Even during the best times, B2B cold emailing is a challenge.
The modern inbox is a busy, crowded place. In fact, the average office worker gets more than 100 emails a day.
Everyone has something to offer, and most B2B companies make the same mistakes — they focus on themselves rather than the person they are contacting.
Today, you also have to contend with the COVID-19 crisis, which impacts every aspect of life for people — and businesses — around the globe.
Should your email stay professional and ignore the elephant in the room? Address it with platitudes?
Opt-out of sending sales emails completely?
The reality is, our world has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. But that does not mean that every effective sales strategy you've used is gone.
It does mean you need to adjust your current sales tactics if you want to be successful in the coming months.
What, exactly, does that mean in practical terms?
B2B cold email best practices during the COVID-19 crisis
This is a time of fear and uncertainty for many people — some folks may be personally impacted by the virus and be worried about themselves, a family member who is ill, or a loved one with underlying health concerns.
Others may be worried about their financial future or stressed about working with home with children out of school.
That means it is more critical than ever to be careful about the tone and words you use in sales emails.
Now is not the time to use news hacking to push your product — it is a time to empathize, relate, and show you are there to help.
Ready to launch your B2B cold email campaign, but want to make sure your campaign is effective — and sensitive to the current climate? Here is what you need to know.
Best practice #1: Use a catchy subject title
The first step in making a sale from a cold email is a strong first impression.
A catchy subject title creates that strong first impression, so your email stands out in a sea of over 100 other emails.
The key is to craft clickable subject lines that avoid coming across as spammy or bait and switch.
Here are three tips for creating clickable email subjects:
Keep it short: According to a study of more than 1000 email subject lines, with fewer than 60 characters. Keep in mind that longer email subjects will get cut off in many email boxes - particularly on mobile devices.
Pique interest: Creating a bit of curiosity can encourage users to click on an email they might have otherwise ignored. For example, "Meeting at 10?" is more likely to earn a click then,
"Would you like to meet at 10 for a demo?" Don't, however, use subjects that are misleading like "RE: Your order" (when they haven't placed an order) or similar. These titles might earn a click — but they won't close the deal.
Personalize emails when possible: Ideally, you want to use your contact's name— but you can take it a step further. Full Story sent this cold email to Kyle, the owner of Proposify — featuring a picture of his own website — and discussed how their tool could help. Kyle liked the email so much. He wrote about the post on his site.
Best practice #2: Keep it short and sweet
According to a study by Boomerang, an email plugin for Gmail, emails between 50 and 100 words are most likely to get a response.
Keep in mind; you don't have a relationship with this person yet — they don't want to listen to you wax poetic about the state of the world for 500 words.
That approach might work when emailing an established contact, but not for a cold email.
Best practice #3: Get personal
Personalization is the key to sales in the coming years.
And it is everywhere — brands like Netflix and Amazon suggest shows and products based on your interests, dynamic ads on Facebook can even adjust photos and ad copy based on a user's actions.
What about B2B, though? You don't always know who you are contacting — or what their interests are.
Take a look at this example from Bryan Harris, the founder of a company called VideoFruit.
The email is short, talks about how he likes the content they publish and shares a video he created for them.
Best practice #4: Yes, address the elephant in the room
Do you address the COVID-19 crisis when sending cold emails?
This is a tough question to answer, because there may be different answers for different businesses. If you sell medical supplies to businesses, then clearly, you'll address the topic head-on.
But what if you sell software or marketing tools?
The reality is, the virus is impacting the daily lives of nearly every person in the world — it is something we all have in common.
Leveraging that would be gross, so don't be that person. But avoiding mentioning a topic that is impacting so many lives can come across as disingenuous.
Here are a few don'ts to keep in mind when you are addressing the COVID-19 crisis in your sales emails:
Don't test emoticons and GIFS now. Emoticons and GIFs can be a creative way to break the tension — but if you aren't comfortable using them, now is not the time to start trying. Your efforts could fall flat at best — or come across as really insensitive.
