People will tell you cold email is spammy.
People will tell you cold email is disruptive and annoying.
People will tell you that when you send cold emails, you kill that little part of your soul you wanted to keep safe and secure from the corruption of the cruel, harsh world we all live in.
But the truth is different from that.
Here’s the truth: cold email is spammy, annoying, and soul-destroying. But sometimes you have to do it anyways.
It’s not your fault. It’s the world’s fault. You’re a special, wonderful little creature, and it’s not your fault you’ve got to rustle up business somehow.
So here are the facts, bub: you’ve got to make some sales, and you’ve got to make some sales quick. That means you need to get yourself together and start sending some cold emails.
Are you ready? Me neither.
So if you’ll pick up your soft blanket, your teddy bear, and your motion sickness bag, we can get this unholy thing over with.
In this article, you’re going to find a few things:
- A guide to identifying your prospects
- Understanding your offer/customer
- Customer personas
- Building your prospect list
- A guide to contacting your prospects and getting responses
- Subject lines
- Tactics for short letters
- Tactics for long letters
- A guide to turning responses into sales.
- Keeping control of the conversation
- When to go for phone calls or Skype sessions
- How to close the sale
How does that sound?
Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s much worse.
So: put on the inspirational music, plaster on your fake smile, and come with me through the first circle of the Inferno.
Identifying Your Prospects
You want to get your business going, and that means you need to get your prospects lined up. You need to get a nice, fat list of ideal prospects all ready to hear your pitch and snap up your products or services.
How do you do this?
Well, if you’re a brain-dead numbskull and you deserve to have your brain driven in with a sledgehammer, you’ll reach for the phone book and start contacting businesses one by one.
(Yes, phone books still exist.)
If you’re a little less dumb, you’ll get a customer persona together before you even think about taking a look at your prospect list. I’ll tell you all about customer personas in just a minute, so don’t you worry yourself about that.
Once you get your customer persona together, you’ll want to go online to get your actual list together. If you’re a savvy internet-user and you’ve gotten together a good customer persona, you can take out a lot of the pain of cold emailing.
Because let’s be frank: cold emailing is nobody’s favorite method of selling. But it can be effective, and it can be quick. If you’re smart about it, you’re not going to be bothering anybody.
Put it this way: the better you get at cold email, the less you’ll feel like you’re spamming people. And this is literally true, too: because spammy emails don’t succeed.
A lot of the problem of cold email is the problem of getting out of this mind-set that you’re doing something wrong.
Ask yourself these questions if you have any doubts:
Am I selling a quality product or service?
Am I contacting people who are likely to be interested in my product or service?
Am I approaching these people in a way that makes it easy for them to choose whether or not they are interested in my business?
That’s what it takes to avoid your cold email becoming spammy. Those are the problems we’re here to solve with this article.
I want you to imagine something: I want you to imagine the kind of person you would most like to sell to. You know the kind of thing I mean.
What kind of business are they in? What kind of problems are they facing? What’s the size of their company?
That’s the image you want to have in mind while you’re identifying your prospects. That’s part of what I’m talking about when I talk about a customer persona.
The first part of getting a customer persona together is getting to know their company. You want to define the types of companies that are most likely to benefit from your service.
That’s simple enough, isn’t it? Sure it is.
What you’re doing here is setting up a list of criteria for businesses to show up on your final prospect list.
Is the company too small to get any value from your product or service? It’s off your list.
Is the company in an industry that’s outside of your niche? It’s off your list.
When you’re putting these criteria together, it can feel like you’re being a little too restrictive. But don’t worry about it: it’s better to start with a list that’s too targeted than one that’s not targeted enough.
Now that you’ve got your basic customer persona together, it’s time for the fun part: now you need to get into your ideal customer’s head. It’s important to get to know as much as possible about the kind of person you’re dealing with, so you can know how to sell to them.
You want to ask yourself questions like this:
- What kinds of problems does this person work with all day?
- What kinds of fantasies does this person have?
- What are the everyday aches and pains that this person deals with?
- What is it about my product or service that really makes it indispensable for this person?
These questions are important. These questions are crucial. Because with cold email, it’s extremely easy for you to forget you’re selling to human beings. (That’s when your emails start getting spammy.)
If you can get into your ideal prospect’s head, you’ve got a fighting chance of using your cold email tactics to reel in more sales than you thought possible.
