Cold Sales Approaches


My current job title is Head of Digital. This means I get a lot of approaches via emails, LinkedIn messages, LinkedIn InMails and occasionally (but very occasionally) someone has found my phone number and actually phones me. Unsolicited cold sales approaches. That’s fine. That’s what you expect and shows that a lot of sales teams are working hard. I posted briefly on the subject a while back. Thought I’d expand on it. I don’t want it to stop, I want you to be better at it.

I also want people to know that it’s not all just a waste of time. Some of it is sitting waiting for me to action when we are ready.

What’s the Problem?

The problem I think is that so many of the companies doing this have automation tools to help them, they do a scrape from LinkedIn and feed it into some CRM somewhere that will run an automated targetting program. And some people are really bad at that. So you’ll get a whole ton of chasers on a standard formula with a standard timeline, designed to look like a real person is really keen on your business. Sometimes, that really is the case, Bob is really excited he can offer us a great offering and really wants to talk to us. But he’s lost in the noise of automation.

I guess there are two schools of thought around these initial sales approaches. Some people appear to be taking a carpet bombing approach. Literally everyone they can find at every company they can find that looks vaguely in the right space. Fully automated attack. Probably pays off enough through sheer weight of numbers.

Some of these are customised, with placeholder replacement, sometimes you can see the way the template was built because it’s gone wrong or is not quite right. They’re quite annoying. The volume is also high.

Other people are really doing a bunch of work up-front and working out that this is something that could work and are sending an email much more tailored to me/us. There are probably people in the middle who are doing a higher level of pre-screening and customisation.

But this adds up to a lot of emails in my inbox with sales approaches every week.

I genuinely read them all. They don’t get many seconds, and the bin ratio is really high.

So how do you get past my mental filter? (All examples here made up based on real events. I don’t even look after remarketing at work)

Getting The Basics Right

What Are You Selling?

You’d be amazed how many go straight in the bin because I’m not sure what they are selling. They’ll big up some result or other they think they can get.

Surely you want a 400% increase in revenue? Right? Can you afford to throw this opportunity away?

Just neglected to tell me what the opportunity was. What are they offering? PPC management? Some software solution that will increase conversion rate? Better organic ranking? Who knows!

I’d just like it to be clear really quickly in any outreach you do what it is you’re offering.

What Does It Do?

Also, people will neglect to mention what the service/software does!

We provide a software solution that can drive a 400% increase in revenue! Can you afford to throw this opportunity away?

How will it do this? I’m not going to look at that. No idea if it’s something we can use on any level. Is it in an area we’re weak or strong? Nope. Not enough to go on there.

We offer an automated remarketting platform, this is backed with our propitiatory software which uses user behaviour profiling to ensure we target the highest converting customers, we can increase your remarketing revenue by 400%, can you afford to throw this opportunity away?

Ah we’re getting somewhere! Right, ok remarketing is something I’ll know how well we’re doing with. Behaviour profiling using propitiatory software is something that might be able to give us an edge. I know what data feeds we already have for remarketing, maybe we can re-task them and use this. I might even reply.

What will it do for me?

Except 400% is a big number, is that something that you can grow for someone who has a really weak remarketing approach? Or is that something that you think you can get for us based on our current remarketing that you can see?

I’m happy with either approach, if that was interesting, I’d want to clarify that a bit. But, there’s a balance to be had between wasting your time doing a detailed up front analysis of how it looks like we’re performing and doing a real forecast and actually getting a decent number of prospects to pursue. I get that.

What would be really great is:

We offer and automated remarketing platform, this is backed with our propriatory software which uses user behaviour profiling to ensure we target the highest converting customers. We have achieved a 400% increase for similar business, with an initial look at your remarketing, we would aim for a 200-400% increase.

Ah great, done some work, all sounds good.

I do get really cranky when you claim to have checked our stuff and I can see you haven’t. I’ve previously been approached with a guaranteed improvement of our Largest Contentful Paint score. They had audited our site, and could show how their tool could reduce our LCP to under a certain number, that we were already WELL under.