Don't assume everyone has the same experience: Some folks may be stuck at home alone, others may be trying to juggle kids with a full-time WFH job, and others may be working outside the home and fearful of bringing the virus home.
Don't use worn-out phrases: When we don't know what to say, it might seem easier to use canned responses like "During these uncertain times" or "X in the Time of COVID." The problem is, these phrases are overused and come across as insincere.
So, what should you do?
Keep your email short, focus on how you can help their business in the current climate, and wish them well by ending your email with, "Hope your team is holding up well." or similar.
8 B2B cold email templates to use during the COVID-19 crisis
Crafting the perfect cold email is hard, even when you have a full 40 hours in the office with coworkers to bounce ideas off of.
But, there's a good chance you are working from home — or in an office with far fewer meetings and coworkers to brainstorm with.
To make your life just a little bit easier, I've created eight customizable cold-email templates you can steal — and make your own.
AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action
AIDA is not a new concept — in fact, it dates back to the 1900s! Here's an example of what an AIDA email looks like from Vimeo, a video platform:
This format is powerful because it distills the sales process down to just a few steps. Here's a template you can use (and customize) in a post-COVID 19 world:
Hi [First Name],
If you're like most [lead's role], you know how hard it can be to [deal with the problem your company solves], especially when [relevant change in the industry since COVID-19].
Our [product/service] eliminates the stress and improves this by [one-sentence pitch]. Here's what [customer ] has said about us:
[customer testimonial about the problem]
Would you like to also have [the benefit of your product]? If yes, will you email me the best time to give you a call next week?
Hope your team is staying healthy,
BAB - Before, after, bridge
What motivates you? Money, success, maybe even a fear of failure?
The BAB format focuses on harnessing the power of motivation to create a compelling sales email format that is specifically designed to trigger a response.
Before: Describe a current problem your contact is or might be facing
After: Paint a picture of what life will look like after solving this problem
Bridge: Show how your solution helps them get from before to after.
Here's an example of what a BAB cold email looks like:
This format is especially useful today when many businesses are facing challenges they couldn't' even imagine a month or two ago.
Here's a template for you to customize:
Hi [First Name],
What would you [or leads company] do if [the main benefit of your product/service — for example, growing their business during the economic downturn]?
Does that seem unrealistic right now? It doesn't have to be.
For example, [customer who saw the benefits and their results] I'm confident [your company] can get [lead's company] similar results — even during the current economic climate. Here's why: [your company's differentiator].
Would you have some free time next week for a personalized demo?
PAS: Problem, agitate, solution
Every lead has a problem that you are looking to solve.
This format works by highlighting the problem and the frustration it brings, agitating by explaining the consequences of that problem, and then provides the solution — likely your product or service.
Here's an example from Salesfolk:
And while this one is a little long (far over the 50 to 100-word limit we covered earlier), it does a great job of stating the problem, agitating the impact, and offering a solution.
Here's a customizable template for you to use:
Hi [First Name],
Is your [lead's company] struggling with [painful problem — related to COVID-19 if it makes sense]?
It's a tough issue to overcome, and something most [companies in your lead's industry] is struggling with right now. And it can cost [stat or research to agitate painful problems].
Our [product/service] helps you avoid this with [benefit /one-sentence pitch].
I'd love to show you more. Are you open to a call at [date and time] next week?
SAS: Star, arch, success
Every great story has a star — and this email format makes the most of our love of stories. Start by introducing the star — likely one of your customers, but it could also be your company.
Then, you describe the problem they faced, and then — success! Reveal how the star was able to win/save the day — using your product or service, of course.
Sound a little cheesy?
It can be — but people love stories.
When we hear stories, our brains light up — especially our frontal cortex, the part of the brain that experiences emotions. Our imaginations let us feel, smell and empathize with the star — which helps create a stronger connection.
Hi [First Name],
In the latter half of 2018, the future was looking bleak for [star person/company].