Hunting for Email Addresses
Now, you’re ready to actually go and get your list together. Remember: as you’re making this list, you want to contact the person who is most likely to be the decision-maker.
Maybe that sounds obvious, but let me tell you this much: when you’re doing it, you’re going to feel a real temptation to cut this corner and go for the generic company email. In the moment, it feels like you’re saving time and effort.
So I want you to remember an important truth that’s served me well as long as I’ve been smart enough to know about it. It’s a little truth I like to call NEVER trust your feelings.
Now, this is going to take us a little far afield, but I think it’s worth emphasizing: your feelings have never, and will never lead you anywhere you want to be. Let’s be honest: if you listened to what your feelings told you, wouldn’t you be lying in bed all the time crying your eyes out and eating ice cream?
(I mean that seriously. It’s a serious question. Am I the only person on Earth who feels like that all the time?)
So if you want to make it anywhere in life, you stuff those feelings deep, deep, deep down where you can resolve them healthily sometime long after you’re dead.
Now back to the point. You’re going to want to contact someone who is:
- A decision-maker capable of hiring you.
- In a company that fits your ideal customer profile.
- At a personal business address.
Once you’ve found the address you’re using, you’re going to want to list it on a nice spreadsheet so you can keep track. You can think of them as your hit list. You can think of yourself as the Eighth Air Force, and this is the list of targets you need to bomb.
Or you can just take that list and act like they’re a bunch of contacts you’ve got to email. It’s up to you.
If you’re wondering how many emails you need to send, I’d say you can’t come up short if you get a list of about seven billion prospects. The more the better. Remember: in world domination cold email, your business is to make everyone in the world bow down and worship you aware of your services.
So put it this way: make sure you’ve got enough prospects to be statistically significant. I can’t tell you what that means, because I’ve never taken a statistics class, but I can tell you it doesn’t mean making a list of ten people.
See what you can get done in an afternoon. It’s an iterative process, you know?
How to Make Contact
Anyways, so now that you’ve got your hit list all lined up, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to take care of them. You’ve got to imagine yourself as Lee Harvey Oswald just about to pull the trigger or Donald Trump with his finger on the big red button.
Or whatever works for you.
You’ve got to write up your letters, no matter how you think of it. Writing your letters is the fun part of the process because it’s where you make sure you can really jive with the people you’re selling your services to. You want to make sure you’re on the same page, and that you can get along with this person.
So that means you need to write a letter that does two things:
- Makes them curious about your offer.
- Makes them want to reach out to you.
- Compels them to open up their wallets and give you all their money.
- Drives them to tell all their friends and business acquaintances about your amazing service.
There are two ways of doing this: I like to call them the short letter and the long letter.
(Word to the wise: never write a medium-length letter. It’s bad form, it’s disgusting, and it’s outlawed by the Geneva Convention.)
Anyways, let’s get to fundamentals and execution, okay?
Tactics for the Short Letter
The short letter is very short. If your letter is longer than 100 words, you’re getting too long. You want to aim for something in the neighborhood of 30-50 words, full of punch.
You want to use simple sentences. Should you ask rhetorical questions? You should ask rhetorical questions.
Should you make sure the reader feels an overwhelming need to get back to you? You should make sure the reader feels an overwhelming need to get back to you.
How do you do that? Simple. You ask some questions that draw out your recipient’s imagination. He or she should feel compelled to wonder what your message is about.
What am I saying here? I’m saying you don’t spell out why you’re contacting them. You let them figure it out. You write something like:
I really like your website, first off. You’ve got a great setup, and I think the product descriptions really let me know why I might consider the Acme Stretching Rack for all my inquisitorial needs. You don’t always see that kind of family-friendly atmosphere around dungeon equipment, you know?
Anyways, I was wondering if you could do me a favor. My name is Geofrey Crow, and I’m a writer with Crow Copywriting. Could you help me get in touch with someone who can talk to me about content marketing?
This is a little on the long side for a short letter, but you see the basic moves here. With the short letter, the whole point is to prompt a response from the reader.
You’ll especially want to look at the end. Now, we’ve already taken care to make sure the reader is likely to be our decision-maker, but we’re not approaching him or her in a salesy way. We’re just asking if they’ll help us get in touch with the decision-maker.
