Being Natural in Sales Emails

In the 90’s after internet advertisers filled all the ad space available and nearly ruined the online experience, a new phenomenon swept across the screen. This phenomenon was called “Banner Blindness.” It referred the fact that people learned what advertisements looked like and began to ignored them. This was the beginning of the end for banner ads on Yahoo. Google figured out that people will pay attention to (and click) ads that looked just like content. Thus, with Google Adwords, the age of native advertising was born.

Let’s fast-forward a handful of years. Using a Marketing Automation system, you could send a HTML-rich marketing email, and it was great! Early adopters, like Gary Vaynerchuk, touted he could get a 90+% open rates on an email. It typically had colors and logos and was easily recognizable. It was written with “marketing language.” However, just as consumers became immune to the original banner ads, this spray-and-pray marketing automation quickly became the banner advertising of emails. Now, click-through rates have plummeted to less than 3%. Reply rates are either not even allowed or less than 0.1%.

Recently with the new advent of sales automation, there is a new version of banner blindness in emails. They are not from marketing, but rather from the sales department. There is no real personalization and no thought put into them. As recipients, we are starting to recognize and ignore this kind of email content.

So, what do we do as businesses? The answer is clear. We have to get more natural and blend in with regular email. We have to become native to the inbox.

I believe you can get people to engage with your email and even reply at a rate much higher than the standard rates. The secret is constructing your email content in a more natural way.

I’ll try to illustrate:

Bad Email Play

    1. To: Glen
      From: Sales personHi Glen,
      I see that you are the {{title}} of {{company}}. Can I interest you in my product?
      [templated marketing nonsense]
      {{Signature of Sales person}}
    2. To: Glen
      From: Sales personHi Glen,
      Did you get my email? Were you abducted by aliens?
      {{Sales Person}}
    3. To: Glen
      From: Sales personGlen
      Ok, I give up, you are obviously not interested!
      Sad frowny face,
      {{Sales person}}

Good Email Play

    1. To: Glen
      From: Sales personGlen,
      I saw on LinkedIn that you play tennis. Do you play in a USTA league?
      I work at {{company}} and I’m supposed to email you and sell you, but I would rather just ask about tennis. I’m a 4.0 player myself.
      {{Sales Person}}
      P.S. I read your blog. I agree the electoral college is lame.
    2. To: Glen
      From: Head of ProductGlen,
      I’m the Head of Product at {{Company}}. {{Sales person}} mentioned to me about your blog. It’s cool. I specifically liked {{specific post and a relevant comment on the post}}.
      Anyway, given what you do, I thought you would be interested in {{value proposition}}. I’m happy to share more details. Do you have some time in the Thursday or Friday morning to connect?
      {{Head of Product}}
    3. To: Glen’s boss
      From: Head of Sales{{Glen’s Boss}}
      Hey, just fyi. We are going to invite Glen to a special event we are holding because of what he’s been doing around {{topic}}. He seems like a perfect fit and would add a lot of value to the conversation. Is this cool with you?
      {{Head of Sales}}

The difference between the two sets of emails:

Bad Good
Generic language, weak use of title ☹ Researched, natural language☺
Single Target ☹ Multiple Targets☺
Single Sender ☹ Multiple Senders☺
Customized ☹ Personalized☺

If you want to get people to reply and engage, then you need to act more naturally with them.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that this technique takes time. It’s hard to scale. You need to search for relevant information to personalize and sometimes the person has a low profile online. Also, you need to change the current writing style, which is hard to roll out.

However, if it works, it works. Try it on your best Tier 1 target accounts. Try a test and see if the response rate is higher. The reality is that spray-and-pray isn’t a good strategy. It’s just spam. Don’t ruin the channel and the leads.

This blog post was written by a robot named X54. (Kidding!)

Be original. Be natural.

If you’re interested in being more natural and writing better cold sales emails, we’ve teamed up with Sales Hacker to bring you a new webinar around exactly that. Watch the On-Demand replay of  How to Not Send Crappy Cold Emails now.

how to not send crappy cold emails

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

5 Responses to “Being Natural in Sales Emails”

November 29, 2016 at 6:59 pm, Brian said:

And before the internet became commonplace, it was changing channels when commercials aired. The same might be said for Twitter–which was *awesome* in 2008-2010–but has pretty much become a no-man’s land of automated broadcast messages.

No sooner do we find a new place to spend time, lazy, thoughtless automation floods the network and everybody bails. It’s a vicious cycle, and only those who understand history stand a chance of breaking out.

Engagement is the name of the game. One-on-one, human interaction. You could say this is the real goal of marketing automation–enabling us to better understand and serve each other, Dunbar be damned.

We all know what spam looks like. And how it feels. Stick to the Golden Rule–and don’t be surprised when things start coming up golden.


December 01, 2016 at 3:12 am, Glen Lipka said:

Good Points Brian. 🙂


December 01, 2016 at 2:49 am, Patrick said:

Good points, but the “Even Better” column is that personalized email with a nugget that helps them followed up by a phone call. Or two or three or whatever until you get through. There are just too many emails and it’s too easy for someone to shove aside, even if they read it or follow a link. I spend a TON of time carefully crafting customized, individual emails to very specific people who SHOULD be interested. But it’s not enough. You have to pick up the phone and knock on the door.


December 01, 2016 at 3:11 am, Glen Lipka said:

Agreed Patrick, I kept it short just for example sake.


June 29, 2017 at 7:19 pm, Emma said:

The extremely customized emails look a lot more like ABM and less like marketing automation.


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