It’s frustrating to send emails trying to prompt people to agree to a conversation with you that might lead to a sales opportunity, only to have them unopened or ignored--not only by strangers or weak connections, but especially if they’re people you’ve previously done business with or have known for a long time.

After enduring enough of this, it can be tempting to try to be clever with your email’s Subject line to induce people to open your email, or to play a little fast and loose with body copy, all in the hopes of getting them on the phone. However, don’t. Just don’t.

Your bait-and-switch will be recognized. I guarantee it.

Such tactics are very likely to damage your reputation and give people who previously hadn’t responded yet simply because they were busy (and may even have felt bad about not responding) a concrete reason to ignore you going forward.

Here’s an example of an email exchange I had recently, that I consider particularly egregious because the sender wouldn’t own the behavior when I called him on it.

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I’m not suggesting that any of you would do anything this underhanded and clumsy. As I said, this is egregious. I’m using this extreme example to make the point that anything that’s less than authentic will reliably produce blowback -- that you may never know about because most people probably wouldn’t take the time to engage like I did.

Then what?

Let’s say I wasn’t paying as close attention as I was and, intrigued by what I saw as an opportunity to participate in some established podcasts, I agree to speak with James. How does he think I’ll react when during our call I discover the bait-and-switch, that this is a pitch for his service? (We all know how we react when we feel duped.) There’s no way his service can be sufficiently attractive to overcome the fact that he’s proved that I can’t trust him.

Because it’s so hard, and requires so much skill (at the top 3% “super-expert” level), to turn a non-sale into a sale, in practical terms for this audience I’ll declare that it can’t be done.

What to do instead

If, instead, James were to have sent me an authentic email that said something like, “You don’t know me, but many thought leaders like you rely on us to [whatever benefit they promise] by producing and promoting professional podcasts that enhance your brand. Is that worth discussing?”

This is binary. I either find it worth discussing, or not. I’ll either say “yes” or “no,” but won’t have had a problem with his attempt. Who knows, one of the lawyers I coach might lament the difficulty he has getting on the podcast bandwagon, and ask if I know anyone who can help. I’d have no problem saying, “A guy contacted me about this very thing. I didn’t pursue it, so I can’t comment on it other than that I respected his professional approach, so he might be worth talking to.”

You only want to invest scarce marketing/sales time with the willing, so find that out first. Don’t be afraid of “No, thanks.” It will save you a ton of time and grief.

Move that person onto a content marketing list, where you make your case for consideration by sending them objective information that, over time, proves the need for your category of service by illustrating the challenges people like the recipient typically face.

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Remember that modern buyers now progress through about 70% of the buying journey online before being willing to engage with a seller. Email/content marketing is your way to participate in that earlier portion of the journey.

Mike O’Horo


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