Another point you’ll want to notice is that we haven’t said we’re trying to sell anything. The reader can definitely figure it out from reading it, of course—never forget that your reader’s a smart person. But we haven’t said it, and that means we’re not pushy.
It also means the only people who will respond will be a self-selected bunch who is at least a little bit interested. And that means everything when it comes to our sales cycle.
Tactics for the Long Letter
Now, the long letter is like the short letter, except everything is different.
Instead of aiming for a start to the process, with a long letter you aim to make the whole sale all at once. That means you’ve got about a million things to do, and there’s no way I could possibly cover them in this little section. But I’ll try to give you the basics right here.
With the long letter, your goal is to create something that beats your prospect over the head with how wonderful and valuable your offer is that they feel compelled to capitulate and buy your offer.
It’s about making your offer so desirable and so low-risk that they won’t be able to contain their enthusiasm. It’s about strapping them to the hospital bed and pumping them with an IV full of so much value they beg to be allowed to buy your offer. It’s about demonstrating what you can do with such force and such strength that they can’t help but feel that they need to put your offer to work for them.
When you do this, you’ve got two main things you’re working on: 1) you want to generate buying desire, and 2) you want to lower the fear of purchasing.
Those are important, but there’s one thing you want to do above all else: you want to command your reader’s attention. You want to have your prospect wrapped around your finger. You want them breathlessly holding on to every single word you’ve written.
People are always talking about how hard it is to get attention these days, but they’re barking up the wrong tree. No wonder it’s hard for them to get attention when they’re writing the same boring old drivel that makes you want to throw up.
(And have you ever tried writing that awful stuff? It’s worse than driving silver needles through your hands.)
So when people talk about the attention economy, there’s nothing to worry about. The fact is, you don’t want the whole world to pay attention. You want your ideal customer to pay attention.
Because the really wonderful thing is when you’ve got that attention. When someone’s tuned in to your message just right. When it’s not just some message you dreamed up because some marketer told you it was a good idea, but it was actually your message.
When you can command attention like that, you can close the sale.
How to Close the Sale
Now, with the long email you’re working an entirely different cycle, so I’ll have to tell you something about that some other time. With the short email, your sales cycle begins as soon as you get a response.
Usually it’s going to be something lukewarm, like, “Well, we’re glad you contacted us. Maybe you could send us a portfolio and we can see if we’d work well together.”
That’s not a bad answer to get. It’s an answer you’re going to get a lot. In fact, it’s an answer you’re going to get so often that you’ll probably want to come up with a semi-standard response.
As you move through the sales cycle, you’ve got to define your goals. You need to map out an ideal email exchange. You’ll want to know things like:
- How are you going to take control of the exchange? (i.e., How are you going to frame your questions leading to the sale?)
- How are you going to ramp up your prospect’s desire for your offer?
- How are you going to lower the prospect’s buying resistance?
- How are you going to make the transition into closing?
So if your first goal is to take control of the exchange, you’re going to have to figure out why your prospect is going to want to buy your service in the first place. You want to go after some particular pain points, and you want to fasten on them.
Now, unless you’ve got a really perverse love of confrontation, you’re going to have to work yourself up in order to get this done. Because the fact is: everybody hates selling. It’s the reason the people who are good at it make so much.
Because let’s be honest: no matter how great the product or service you’re selling, there are moments when it’s going to feel manipulative. You’re going to feel slimy and weird, and you’re going to hate every minute of it.
You’ll wonder why I’m saying that in a guide to cold email selling. I’m telling you that because I’ve seen other people peddle a lot of doublethink about how “if you’re uncomfortable with selling, it must be because you don’t believe in your product.”
That’s a load of bunk, first off.
The best salesperson in the world didn’t love selling when they started out. But here’s the thing: with time, and effort, and a lot of practice, they got better at it. Eventually they got good enough at it that they started enjoying it.
It’s a little like learning to enjoy coffee, or beer, or chewing on rocks till your teeth grind away. Email selling might sound like an unbelievable nightmare right now, but with practice you’ll be able to do it. And once you start succeeding, it’s easier to continue succeeding.
Just remember: the beginning is the hardest part of any process. If you can make it through the beginning, you can make it through the rest of the process. It’s a matter of grit and determination.
Phone Calls and Skype Sessions
And speaking of grit and determination, it’s time to mention the only things worse than selling via email: selling via phone, Skype, or (horror of horrors!) face to face. We all know you started a business because you wanted to avoid human contact for the rest of your natural life. What’s with all these prospects who want to actually interact with you?
