Cold Email Hall of Shame: Over-Selling

I've got a folder in my inbox labeled 'bad cold emails' (don't worry- I have another for good emails too, but I have to admit it's much slimmer). I hang onto copies of each because they are excellent real-life examples to learn from.

Since most people enjoy breaking down the train wreck of a bad email (for the purposes of knowledge, no disrespect to the sender here!), we're going to start with a real doozie.

Now, there are many issues concerning the fine details of this email, including some with grammar and English language, but for the sake of efficiency, let's focus on the main elements that strike it down from getting replies.

Here it is in all it's over-selling glory. Let's learn from it!

Mistake #1: Referencing a failed attempt to reach someone

Real quick- what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone starts a cold email with a line about how they haven't been able to reach you?

If you’re like most people, the answer is “if I didn't answer you before, there must have been a reason”. Starting out a cold email this way often backfires miserably by reminding people they've already decided not to talk to you.

Mistake #2: Jumping to sell your service

How many of us buy in a B2B setting directly off the first email? It’s possible, but highly unlikely. So then why do cold emails try so hard to sell? It makes no logical sense, yet it’s an extremely common practice.

A more successful strategy is to lead with an understanding of your audience. What are their goals? What are their pains? Draw them in by talking about what matters most in their world.

Mistake #3: Feature-dumping

We’ve discussed that it’s not helpful to try to sell over cold email, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mention some value you offer. When it’s properly introduced by putting your audience’s needs first, a short and simple value prop can really pique interest.

This email takes a giant leap further and spills out a list of features I’m never going to read.

Ok... so I did read it, but only for the purpose of this post. It's peppered with meaningless jargon like ‘full-fledged PDLC’ and points that don't matter to me like ‘co-development’.

Mistake #4: Buried call-to-action

Has anyone figured out precisely what this email wants me to do?

It’s in there, but you’ve got to dig for it. Hidden deeply within this pile of sales debris is a request that our cold emailer wants me to follow.

Getting to it is like a ‘Where’s Waldo’ of cold email for two reasons:

1) There is no change to the format.

In the center of the last line, the sender asks "does 10 am on Wednesday your time works for you?"

English issues aside, if I were to skim over this email as most people would, I'd miss what he wants me to do. To get your CTA noticed, try isolating it on its own line. Also make sure to bold and underline times and dates to make them stand out.

2) The call-to-action is not concise or direct.

The entire CTA reads: "It would be great if we can have a quick discussion, Does 10 am your time on Wednesday works for you? If not, please suggest me your available time, I will send the call invite upon your confirmation."



Sorry, I think I fell asleep there for a moment.

In all seriousness, this CTA skirts around what's being asked. When you really, really want someone to do something, how would you ask for it? Probably not like this. Be clear, be concise, imagine that your readers have a million other things on their minds (because they do!).

Over-selling is the main mistake in this email. Many readers likely won't notice the rest because they won't take the time to get that far. But by understanding what went wrong in this example, we can all make our cold emails more appealing to readers and get ourselves some exciting replies!

Learn to Write Copy that Converts

©2020 Farren Neu


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