Email Prospecting: "Rules" For Getting It Right

email prospecting

Email prospecting works. While some reps worry that prospects don’t want to hear from new vendors via email, research shows that this isn’t always the case. RAIN Group President Mike Schultz shares findings from a research study that reveal “80% of buyers prefer to be contacted by sellers via email, and 77% of buyers have responded favorably to an email from a new provider in the last 12 months.” 

Salespeople, though, need to be thoughtful about how they go about email prospecting. The sooner they adopt and improve this practice, the better. While COVID-​19 fueled increased digital outreaches, this comfort with digital will continue post-​pandemic. Major opportunity exists, and will continue to exist, to capture buyers’ interest via email, especially at the start of their buying journey. RAIN research shows that 71% of buyers actually want to hear from vendors when they are looking for ideas to drive stronger results for their business.

When used in a coordinated attraction campaign, the best prospecting emails are carefully researched, heavily customized, and triggered to hit buyers' inbox at their time of need,” Schultz explains. “Unfortunately, too many prospecting emails fall victim to common mistakes that kill response rates.” But don’t despair; based on research, reps can tweak how they approach email prospecting to improve responses.

Schultz highlights what he calls 12 “golden rules” for prospecting by email. These tips and strategies will help reps get their emails read and meetings scheduled. Below is just a selection of the must-​do rules that Schultz shares. He also includes helpful examples and templates for inspiration. 

Email prospecting “rules” 

Lead with referrals. Did you know that 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral? That’s a pretty startling stat. Mentioning a shared connection can immediately capture the prospect’s eye and interest. 

  • Don’t be a robot. Salespeople must personalize each and every email they send to prospects. If a prospect feels they’re lumped in a mass mailing, there's a low chance they will respond. To give a personal feel, Schultz suggests: 
  • Customize as many aspects as possible. “Write something that proves the email wasn't automatically generated,” he explains. “31% of buyers say sending customized emails is effective, and only 5% say sending bulk email is.”
  • Show your voice. Let your personality shine through! Dry, lackluster emails aren’t fun to read nor do they give the buyer any insight to who you are. Use language that expresses your enthusiasm and pride in what you’re selling; it will be infectious. Plus, it will help establish a connection while email prospecting. Giving a voice to your emails also boosts their impact. Schultz shares that “Emails that use emotion words (e.g., wonderful, hate, delighted, furious) get 10–15% more responses than emails that are neutral.”
  • Be active. Forgo passive voice as much as possible. Sticking to an active voice lends more power and impact to your words. 
  • Add personal touches. Sprinkle in some insights about yourself or use a touch of humor. Keep your emails from sounding anything but cookie-cutter.

Be buyer centric. Prospecting emails should cater to the prospects. Instead of rattling off features, tackle the topic of your buyer’s needs, goals, etc. See how often you can swap out “I” for “you” to keep your writing centered on the prospect. 

Simple and short are the way to go

Keep it short. These types of outreaches shouldn’t try to do and explain everything. Your first email shouldn’t overwhelm the prospect. Plus, a little over half of emails are read via mobile; can you imagine prospects slogging through lines of text on a small screen? “A good rule of thumb is to keep emails between 50–125 words,” Schultz advises. “Want to take it to the next level? Draft your email on your phone to have a realistic idea of how prospects will read it.”

Simplicity works. Along with keeping your email a tolerable length, you should also avoid complicated language. Wordy, jargon-​filled content is just too much (and often boring). Short sentences and simple language have a bigger impact. Schultz suggests writing for a third-​grade reading level to drive interest and responses. 

Use bullet points. Sharing information in a concise manner drives engagement: “People look at lists with bullets more often than those without (70% vs. 55%),” he shares. Adding bullet points to prospecting emails is an easy way to boost read rates and make sure the prospect understands. Plus, this organization is less intimidating than a large paragraph. 

These and the other tips from Schultz will help create, update and improve sales prospecting emails. Subtle changes like these can make a big difference in regard to open and response rates, as shown by RAIN Group’s research. And, buyers are eager to hear your ideas and solutions early in the buying process, so don’t hesitate to get started!

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.