The leading cause of sales email template failure

Time to read: 3.5 minutes. There is one problem I see over-and-over in sales email templates: Talking about benefits of products and services too soon. It's the most common cold sales email hurdle to clear. And for good reason.

“What else is there to talk about anyway!?”

“I don’t know where to start.”

That's why we take the easy way out. The lazy way. We fall back on talking about solutions to customers' problems. We look at marketing materials and web sites for messaging ideas.

But that's where you’ll probably go off track.

Instead, talk ONLY about buyers’ problems—not your solution. Not yet. 


Are there other top causes?

Yes. It’s possible your:

  • subject line reveals more than it should
  • message is too long message and lacks a provocation
  • word choice doesn’t exploit a psychological trigger

These are some of the most common problems sellers are encountering. They all lead down to the major aim of breaking the ice.

So how can you start a relevant conversation when you lack relevant points and basically don’t have any idea what to talk about?

A deeper challenge

Talking about benefits while crafting your sales email template is a symptom of a larger problem. Your urge to make the prospect:

  • Agree to a meeting, appointment or demo
  • Understand more than they need to (at the moment)
  • Accept your pitch, referencing your products or clients list

Presenting your pitch from cold is like playing for a knock-out in round one. There is always a chance to get it right but most salespeople would choose sustainability over chance.

Your message is irrelevant, an interruption.

Therefore, be brief, blunt and provocative. Most importantly avoid:

  • Attempting to earn a meeting, appointment or demo
  • Taking longer than 20 seconds to read
  • Referencing you, your client list, products nor benefits

Talk about this instead

Drafting your sales email template requires you to reframe your mind first. Prospecting should not be a battlefield where you’ve got to BEAT your prospects. Instead, strive to BE your prospect and tune in the same mindset in order to communicate your message successfully.

Researching your prospects and talking exclusively about them is no guarantee for a sale but it’s a prerequisite to start a conversation.

These principles do not simply apply to email/LinkedIn prospecting. They should be used when writing phone scripts.

Start right now... where you are and with what you have.

Jot down issues your prospects:

  • Don’t know (but should)
  • Know but don’t act upon (while they must)
  • Cannot see (risk to hurt them)
  • Cannot see - that will move them towards a goal

You could find more tips like that in our upcoming Email/InMail Writing Workshop.

Furthermore, you could surprise your prospect. Your email template can warm them of a possible harm/loss. You’ve got to tune-in and really soak up your prospects’ environment so as to provide viable provocations.

Seamless flow of communication is what we want to achieve. Avoid a single “make it or break it” sales pitch that screams for a meeting or vulgarly pushes a product.

Yes, we use machines to communicate but we must remain human nonetheless.

Therefore, you should rather talk about your prospects’ objectives, fears or challenges in order to break the ice.

A turn-around example

One of my students recently turn everything around. She was struggling. Each cold email draft she sent my way was ... well ... horrible. She understood she needed to change her email template.

But she wasn't getting it -- when it came to "the doing" of it.

Here's how we wrote a handful of effective (provocative) first touch sales email messages—that are, today, sparking responses and meetings. Notice the difference between "pushing your product" and "pulling your prospect."

An actual sales email template example

One of my students (we’ll call her Susan) needs to set appointments with business owners in her sales email template. She's selling Verizon's Fleetservices service set. It's a pretty cool GPS-powered telematics service for a variety of industries.

It helps owners of large vehicle fleets:

  • control costs and discover better ways to use vehicles
  • access roadside assistance & improve longevity of vehicles
  • reduce losses from theft
  • diagnose and treat vehicle problems faster
  • streamline compliance with Department of Transportation laws

Susan’s got a great market opportunity. Anyone with a fleet of vehicles is a good match for her vehicle telematics service.

While Susan's competitors are blasting emails with these same benefits in their long-winded sales emails she is taking a different, provocative approach.

Anatomy of a failing sales email template

Here's what most sellers of vehicle telematics services are emailing potential customers. This was the "before" approach Susan was working with.

