek their interest and anticipate potential objections.

How do you learn this information, though?

Talking to people in your audience is helpful, but online research can be powerful too. I like to start by taking a handful of contacts from my buyer persona, and researching them on Linkedin and other social channels like Twitter, if they use them.

I want to know their biggest pain points and goals, and try to understand what their role is like right now. I also pay close attention to what tone they use in their profiles or content they share, and look for keywords and concepts that I can use in my emails.

Step #3: Always Write Your Emails For One Person

Whether you're writing an email to a single individual or creating a template to send to hundreds or thousands of people, you should always write as if you're sending it to one person.

This old copywriting trick is one of my secrets to making my sales emails always sound personalized, even if they're completely mass.

Look at an email or chat message you sent to a friend or relative, and then look at a marketing promotion in your inbox.

Read both of those messages out loud.

You'll probably notice that the message to your loved one sounds a lot more casual and uses first person ("I," "us," and "we") and second person ("you" or "your") a lot more than the marketing email.

For some reason, marketing and sales people tend to change their tone as soon as they're writing a work email, especially when it's a template.

Don't do this. It makes your message feel impersonal, and it's a dead giveaway to the reader that it's probably mass.

Instead, pick someone from your audience or buyer persona and write your email as if you were writing to them. If you're creating a template you can just remove their name and company name, and replace it with <<First>> and <<Company>>, or some other encoding that would allow you to send a mass email.

After you're done, read your email aloud to yourself and listen to how it sounds. Try to remove any jargon or language that wouldn't normally be in an email that you would send to a friend or coworker.

And if you don't do these three steps, someone might just put you on our "Cold Email Hall of Shame."