How to Make a Bad First Impression Over Email
- Use a boring or misleading subject line
- Tell them how lucky they are to speak to you
- Remind them you're a stranger
- Refer to vague connections
- Take your time getting to the point
- Say their name execessively
- Sound desperate
- Never veer from the template
Do you start every day wondering how to make a bad first impression on your prospects? Of course you don’t. But when you’ve used the same email templates and “best practices” for a while, you might not notice your introduction is turning prospects off.
It’s a small piece of your outreach strategy but one of the most important. Your introduction is the best time to set yourself apart from the competition and offer immediate value to your prospect.
So, take a few minutes and make your email introductions shine. To help, I’ve pulled together eight ways not to introduce yourself over email, along with a few suggestions on what to say instead.
8 Ways to Make a Wildly Negative Impression Over Email
1. Start with a boring or misleading subject line
Don't do this: Want to turn your prospects off before they know who you are or what you do? Use subject lines like “Just following up,” “Referral from [mutual connection],” or simply “Meeting Request.”
Really want to throw them for a loop? Send them a, “Re: [title of last email you sent],” even if they never replied the first time. Because, you know what they say, “If at first they don’t open your email, keep sending 'em until they do.”
Try this instead: Breathe life into your prospect’s inbox with subject lines that pique their interest and make them laugh. Ask questions like, “Can I help you leave the office 10 minutes earlier?” or “Are you working towards a promotion?” that provide a benefit to the audience. If you’re local hook them with “Happy hour on me?”
These subject lines can still be templated, but they’re more interesting and make a better first impression.
2. Tell them it’s their lucky day
Don't do this: By all means, tell your prospect how grateful they should be that you’ve waltzed into their inbox. Oh, and once you’ve introduced yourself and explained at length what your company does, make the rest of the conversation all about you, your clients, and your company -- and how much your prospect stands to benefit from your service (if they’re smart, of course).
Try this instead: Instead of making prospects Google, “How to delete an email faster than humanly possible,” acknowledge your prospect’s busy schedule and thank them for hearing you out.
Use phrases like, “You’ve done a great job growing [insert team, company, or initiative],” “I’d love to learn more about how you got there,” and “I’ve helped companies with similar accomplishments grow in X ways.”
By focusing on your prospect’s accomplishments instead of your own, and asking to learn more about their successes, you’ve made the conversation about them. And everyone is more interested in participating in conversations about themselves.
3. Remind them how much of a stranger you are
Don't do this: Opening emails from people you’ve never met is enough of a minefield. Don't be the salesperson who rewards those intrepid enough to click through by reminding them they're a stranger who scraped the underworld of the internet to find a second- or third-degree connection in common.
Phrases like, “I know we haven’t met,” “Congratulations on the recent promotion,” or “I noticed you like skiing in your free time,” point out the artificial nature of your outreach and do nothing to advance the conversation or sale.
Try this instead: Lead with publicly shared information. For example, if your prospect’s a social media marketer whose company has just been acquired, say, “I read about your company’s recent acquisition by XYZ Corporation. Congratulations! I’d love to learn how that’s shifting priorities/pain points for your paid social team.”
Then say, “Usually when companies like yours are acquired, goals, messaging, and measurements are realigned. I’ve helped a few similar companies move past those challenges …”
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve met before, because you haven’t used obscure personal information to build a fake connection. Instead, you’ve immediately presented authentic value to your listener.
4. Throw a vague third-degree connection under the bus
Don't do this: You know the kind. They go something like, “Hello Dan. I noticed we both have second cousins who went to the Metropolitan Community College of Pawhuska 15 years ago,” or "I saw we both use the same tax accountant and thought you might be interested in ..." These are not connections, these are desperation incarnate.
Try this instead: If you really have a referral or close connection, ask that person to introduce you to your prospect over email. If your connection is someone you met at a happy hour three years ago, try an approach like we've discussed in the points above.
Forget about using the weak “mutual acquaintance” in favor of sharing the benefits you can bring to your prospect’s business.
5. Wait until paragraph three to tell them why you’re reaching out
Don't do this: Your prospect doesn’t need a two-paragraph history of your company, and they don’t really need to know your name or what you do. They can Google your company and find your name and job title in the email signature.
Try this instead: Don't tell them what your company does, explain how your company can help. For example, say, “I’m also a member of the Tulsa SaaS Engineers group on LinkedIn and I noticed your comment about struggling to recruit product engineers in the area. I know that’s a challenge for many Tulsa tech companies, and I’ve helped several of them increase their applicant pool 25%.”
You’ve gotten straight to the point and made the conversation interesting for your prospect. You’ve also introduced how your company can help and who you are in a much more relevant way.
6. Say their name again, and again, and again
Don't do this: “You know, Elena, I really admired your recent blog article on marketing tools. Elena, what if I told you I have one tool to rule them all? It’s true, Elena …” Do you feel like reaching through your computer and slapping me in the face? That makes two of us.
Try this instead: When in doubt, speak conversationally. Repeating your prospect’s name will only remind them they’re reading an email from a salesperson. Use their name as pepper, not salt -- and sparingly refer to it throughout the conversation. You've only got one chance to make a first impression, make sure it's not a sleazy one.
7. Sound desperate and mildly threatening
Don't do this: If your pipeline is in such rough shape that even your introductory email sounds desperate it might be time to rethink your approach to selling. Phrases like, “I don’t want you to miss out on such a great offer,” or “Smart HR managers like yourself are already using this product,” are insulting and presumptive.
Try this instead: These are bold assumptions to make before you’ve even spoken with someone over the phone. They also imply your prospect is somehow lesser without your all-powerful solution, and that’s not the impression you want to give. You want to be an aid to the already great work they’re doing.
Once you’ve explained how you can help, say, “If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, feel free to grab time on my calendar here,” and include a link to your meetings tool.
Or say, “I’ll follow up by phone tomorrow to answer any lingering questions you might have.” This reminds your prospect they’re in charge of the situation and avoids belittling the work they’ve done successfully without your product/service.
8. Never veer from your template
Don't do this: We all recognize a stale email template when we see one. It tells us the salesperson doesn’t really care about our pain points, goals, or business. They care about a number -- that’s it.
Try this instead: Templates are a crucial part of a salesperson’s workflow. You can’t conduct the volume of outreach you need without them. But that doesn’t mean you should sound like a robot (or trendy Droid).
Instead of simply swapping in a prospect’s name and job title, create different email templates for specific outreach use cases. And vary more than just the basic details. Here’s an example of a droid-like email template:
I really enjoy your blog. I’m reaching out because I’ve helped businesses like yours increase blog traffic by 35% in as little as two months, and I think I could do the same for you.
I’d love to tell you more about how [company name] can help. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please let me know.
It’s vague, impersonal, and forgettable. Here’s an example of a template that’s been varied a bit more:
I read your recent blog, [insert blog title], and was totally hooked. I especially liked your line about [insert relevant line]. I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while. It’s such a great resource for [industry type].
I’ve actually helped several companies like [company name] increase blog traffic by 35% in as few as eight weeks. They’re similar to you in [list 2-3 ways your clients are like this prospect], so I think you could achieve similar results.
If you’re interested in learning more, grab some time on my calendar here: [link to meetings tool]. Thanks for your time.
This template is reusable for other blogging prospects and detailed enough you can make each email authentic and personalized. Which one would you rather receive?
All kidding -- and GIFs -- aside, salespeople want and need to send emails prospects open, read, and respond to. You can’t do that with old templates or sleep-inducing subject lines.
At least once a quarter, take a few minutes to review your email introductions and try a new approach. You might be surprised at what a small tweak can do.