When you start a business relationship by sending your prospective client an email, you are providing them the easiest possible way to avoid communicating with you, whether by not responding or simply deleting your message without ever reading it. The delete key is always at the ready, eliminating anything that isn't valuable enough to command the reader’s attention. When anyone and everyone can fill up your inbox with useless messages at the (automated) drop of a hat, you have to be ruthless. But when your contacts click delete, you’re missing a vital part of prospecting: hearing them say “no.”

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Valuable Spam is Still Spam

The quality of your email matters little when your contact receives dozens of emails from salespeople and sales organizations each day, thanks to the automated sequences that allow a Chief Marketing Officer to set up a campaign sequence, sit back, and just let it run. Your perfectly crafted email that should be valuable to your client resembles so many other unsolicited emails it is automatically suspect and is moved to the trash along with the others.

In fact, one of my email addresses regularly deposits sales emails in the spam folder, even though I haven't marked them as spam. As of 4:30 this morning, it had already consigned five sales emails to that fate, whether they were penned by algorithms or actual salespeople. I am not an expert on computer technology, but my hunch is that once a given message is marked as spam, similar messages get moved out of my inbox automatically. But despite these and other problems, email seems to be the dominant choice for prospecting.

Avoiding Rejections is Avoiding Sales

Some people with sales titles prefer the "no" they never have to hear. They want to believe they're prospecting, but they limit themselves to mediums that let the client painlessly reject their request for a meeting. These sensitive types, who often believe that their contact is rejecting them personally, prefer to make sales as impersonal as possible. They’re usually the same people who ask their phone-using colleagues, "How do you deal with all the rejection?"

The truth is that most contacts are concerned that a meeting won't be valuable and will be a waste of their time. On the phone, this requires a few seconds of conversation. But rather than type a reply to every salesperson that accosts their inbox each day, they simply hit delete, preventing the salesperson from offering a rebuttal or making their case for how the contact will benefit from a meeting.

Avoiding rejections to your meeting request is not a good decision. You want to hear your client say "no." In fact, Andrea Waltz and Richard Fenton would have you "go for no," counting and collecting them—and booking meetings along the way.

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Prospecting Involves Hearing Your Client Say “No”

When asking for a meeting, I much prefer to hear "that time works perfectly for me." But short of booking a meeting, my second-favorite response is "I'm really busy, can you just send me the executive briefing?" What I don't want to hear is silence. In fact, I would argue that regardless of your medium, if you can't hear your prospective client say "no" to your request for a meeting, you’re not really prospecting.

Prospecting is the act of asking prospective clients for a meeting. When your bot-authored email is deleted the second it enters the inbox, you didn't ask, and you didn't hear the word "no." Instead, nothing happened. The same is true of your beautifully crafted email, the one with fourteen heartfelt paragraphs and thirteen attachments. When your communication is greeted with silence, you didn't ask, and your prospect didn't answer.

You want to hear the word "no" in all of its forms. You want to be asked to email, call back next quarter, or try again next month. You want to hear that we are not interested in changing, that now’s not a good time, and that we are happy with our existing partner. Your ego will survive all of these rejections—but your results might not survive silence.

Having dozens of emails in your outbox is not evidence of prospecting. It suggests you attempted to communicate, but chances are that your contact never even realized that your message was really a request for a meeting. And how could you blame them?

There Are Better Ways to Use Email

There are better ways to use email than using desperate subject lines like "bouncing this to the top of your inbox," or "wanted to make sure you saw my earlier email." One must be grateful for the poor salesperson who bounces the email back to the top of the inbox, making it easier to identify and delete every future attempt. What are the odds that the person who deleted the first four emails will be so moved by the fifth email that they finally come to their senses and book a meeting with the sender?

You can use email to provide your client with insights they find valuable, without having to pitch them for a meeting. You can engage in a form of narrative warfare, positioning yourself as a person who knows and cares about certain issues that their prospective clients care about.

You might also consider emailing to let your prospective client know that you will reach out them by phone next Tuesday at 10:00 AM, another case where you make no ask, but promise to create value for them when they give you the gift of time.

If you cannot hear your contact say no,” then you didn't ask. If you didn't ask, then what you are doing cannot count as prospecting. Use email to teach and to create a commercial version of intrigue, but use the phone to schedule the meeting.

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Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
October 4, 2021
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