B2B Sales Emails that Open Conversations with Executives

Sabrina Ferraioli

When you try to call business executives, you’re up against some substantial hurdles — gatekeepers, voicemail, caller ID and their not-a-minute-to-spare schedules. Because of these obstacles, it takes dogged persistence coupled with sales skills to start a meaningful conversation.

If you sometimes wish there was a better way, you’re not alone. So why not use email to open the door?

You may be skeptical of the approach. After all, don’t most emails end up in the trash folder? Although many sales emails are quickly zapped into electronic junkyards, some companies are highly successful in implementing cold email campaigns.

If you want to cut through the email clutter and increase your success rates, use these eight guidelines when you send your next email:

Your Goal Is to Gain a Response

First, let’s clarify your objective.

Forget about the sales mantra “Always Be Closing.” Instead of trying to close a sale you should be aiming to open a conversation. Your goal is simply to obtain a response.

Once you understand what you want to achieve, it will naturally change how you write. There’s no need to throw all of your selling points into your email to see what sticks. You just need to offer a tasty tidbit that will encourage the potential customer to have a brief conversation.

Create an Inviting Subject Line

Your first challenge is to write a subject line that arouses curiosity and encourages the executive to open your email. When you craft it:

  • Keep it short
  • Make it relevant
  • Be personal
  • Offer value

Also, you may be better off skipping the hype. Tests have shown that a subject line like “Your Qualified Leads” can outperform one like “Generate a Flood of Leads.” The subject line “Your Qualified Leads” meets the goal of relevance and brevity. While the word “your” adds a touch of personalization, you could make it stronger by substituting a company’s name.

If generating qualified leads is the burning issue on a marketing or sales leader’s mind, he or she may take a few seconds to open the email to find out whether it offers valuable information.

Keep it Short    

So you have overcome the first hurdle. The executive has opened your email. Now what?

Just like the subject line, keep the content of the email brief. That means skip the fluff. For instance, “I hope you are well,” is a throwaway sentence commonly used to start an email. (Plus, it can come across as insincere.) So skip meandering introductions and get to the point.

Get Personal and Show Value

What is the point? To show you can provide value.

Jump right in with why you are reaching out, how you obtained the individual’s contact information and your understanding of their issues.

For instance, “As the marketing leader at Automation Solutions, I thought you might be interested in learning how we’ve been helping companies that offer SAAS solutions generate qualified leads to grow their businesses.”

In just one sentence you’ve shown that you know who the individual is, and the value your company offers.

Create Credibility

Perhaps your potential customers are interested in what you offer, but why should they go to your company for help? You have to introduce your business and answer that question. For example:

“3D2B recently helped an enterprise software company generate 17,000 qualified leads. Their sales team accepted 85 percent of these leads.” To back up your claim, link to a case study on your website that provides more details.

Add a Call to Action

What do you want your recipient to do after reading your message? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that question. If you offer too many choices to the email reader, he or she is more likely not to make a decision … and do nothing.

So decide on the one action you want.

In this case, you want to have a conversation. Your next sentence could refer back to the achievement you cited, the 17,000 leads, and say: “I’d love to share with you how we accomplished this and to discuss how we might be able to help your company. Do you have time to chat tomorrow afternoon for 10 minutes?”

Supercharge Your Signature

Now it’s time to sign off. When you do, don’t lose the power of your email signature. Yes, it should include your name, title and company, but that’s not all.

What else might be of interest?

You could add a link to any of the following: Your LinkedIn profile, an e-book, or some positive press coverage. Any of these could add another dose of credibility. Plus, it’s easy to do. You can create your signature once, save it and it’s always there to use. Just update it as necessary.

Include a P.S.

Direct mail letters always have a postscript (PS). There’s a reason for that. According to the Handbook of Direct Mail by Siegfried Vogele, more than 90 percent of people “read the PS before the letter.”

Your PS is your last chance to build more trust. You may want to use it to share some good news about your company or mention a shared connection you found on LinkedIn.

Creating an email that opens conversations with executives is easier once you know the keys to success. Understand that your email’s goal is to get a response, not to close a sale. Based on that, create an attention-getting subject line and a brief, relevant email which shows how you can deliver value. Add some credibility-boosting elements, such as a quick case study, and include a call to action. Build a robust email signature and follow it with a PS. By following this prescription, you should be able to start more conversations with executives.

Sabrina Ferraioli is co-founder and VP of global sales at 3D2B. She manages a multinational sales organization, implementing new business strategies to acquire and retain customers.

Sales & Marketing Management is the leading authority for executives in the sales and marketing field.

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