I see a lot of discussions about “warm up emails” on forums lately. I don’t use them. First, they’re ineffective. I never open an email I’m not expecting, no matter how compelling (not that I can think of any that HAVE BEEN compelling) the subject line. Why should I expect that prospects open unsolicited emails when I don’t? I read my own emails, but know for a fact that many of the people I’m trying to connect with do not. My gatekeeper circle of friends keep me up to date with trends in “gatecrashing”. I can assure you, they aren’t forwarding uninvited email to their bosses.

I liken unsolicited “warm up” emails to spam. And worse than spam, which is just form-lettered out by technology, sales reps spend a lot of time composing these never-to-be-opened notes. Why? Lately, the reasoning sounds like this: “prospects are more likely to take your call if you’ve already tried to connect with them”. False. Prospects are more likely to open your emails if you’ve already called them. And more than once. The cold call is still the most effective way to begin a relationship with a prospect. Here’s the best way I’ve found to create a flow that leads to an initial discussion. I won’t give away all my secrets – I use some pretty precise wording in all my messages – but I’m happy to share my approach.

And may I say this? If you’re trying to penetrate an account at the C-level that you haven’t COMPLETELY qualified, you’re doing nothing but ruining the playing field for all of us. If you’re fact finding, researching, wondering if it might be a fit….do us all a favour and start lower down the chain of command. I like to think about it like online dating. (If you’ve never tried online dating, consider yourself fortunate, it’s a jungle out there!) A woman posts an ad stating she is interested in meeting a man who is, let’s say, 5’10” or taller, who has dark hair, plays sports and likes cats. Inevitably, the woman will receive 100 inquiries. Four of whom fit her interests, and 96 of whom send her a note saying “I know you said you were looking for x, BUT…”. After ten of these, the woman abandons her online dating account entirely, and never gets around to meeting the four that may have worked out. That’s what calling unqualified accounts at the C level does to cold callers. It leads to C level executives ignoring ALL calls.

I digress. Here’s the details I promised you before the rant.

1. Initial Mapping cold call – do they answer their own phone, do they have an assistant, is there a receptionist? Figure out how many hoops you’re going to have to jump through. You’ll have a different strategy with a gatekeeper. Let’s assume for this discussion, no gatekeeper. Leave a brief “sorry I missed you” voicemail. Company name, your name, your company website and the purpose for your call. Say you’ll call back on X day.

2. Call back one – no answer? Leave a more compelling message. A statement of experience. A reference to a recent successful project. Reference your last call, tell them when to expect your next call, leave them your website address and your phone number.

3. Call back two – no answer? Reference your last phone call. NOW YOU CAN SEND AN EMAIL! Reference the email in your voice mail – tell them what the content of the email is – “pdf copy of an article published in x, case study about project x”, and let them know you are going to suggest a few times that would be convenient for you for a callback. Tell them to look for the subject line. Leave your phone number.

4. Here’s the email – after four phone call attempts referencing you, your company and your goal (a discussion). The email – ideally a template so you’re not wasting any valuable dialing time slogging them out – should recommend two times, two weeks from now, that you are available to speak. Ask them to confirm the time via email, or to send you an invitation with a time that would work better for them. Brief. The subject line of the email should reference your voice mail, and the date you left the voice mail. The email itself should clearly state, right of the bat, that you were sorry you were unable to reach them by phone.

5. Wait a week.

6. Call again, trying to confirm one of the 2 times you have suggested – indicate that you will call at x time on x date (one that was suggested) unless they send you an email suggesting a better time.

7. No response? Call when you said you would.

8. No answer? Send another email, asking politely if it’s bad timing or if you should be focusing your efforts on another person within the organization.

9. No answer? Start going through the organization looking for someone else to pitch.

10. Start the process over again once you’ve found that person.

Always interested in hearing about how other people are approaching their cold calling – if you’ve tried something that works great, share it! If you tried this, and it worked for you – email me and let me know. Success stories make my day.

Happy Selling!