Top 5 Mistakes Sales and Marketing Makes When Emailing Prospects

Mistakes Sales and Marketing Makes

If you think email marketing’s time has passed, think again. It may not be the sexiest tactic out there, but the data is clear: Sales and marketing professionals have good reason to keep pounding out those prospect emails.

A recent report from Forbes said that email marketing is seeing a resurgence as a primary outreach tool, although it’s questionable if it ever really fell by the wayside. Research from the RAIN Group Center for Sales found that 78% of sales reps still use email to reach out to prospective customers, and that eight in 10 prospects actually prefer talking to sales reps via email compared to other communication tools.


So, what’s the catch? The problem with outreach messaging is not the method of delivery; it’s the content. When it comes to crafting compelling emails that will help get a foot in the door, most of today’s marketing and sales professionals fall short. Instead of engaging prospects with meaningful messages, companies are sending out generic sales pitches or aggressive asks that offer little to no value to the potential client. We’ve all fallen victim to a sales email that leads with, “Why you should buy our solution” but then never actually explains what’s in it for us — a total waste of time for everyone involved.

If you’re having a hard time breaking through the sea of emails sitting in your prospective customers’ inboxes, odds are you are making some common but oh-so-critical mistakes.


Below are the top five email slips-ups marketers and sales reps make — and how to avoid them before you press send.

1. Your email is too short

Yes, you read that correctly. Contrary to popular belief, brevity is not necessarily your friend when it comes to crafting an effective email. If you get to the point too quickly, without making a case for why the reader should build a relationship with you, it’s likely your message will be ignored, forgotten, or sent straight to trash. Of course, long-winded emails can also turn off the reader.


The key is striking a balance between establishing context for the prospective customer while also respecting their time limitations. Most executives will take a few minutes to read an email if it offers a valid business reason for engaging with you. Ask yourself: Does my email address their pain points? Does it share insight and perspective?

Put simply: Keep your messages lean but meaningful — and always focused on what’s in it for the reader.

2. Your message doesn’t tell a story

Everybody loves a good story, including busy decision-makers. Brain science confirms that stories not only grab attention, they also help people retain the information they’ve received. This suggests that even the hardest-to-reach prospect is more likely to read and respond to your email if it paints a persuasive picture.


So what does that look like? Like any powerful story, your email needs structure and should take the reader on a journey of WHY, WHAT, and HOW.


Let’s break that down: To set up the WHY of your email, start by providing context using storytelling elements like setting, characters, and a conflict. Make sure your content touches on who you are, why you are reaching out, and what problem your customer might be facing. Next, layout your “BIG Idea” that clarifies WHAT solution or service you are offering. Finally, tie a nice bow on your story by offering a final resolution that tells HOW your company can help solve the conflict you have already described.


3. Your subject line is forgettable

First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to sending an effective email query. Unfortunately, too many sales and marketing folks drop the ball on (possibly the most important) first point of contact: the subject line. A strong subject line should provide value to the reader and state the “big idea” established in your email story. This will draw a prospect in and compel them to open your message.


A well-crafted subject line should read like a newspaper headline and state the WHAT of your email narrative. “Let’s partner to streamline your hiring process” will garner greater interest than vague, overused subject lines like “Introduction,” “Quick Call,” or “Let’s Connect.”

4. Your email is all about you

The best storytellers walk in their audience’s shoes. Your emails should do the same. No matter how clever or persuasive you think your sales pitch reads, if you or your company is positioned as the main character, it’s not going to resonate with your potential customer. Your message should be centered around your prospect and what they have to gain from connecting with you. Customers want to know the reason they should connect with you, not the reason you want to connect with them.


Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What’s happening in their world?
  • Who or what matters to them?
  • What challenges are they facing?

The answers you compile will help uncover the WHY part of your email message and ensure that what you write is relevant enough to elicit a response.

5. You gave your call to action too early

In an effort to keep messages short, many professionals make the mistake of starting their email with their call to action. “I’d like to set up a meeting” or “Can I give you a call?” are never good lead-ins. Not only are they off-putting to new contacts, they go directly against the structure of a story. Never start with the resolution!


Because the call to action makes up the HOW of your email story, it should always come last. If a strong narrative has been established, the final element of your email will do exactly what it is supposed to do — prompt your prospect to take action and move the business relationship forward.


Context is Key

The bottom line? People need context before they will take action or buy into your solution. Who would take time out of their busy day to join a sales call if they are unclear what they would gain from it? An outreach message that logically flows through the key elements of storytelling will give the reader a reason to care, and more importantly, a reason to respond.

Want more tips for crafting emails that generate results? Our Everyday Business Storytelling self-paced course will help you develop clear, compelling stories — regardless of the communication medium.