Well, I’ve got a simple solution to that: tell them you’re dead. You’ll never hear from them again after that.
Much as I hate to say it, you’re probably going to have to show your face to your customers at some point.
Now, I know this is like pulling teeth, but you might even want to suggest those meetings yourself. Granted, you’ll probably rather smash your head under a tractor trailer’s wheels, but it’s what you need to do.
If they’ve expressed some interest but they’re still not buying, there’s probably part of them that thinks you’re a slobbering caveman who’s trying to land them in a Nigerian prince scheme.
(Now, of course the fact that they think that about you makes you so angry that you want to get your hands around their throats and let them have it. But you just have to accept it. It’s what people think. Just fill your little voodoo doll full of needles and get over it.)
Just remember: everybody hates business meetings. The person on the other side of the Skype screen is dreading it just as much as you are.
So as long as you can remember that, it means you’re dreading it just a little less than them. And if you can dread it a little less, you can force yourself through the process to the sale. Remember: you’re responsible for everything, if you fail to make the sale it’s entirely your fault, and if you don’t manage to make sales your entire business will die horribly.
But no pressure though. Remember: confidence is key.
How to Make the Close
Making the close is a matter of following through with the momentum you’ve built up from your masterful treatment. You’ve worked yourself into all your customer’s pain points, you’ve met all their objections, and you’ve demonstrated the massive value of your product or service.
Things are going pretty well. That means you’re ready to close the sale. How do you do that?
For starters: you ask for it. You (as in you) have to ask the prospect (as in the prospect) to agree to the sale. There are plenty of ways to do that, so don’t worry.
Here’s the thing you have to remember: if you’re far enough along that you can make an ask without immediately getting shut down, you’re getting close. So ask early and ask often.
Remember: you have to do this. I know there’s a part of you that’s thinking, “Oh please for the love of God and all his angels, don’t make me do this! I’d rather die than do this!”
Every time that thought strikes you, I want you to imagine something: I want you to tell yourself that if you back off now you’ll be the sorriest, lousiest, most pathetic piece of trash that ever deserved to get shoveled off to pollute the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a matter of pride. You have to push yourself through the sequence.
Because in a way it’s not even about the sale. The sale is the dopamine rush at the end. The sale is the reward. But the sale isn’t really what it’s about, psychologically speaking.
What’s it about? It’s about being willing to push yourself through something you hate. It’s about facing that craven, cowardly, submissive part of your soul and doing all you can do to kill it. It’s about willingly putting yourself under the massive psychological pressure that goes into closing the sale.
In the end, selling isn’t about the sale. It isn’t even about the money.
It’s about self-respect.
Conclusion: Remember it’s an Iterative Process
I know you might be thinking this article turned out to be less of a how-to guide on cold selling than a pep talk on forcing yourself through it.
And you know what? You’re exactly right.
Because cold email selling isn’t complicated. I can let you know the basics, but the basics really aren’t the important thing. The important thing is committing to mastering the process and getting it done.
You’re going to send out a lot of emails before you master the process. You’re going to get told NO! more times than you’ll want to count before you master the process. You’re going to get told no more times than you’ll want to count even after you master the process.
The techniques are easy to describe, but they’re tough as nails to master. Mastering the process is a matter of forcing yourself through it, again and again and again.
You need to learn the selling process so well you can go through it in your sleep.
You need to kill that part of yourself that wants everybody to like you. The part that thinks it’s going to die if one person doesn’t approve of you.
You need to take your mind and turn it into a hammer with one purpose: to drive the value of your offer into your customer’s mind.
Remember: it’s a mental game, and winning the game is a matter of practice, persistence, and an absolute dedication to holding yourself to a high standard.
You can’t worry about things like seeming “salesy” or being “pushy.” When you go in to sell, you’re facing two possibilities: when you walk out of that room, either you’ve made the sale, or you’re going to be figuring out why they said no.
That means you have to force yourself through the whole process every time. You don’t have the option of leaving a customer alone after they say, “Maybe.”
Maybe means you haven’t sold them yet. Maybe means they haven’t said no yet. Maybe means you have to keep going, because you can’t allow yourself to take maybe for an answer.
Now go make sales. Let me know if you have any questions.