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The subject line of the email asked a grammatically dubious question: "Should I speak to, Jim?" The ploy is designed to get someone to engage with the salesperson, something that technically works, but at far too great a cost. Before explaining the problems and challenges that come with terrible prospecting approaches like this one, it will help you to see the content of the email:

"Are you the appropriate person to discuss SEO at Company Name? My research shows that your company has 719 terms ranked on pages 2-10 of Google. Your company can take advantage of our services to achieve a first page ranking for all relevant branded and non-branded keywords. Through our partnership with, Big Company Name, Other Big Company Name, and Giant Company Name rank for more search keywords than conventional internet advertising campaigns without breaking the bank. Would you be interested in learning more??"


Once Size Does Not Fit All

Let's leave aside that the salesperson, or more likely the author of the pre-packaged marketing sequence, is pitching straight out of the gate. Pitching early and often is the preferred approach for those who are unable or unwilling to create value before making an ask, a relic of the legacy approach to sales.

Much of what now passes as prospecting amounts to spam, using a spray and pray approach that professional salespeople and sales organizations abandoned more than a decade ago. The tremendous activity they expended to reach contacts and companies that have no need and even less interest didn't improve their results. Yet, because technology allows anyone to spray and pray on a much larger scale, we find ourselves overrun by the increasing spam.

The first problem with the email is that it asks if I am the "appropriate person to discuss SEO at my company?" In my experience, decision-makers rarely find value in qualifying questions. You could safely delete that question, even though HubSpot suggests that your emails do ask a question. As Yogi Berra once said, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is."

The second problem may be worse. The email continues by noting that my company has 719 terms outside the coveted first page on Google. Instead of telling me I have 719 keywords on pages 2-10 of Google, they could have informed that three of those keywords have high traffic and that it would be easy to move those three to page one. But that, of course, would require learning something specific about me and my company.

By the way, this company’s use of SEO as a sales strategy evidently isn't providing them with enough new business. They don't believe it's important to their company, as their website shows up on the fourth page of a search for SEO services. If your promise is to get your clients ranked for keywords on the first page of Google, you want to make sure your company is ranked on the first page of Google.


Trust Trumps Engagement

The legacy approach insists that you talk about other companies when communicating to your prospects, something that is supposed to create credibility and trust. In this case, the company’s self-centered approach eliminated any trust I might have given them, and list of big, well-recognized logos will get that trust back. Literally none of your contacts care about the work you’ve (allegedly) done for other companies—they want to know what you can do for them.

After I kindly replied to the salesperson, something I try to do as a professional courtesy, his next pitch was almost instantaneous: "We would love to conduct a detailed website audit for Solutions Staffing and identify variables that influence your websites ranking on Google. Would Tuesday at 2 PM be suitable for a quick chat?" Before I could even type a response, another email arrived from the same company, this time with my name in the subject line.

This approach is problematic because the subject line forces engagement. The more you have to force engagement instead of letting it emerge organically from a valuable conversation, the more you prove that your approach is not designed to help your client. Like a foot-stomping toddler, you broadcast that you want what you want and you want it now—and you’re just not cute enough to get away with that trick anymore. Anger and desperation do not make for a pleasant prospective client experience.

The salesperson is not to blame for this clumsy, asinine approach to prospecting. His company and his sales and marketing leaders are at fault. They are not doing anything to help the salesperson create actual engagement.

Three Prospecting Principles

  1. Never do anything that might call your character into question or violate your contact’s trust. By blanketing your market with spam and using subject lines designed to force engagement, you show your prospective client just how poor your company’s values are.
  2. Before you send an email, ask yourself if the email will be valuable for the person receiving it. There is no reason to send sales emails that don't create value. "If you want to reach me, teach me." Instead of finding ways to create value for their prospective clients, spammers just see them as giant moneybags, a transactional approach that makes it impossible to sell in a crowded market.
  3. Everyone wants to go to Heaven; nobody wants to die. You must pay for the results you want through effort, caring, resourcefulness, and persistence. Most of the technological approaches to prospecting are used to avoid exerting the first three traits, leaving only a brute-force imitation of persistence—the kind that prompts recipients to mark your email as spam.


Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 25, 2021

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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