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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

August 2, 2023

In a previous post (link here) I went on a bit of a rant about how some sales people are abusing email as a medium for cold sales outreach.  In another post (link here) I went on about how some sales people are doing the same with LinkedIn.  So, I started thinking… I have a virtually endless source of material via my email inbox and LinkedIn profile, how can I turn this into something useful? 

I decided to start a series of posts called “The good, the bad and the ugly”.  My goal is to offer the following: 

  • What I like and/or dislike about the sales effort 
  • What changes I would suggest or what could have been done better 
  • Potentially some comic relief 

I am not sure that my efforts here will ever change the momentum of current sales strategies, but I am hopeful that I can at least influence some new sales professionals or possibly provide new ideas for the more seasoned pros out there.  Another potential benefit from reading these mini-rants is that they may help you sniff out a bad sales person sooner.  A bad sales person could very well be an early indicator of a bad product or company.  This isn’t always the case, but it’s certainly not a good sign. 

I think one of the more egregious outcomes of this onslaught of horrible sales hygiene is that some people actually need or could benefit from what the company is trying to sell to you.  If you are like me and can’t get passed poor assumptions, poor spelling, poor grammar and some of the other wacky mistakes in a written cold call, you will never know if the company and its product or service was a knight in shining armor or a turd.  God, the more I think about it the more I feel that I need to do this… almost like it’s my new found super power. 

Ok, let’s get started with the first victim… er.. um.. subject of my scrutiny: 

Context:

This was a pure cold email sent to me back on May 10.  I assume they chose me as the target because I am in a sales leadership role and they assume that I have a team or teams under me.  They are a small boutique company offering a variety of sales and marketing services with a focus on “growth hacking“. 

The Good and the Bad:  Stage ONE 

I was actually pulling for them on this one.  At first pass this doesn’t seem like that horrible of an attempt, however I stumbled on a few potholes while reading.   

  • “I’m owner of…” Vs “I am the owner…”  
  • “I spent 8 year working…” 
  • “Development an” 

Even if English is not your first language, you really should have someone proof read an email like this before you blast it out in mass.  I am sure that if you whip out the really fine toothed comb, you will find even more weirdness, but those were the immediate red flags.  Overall, I get what he was trying to do. He was trying to use a light hearted tone (good) to pitch what they do in a succinct way (good enough), BUT he missed one critical thing that every intro email like this should have.   

The Value Prop – some way to leave us with “what’s in it for me?” 

Sure, they have at least 8 years of experience working in BD and leading the growth of a software company, but so what?  If we judge him by his email alone… he’s not getting passed the delete key. 

How about dropping something like this:  “in my 8 years as a BD professional in the software industry, I applied some of our unique techniques and methods to achieve hyper growth at a rate of X% year over year.”  Getting a taste of what they offer is important, but teasing a quantifiable outcome is what makes me want to know how they did it. 

The Good and the Bad:  Stage TWO 

Six days later I get another email from my new friend, the Growth Hacker. 

Good: 

Waiting a week isn’t bad, I think that’s probably standard for follow up emails.  The fact that he’s trying to engage me by asking an open ended question is also good, however it’s useless if I wasn’t interested the first time.  Finally, I really like the question at the end.  By asking if there is someone else he should be talking with, he’s giving me the opportunity to get out of his line of fire and he would be gaining valuable intel if I answer. 

Bad:  

They continue with spelling and grammar mistakes. I also find his over use of the word hack(s) a bit off putting.  I understand the term growth hacking, but “hacking” by definition (especially in software) has a negative connotation and I just wouldn’t use it.  All this is pretty bad, but what do you think is the biggest “no no” in his email? 

The 60 minute assessment offer! 

C’mon man… I barely have time for a bio break and a PowerBar in a normal 12 hour day, what makes you think I will spend an hour with you if I have no idea what you really bring to the table?  So far, here is what I know about you: 

  • You did zero research on my company or my personal history (no personalization) 
  • You did not bother to proof read or edit your email(s) 
  • I still do not know why you are better than other companies out there offering similar solutions 
  • I am getting some definite international vibes here (if you care about that) 

So, no… I don’t want to give you an hour of my day, you have to earn that.   

What could have saved this attempt? 

For one, fix your damn spelling and grammar.  Next, since this is a week later and most of us have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to spam emails, he could have lead off with the value prop that he neglected in the first email.  It would have the same effect now if it was powerful and on point. 

Then, his offer for a meeting/call might have value if it was prefaced with “if I could provide (insert quantifiable value prop), would that be worth a short call to explore how it could work for you?” 

Get ready for Stage Three 

Another 6 days go by and this hits the inbox: 

I have to confess that since I started writing about this, I decided to Google the company name.  I thought it was odd that the signature block in the emails only provided the person’s name and a phone number.  No website address, physical address, etc.  Now that I have visited the website, I have indeed confirmed that the author of the email is not from the US and does have a very thick accent.  He actually has a link to a video hosted on YouTube where he gives an overview of what they do.  Honestly, I think this is a great thing to have on your website and I would have even incorporated that video link in one of my early emails if I was him.  Unfortunately, I can’t give him a pass for the spelling and grammar in the emails.  When using written text as your opener it’s absolutely imperative that you make a strong first impression.  Their website is actually pretty clean and reads well, so why not apply that same care to your emails…BOO! 

So, what’s going on with THIS email then? 

I am starting to wonder if this is part of their growth hacking strategy.  Send a series of 4 emails (yes, there is one more after this one), spaced 6 days apart and build out each email with more detail different from the last.  Even if this was truly a thing, the faults are still clearly present.  The only thing we have learned so far, is a list of bullets describing services they provide and that the email author has 8 years of experience. 

I decided to do a quick search for “Top growth hacking companies” and I found this pretty cool article: Top 40 Growth Hacking Agencies in 2023. I promise you that the company assaulting me with these emails is not one of them.  If you appreciate snappy and creative company names with cool logos and some borderline genius tag lines, you will love spending a few minutes on that link.  There is some pretty stiff competition for these poor fellows. 

The Bottom Line or TL;DR 

When you choose to write an email as your cold outreach weapon of choice, follow these bullets at the VERY LEAST: 

  • Check your spelling and grammar, read the email out loud or have someone else do it (especially if your target market is not your native language) 
  • Use a subject line that is either absolutely catchy (hard to do) or very clear on what’s inside with a slant towards “what’s in it for me” (the reader) 
  • Make it short and sweet 
  • Include a value statement – what’s in it for me, what is the one thing you want me to know if I only read that one thing? 

Extra credit: 

  • Use some form of personalization – this takes some time and is not possible in many cases when you are trying to blast through a large volume of targets.  I can’t tell you how many emails or messages I get that are so off base that I wonder if someone played a joke on them by mismatching names and companies 
  • Include measurables with your value prop (saving x money or time, increase or decrease by x%, etc) 
  • Tease a customer success story to create FOMO if you can 

I am not a self-proclaimed sales and marketing Jedi, but I do have almost 30 years of experience in this field.  Even though the technology and strategies at our finger tips are evolving, the core principals do not change.  I am also applying two different lenses to my critiques.  One is that of the experienced sales guy and the other from the perspective of the consumer. 

I am eager to learn from you as well.  Let me know if you have thoughts or ideas about what you read so far.  What would you do differently?  What did you like or dislike about the style employed by the sales person in this example? 

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com

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