With [cause of the problem/arch] [star] needed to [get results related to your product/service].
A tough task, considering [cause of the problem/arch] — and even tougher in today's world with [problems industry is facing due to COVID-19]
So how did [star] win?
[Short sentence on the star's triumph, related to your product/service].
[Your company] specializes in [product/service that helped star win], and I realize you might be facing similar challenges right now.
I'd love to help. I created a personalized template to help you [benefit]. Can I send it to you?
Ask a relevant question.
Asking a question is a great way to pique interest — but generic questions won't do the trick.
To be effective, your question needs to be specific and relevant to your lead. It should imply your message won't require a huge time investment and promise an answer.
Hi [First Name],
Want to see how you can instantly [benefit from your product]?
I know you're busy working to [end result that your product/service helps with], and you might be working from home, so I'll make this quick.
I'm the lead [role at your company], and I've got a few suggestions to help you immediately generate some quick wins with [area your lead is working on]. Here they are:
You might not have the time, though, and that's where [your company] can help. Are you available for a quick 15-minute call next week so I can walk you through the tips and discuss this further?
You visited our website.
This is a super-simple email technique but effective.
If you use a tool like Leadfeeder, you can see who has visited your website — including what company they work for in many cases.
That gives you the opportunity to reach out with a super customized email. You already know they are at least mildly interested in your brand, which means they are more likely to respond.
Here's a template you can use to reach out, in a non-creepy way:
Hi [First Name],
You recently visited [your website], and [took this action].
[Custom message based on the action — "I hope you found the ebook interesting," or "I hope the webinar answered all your questions.", etc. ]
If you're interested in more info about [content topic/product page visited], I'd like to recommend these additional resources:
[additional resource 1]
[additional resource 2]
Our company also offers [product/service], which could help you [achieve this specific result].
Are you free for a call at [date and time] to talk about this? We, like most people, are working from home, so I am flexible — let me know if another time works best.
The recent news email
A recent news email can help break the ice and establish rapport with a new contact. This could be something related to their current business, like this example from Chris Bibey, a content specialist:
This template helped Chris book several calls — and close a deal. Not too shabby.
But, this format can also be adjusted to address THE news everybody's talking about — COVID-19.
Aim at keeping the selling angle soft — remember, everyone is dealing with this a bit differently, so you don't want to make assumptions about their reaction.
Hi [First Name],
I hope you and the [their company name] team are holding up well amidst the Coronavirus outbreak. We, like most others, are working from home and doing the best we can.
I noticed [insert link or mention site]. It's clear that your business is making an impact on the [insert industry/market].
My name is [your name], I work at [your company], and we [one-pitch sentence]. We'd like to help you [benefit your company offers] by [offer — free trial, demo, discount, etc.]
If you'd like to talk — or need anything at all, just give me a shout.
"It's up to you!"
When most people hear the term "salesperson," what do you think is the first word they think of? Pushy? Annoying? Fake?
Many salespeople don't know how to sell without annoying their prospects. Annoying people don't hit sales targets, and companies with annoying salespeople don't weather crises well.
They end up on cringeworthy lists like this one.
How do you combat this stigma and avoid making marketing blunders? By putting the ball squarely in their court.
Hi [First Name],
I just found you through your [site/social media profile].
I see that you're climbing the ranks on Google [or address another recent success], and deservedly so. I'm an [expert/job role] at [your company] and realized you could [benefit you offer] faster by implementing these 2 tips:
There's a third tip, but I don't want to overwhelm you, especially with all that is going on right now. If the first two help, let me know, and I can send the third.
If not, I understand. No hard feelings :)
Final thoughts on sending sales emails during the COVID-19 crisis
The reality is, there is no official "Post COVID-19 Sales Handbook." The world as we know it has changed in the matter of a few weeks. Many of us are still adjusting to our new normal.
Navigating sales during this time is challenging — but not impossible. Above all, aim to show empathy and offer help, rather than using hard sales tactics that will come off as tone-deaf.
Now that you're here
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