Subject: Help with fleet management for [target company name]

Dear business owner:
Whether your fleet is public or private, small, medium, or large, Networkfleet enables you to track, monitor, and manage your fleet efficiently and effectively.

Onboard vehicle diagnostics, GPS tracking, and roadside assistance are just some of the [product name] features that will help you keep your business operating at peak performance.

Vehicle and Driver Management and Diagnostic Reporting
Any good GPS management system can collect a lot of data. It’s the presentation of the data that makes the difference. Networkfleet’s customizable reporting features make it easy to organize information in a way that meets your unique fleet management needs.

Asset Tracking
Networkfleet allows you to protect and manage every asset in your fleet, including trailers, generators, heavy duty equipment, sheds, and more.

Our nationwide network of dedicated service professionals provides the tools, resources, and support you need to get the most out of your GPS fleet tracking system.

Roadside Assistance
Save time and money with Networkfleet’s Emergency Roadside Assistance Plan – available at no additional cost.

Maintenance Alerts
[product name] helps to lower costs and streamline the maintenance process with our engine monitoring system. Our preventive maintenance program can help you keep your fleet vehicles well maintained and in top running condition.

DOT Compliance Integration
Streamline your Department of Transportation compliance and fleet management processes. Efficiently manage critical compliance requirements, such as hours of service, driver and vehicle inspection reports, fuel taxes, and more.

Safety & Security Management
With Networkfleet’s fleet tracking systems, you can protect your drivers and your vehicles with a variety of fleet safety management tools.

I would like to send you a copy of our slide deck to see if you think we may be a good fit to assist you with your fleet management needs. May I send you the information?

If this is something that you are not interested in, or, if I should be reaching out to another party in your organization please let me know.

Thanks for your considering,

A better approach

Here's what Susan is using to effectively spark conversations with her telematics prospects.

Notice how she is using real life worries and issues that are keeping her prospects up at night... in combination with other problems they probably don't know even exist.

Subject: which hurts more?

Hi, [first name].

Are you doing everything possible to secure your fleet against abuse from employees?

Like- using your vehicle for personal use
- speeding
- slamming on the brakes

Or maybe they use your vehicle to work for others on weekends.

These abuses may be reducing the life of your vehicle.

Based on quick research of __________ [target company's name] these kinds of abuses may be negatively effecting your image, safety and/or expenses.

Most construction companies aren't doing anything about these flagrant abuses.

Are you open to an unusual (but effective) approach to prevent these kinds of vehicle abuses? Let me know what you decide, [first name]?

Thanks for considering,


Do you spot the difference?

Susan's second sales email template is brief, blunt and basic. Most of all it is focused exclusively on her prospect's real-life problems. Both known and, probably, issues customers don't yet realize they have.

The subject line sparks curiosity. “Does what hurt more?”

The first sentence helps the prospect introspect - “Am I doing everything possible to prevent these from happening?!”

[ These are just a few of the techniques you can learn too -- in the upcoming Email Writing Workshop ]

The rest of this message shows how Susan:

  • researched the client (isn't just mass emailing)
  • is focused on construction companies (“just like me”)
  • is challenging the reader to perform at an exceptional level
  • asks the reader if they will consider something unusual, effective
  • not saying what the unusual, effective approach is (this triggers readers to reply)

Susan's sales email template triggers a response. An invitation to talk about the prospect’s’ problem (and possible solutions) in a way that (eventually) connects to what Susan sells.

Writing about solutions to customers' problems (too soon) might be most of your problem.

Don't let it be.

Instead, write your template only about the potential buyers' problems—not your solution. Not yet.

Good products sell easily. We knew that since we were born. Yet somehow we tend to misplace our trust in what we sell and poison our sales email template or script with too much talk about features & benefits. Instead, we should focus on prospects… helping them figure out if the product is right for them. (and not the other way around)

What do you think?

Do you have questions about making this technique “come alive” for you or your sales team? Let me know!

Photo credit: Timothy Allen


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