I don’t need a huge amount of work doing up front on a speculative contact, but if there is any context you can put it into, that helps!

Did All That - Still No Reply

Ok so if you’ve actually got a decent email in, there’s a ton of reasons I might still not reply, but I won’t have deleted it.

We Have Already Got One

We may already have one of what you’re selling, we may be happy enough with it it’s not on the list to change. But, I keep the emails, because if we become unhappy, I’ve got a quick set of market research in my inbox as to who else is in that space.

I’ve ignored things for now and gone later “ah-ha I had that really great email about this!” and gone back to it months later.

Once, the sales person even still worked there! 😉

Not My Job

It might not be my area at work, remarketing for example. But, I don’t work in a jobsworth culture. If I think it’s interesting I’ll pass it over to the right person internally. They probably already got it from you though. If they don’t reach out, I’m not handing you their details, they’re not interested, sorry.

Not On My Agenda Right Now

Sometimes I might really be interested in what you have to offer, but it’s not on the agenda right now. We don’t have the resources to pursue that, it’s interesting and important to us, but other stuff has the focus right now. I file these with a reminder to come back to them. I’ve got a whole label in my inbox for AI Personalisation products!

When we’re ready, I’ll review them again and see what it is we want and who can offer it and start the replies.

And I’m not going to reply with a “Not now, maybe later” because that often ends up in a “when later” and much more chasing. Or attempts to convince me now is really the time for it. Sorry.

Automated Reminders

Ok so a bunch of people are using automated chasers. This is fine. Mostly. Please make sure it’s in the thread so I don’t have to go and find the email you were wondering if I’d had a chance to look at. If it’s not in the chain of the email you just sent, I’m really unlikely to check. I guess some people are forcing a new thread in case people are on Google for their email and have muted the conversation. If I muted the original chain, there’s no way an out of thread follow up is working.

Some people add more information that wasn’t in the original. I’m quite a fan of that, because it gives me more information. Which is good. And means the original email wasn’t too big for me to read the whole thing in a quick mail box sweep.

Reminders are helpful, there have been a few cases where I haven’t got back on something and it’s fallen out of my system and I did want to follow up.

Something for the Weekend?

There is a problem I think in society with an increasing expectation of always on. People don’t get to turn off work and take time out. It’s causing serious mental health issues, it’s an unfair expectation on employees. Hopefully we can all agree that it’s bad. Sure, there’ll be some people who’s work is their true passion and they never stop. But. Other than that…

We should be doing more as a society to protect people’s personal life from their work life.

I’ve had a fair number of sales approaches now which specifically state they know how busy I am so thought they’d try and attract my attention on the weekend while I was less busy.

This is people selling software and/or services into us for my job. They’re actively trying to push my work life into my personal time so it gets the attention they feel it deserves.

And that is a toxic behaviour I have zero tolerance for.

I know there are some “sales” roles, such as recruitment, which are forced to work weird hours to find candidates, as many of us are so busy at work we do not have time/privacy to discuss a new role during our working day. Especially those of us happy in our role. I think that’s a bit different.

Also, I know there’s a lot of community events/meet ups that happen outside of work. If I’m spending time in them and you’re in that community, that’s why I’m there. Definitely ok to approach me and see if I’m interested. Personal networking and development is important, it’s something I have chosen to invest some of my personal time in.

But a random time when you’re hoping I’m not working so that I’ll work on reading your email and dealing with the opportunity you want to offer me for work, that’s a red flag for me and I won’t deal with you.

Quick Wins?

Tell me what you’re offering, what it does. Bonus points for making it relevant. Feel free to send periodic reminders, preferably in thread.

If you’ve focussed on us specifically and done more work, you’ll shine out, but sadly, if it’s not on my current plan for the quarter, or year, I’ll still not pick up. But I’ll have a record and it’ll be in my knowledge system. So it could bubble back up when the time is right.

Thanks for reading, good luck! I couldn’t do your job!