While in Canada e-mail has been neutered by our supposedly business-friendly Prime Minister, in other parts of the free world, e-mail continues to be an effective way to initiate engagement with new potential buyers.  And while some may be shaking their head in disbelief, done right it contributes to prospecting success, but as usual, it’s down to what and how – the execution.

The first thing is defining success. Many believe that success is the prospect calling you back and asking “where do I buy?” But remember “Prospects are Created – not Found”; e-mail plays a role in that creation. In an environment where it could take 8, 9, 10 or more attempts to get a response from a potential buyer, a good e-mail can be a good touch point and lead to an initial contact, then engagement, purchase, relationship, kids, divorce, and all over again.

But let us approach as we would going for the Holy Grail, a cold prospecting e-mail that leads to engagement. What are the three crucial elements?

  1. The Subject Line

  2. The Body of the Message

  3. The Close

Do all these well and you have a shot. Miss the mark on one and you’re beat.

In light of the fact that most e-mail these days will be viewed on a handheld device, we’ll present things from that standpoint. The good news is that if you do the mobile e-mail right, it also translates to success for those reading it on a desktop or tablet.

1. The Subject Line

If the party you are writing does not know you, the Subject Line becomes the first point of triage. It will determine whether they open it, save it for later reading (yeah, later, OK), or just delete it at the speed of light. As a result you have two choices, you can mix them up, see if you see a pattern based on role, industry or other factors.

First method, not mine but based on a study of some 30 million e-mails, suggests having nothing in the Subject Line. Nothing or ‘RE:’ followed by nothing. In some ways it makes sense – human curiosity drives people to bring down the thumb to find out.

But my preferred method takes this further and drives the two elements that follow. I like to use the final call to action, The Close, element 3, as the Subject Line. So if at the end of your e-mail you propose a call Friday at 2:30 pm, then use that as the Subject Line, but add a question mark at the end.

Subject: Call Friday at 2:30?

The natural instinct is to see if you had in fact forgot a call, or scheduled one in error, or if your admin had put something in that you missed. The effect is the same “Did I miss something, let me check this out, let’s take a look.” Leading us to element 2.

2. The Body of the Message

The body needs to have two must things, first brevity, second no fat. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being brief. Two lines at most. I want you to be guided by the “Two Flicks of the Thumb Rule.” The first flick is to scroll down once; the second is either “reply” or “delete”, which is why we have no room for fat.

The best way to achieve that is to include and highlight only those things that speak to the prospect. Nothing about you, nothing about your company, just how you can help them deliver against their objectives. This is harder than it sounds, because as sales people are geared to talk about their value prop, and other irrelevant things.

Based on your research, previous experience, and those things you learn from 360 Degree Deal View,  identify a specific impact or outcome you can deliver based on your assessment of their objectives, and speak to that.

“I am writing to schedule a call to share with you how we helped Close Competitor Inc., add an additional service call for each of their trucks on a daily basis, leading to an 8% increase in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets…”

Which brings us to the third element.

3. The Close

The close is your call to action, the ask from the call, and as we know from the Subject Line, it is a call Friday at 2:30 pm. So, continuing from element 2:

 “…leading to an 8% increased in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets. I will call you for an introductory call Friday at 2:30.

Thank you,
Alfred E. Neuman”

The important thing to remember is that this e-mail may be one of a number of touch points, and it is important that it is planned in context of a complete pursuit plan. If this e-mail is the first contact, what will follow, if you had phoned prior, how does this e-mail fit in? The specific version above is geared as a first prospecting e-mail, if you had called and sent a previous e-mail, you will need to vary it.

But for first mails, with a realistic expectation that there will need to be more touch points in the process of creating a prospect, this is a good start.