Conversational foreplay


How do you approach the first contact with a potential customer or prospect? Do you just jump right in and start making your pitch or do you actually take the time to introduce yourself and your company?
Most good sales reps spend a little time socializing with prospects before they launch into the sales process, particularly when they are cold calling the target. This courtesy doesn’t seem to apply when cold emailing a prospect, though.
I can only imagine how Al might have reacted differently if Douglas Karr had sent a personal contact and introduced himself instead of sending out bulk mail. I know for a fact I would have reacted very differently to the email sent to my LinkedIn account address had it been even vaguely personalized and interested in me.
We even have ESPs getting into the sending cold email game. A reasonably well know ESP added me to their mailing list and sent me an advertisement for a free service they’re providing at Marketing Sherpa this year. I was grumbling about spam to a group of friends, one of whom happens to be their delivery guy. He asked for a copy and spent time chasing down how they got the address.
Evidently I sent mail to the privacy manager who left the company over 2 years ago. That puts me in the “prospect” database. Well, OK, maybe. But there are some many better ways to reactivate a prospect than just adding me to their newsletter. Would it really have taken so much work to send me a personal note from the sales person? It doesn’t have to be very long, just introducing the sales person and telling me they’d seen my inquiry about product and asking if they could talk to me about their offerings.
Had this ESP spent a little time to cultivate me, my response would have been totally different. I could have referred customers to them and given them the name of the sales person that was so helpful and respectful of me and my time. That’s not what they did. In a fit of insouciance they just grabbed a 2+ year old email address and added it to their mailing list. They didn’t bother to tell me why or introduce it to me gently.
Seriously, folks, email is about relationships. Adding someone to a mailing list without their knowledge or permission is a really, really bad way to start a relationship. Show a little respect to your prospects. Send welcome messages, even an automated one, before adding just discovered prospect addresses to mailing lists.

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  • Laura I couldn’t agree more. Email is relational, but some people choose the easy way out by hiding behind an automated system.
    If people started talking to people through email rather than talking “at” people, than email could be an even more effective tool.

  • I know I’ve already asked you this in private, but perhaps your readership will also have interesting answers: if a professional in the email space sends spam, how is that not the sort of termination offense that would get mentioned in the company’s new hire packet? I mean, if I call the Dominos to order a pizza, and the guy who answers the phone says “Don’t buy a pizza from us, they’re terrible”, or if I walk into a Ford dealership and the salesman says “Don’t buy one of our cars, they’re junk”, how long are those guys going to be working there once their bosses find out?
    Someone in the business of sending email professionally who sends spam has just told the world that their company is bad at what they do. How is it possible that this has happened more than once?

  • Excellent piece!
    I really don’t have anything of value to add, but I just wanted to voice my agreement :).

  • Cultivation of a prospect often appears too much hard work for marketers who all have short term KPIs. Too many bosses who set the targets based on financial requirements don’t care about the consequences of prospects’ poor experience of the brand. I like the way that ISPs are introducing more ways to give senders a reputation, this is creating more consequences for senders to motivate them to start respecting their recipients, whether they are spending money with them or not.
    Another great article Laura, Thanks

By laura

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