August 31, 2014

Don’t Prospect Strangers Via Email

prospecting strangers

Of course, you have to talk to strangers in order to network, prospect and grow your business. However, too many small business owners and sales people are using email to prospect strangers and to do that type of communicating.

There are several problems with this practice. If we remember that sales is about relationships and trust, we can start to see why attempting to prospect strangers via email can be a problem.

Think about how you react to emails you receive from strangers. Are you suspicious? Cautious? Disinterested?

Well, guess what? So are your prospects.

I believe that people prospect strangers via email because it’s easy and nonthreatening. After all, if the recipient doesn’t respond, you don’t hear their rejection. So you don’t feel anything negative.

Unfortunately, those who prospect strangers by email are missing the whole point of prospecting, in my opinion.

Why You Shouldn’t Prospect Strangers Via Email

Prospecting is about building relationships and identifying who might need what you have to sell. In order to do this, you have to have a conversation. You can’t have one via email.

When you pursue prospects by email you are telling them that you don’t really have an interest in doing business with them. You aren’t willing to do the work of finding out about them and their needs. It’s more like you are just engaging in an activity so you can say that you did something.

Harsh? Maybe. However, if you think about it – you’ll see what I mean.

When most people send emails to strangers, they end that email telling the stranger to reach out if they are interested. Here’s the message that is received:

I don’t know you from Adam and have no idea whether I can help you or not. Nor do I care to really find out. I’m sending out a bunch of emails to a bunch of strangers in the hope that one or more of them will respond.

I’m sorry to tell you that this will not get you business because you aren’t doing anything to engage the prospect.

Try This Instead

1) Identify your target market. What does an ideal client look like? This is a person or company who can benefit from what you offer.

2) Identify where they are and then do your research. Learn as much as you can about them so you have something to talk with them about.

3) Determine if you know anyone who can introduce you to them.

4) If so, ask for that introduction. If not, call them. Either way, you have to call them and engage them in conversation.

5) Lastly, please don’t leave the activity up to them. Keep reaching out to them, tell them that you will if you have to leave a voicemail message.

When you do this, you are letting them know that you are interested in exploring whether you can help them or not. You are taking responsibility for moving the relationship further. You are appreciating that they are busy and have a lot on their list of priorities. And you aren’t taking anything personally.

There are a myriad of reasons why someone might not want to meet, or might not call you back. Don’t assume you know what that reason is.

Create your own outreach system and stick to it. When you take the powerful action of calling instead of emailing, you’ll find that people respond and your business grows.

Suspicious Photo via Shutterstock

17 Comments ▼

Diane Helbig


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

17 Reactions

  1. Diane,

    Nice tips. Prospecting strangers via email is just like cold-calling. It’s not a nice experience for most of prospects.

    And guess what, leaving your company name in the prospecting email can only damage your reputation :)

  2. I agree with you about 95%… but every morning I get prospective emails from SEO freelancers & companies. Now my current need of the moment is good affordable SEO that’s as much quantifiable as possible. Of every 10 I might receive in a week I might open 1 or 2 and scan through it. If I like what I read I ask for a quote. Why? Sometimes the wording & layout piques my attention. In the past a smart sales person has tapped into my objections and started a conversation & even got a sale out of it.

    I agree completely its not the best way to develop leads and clients but it does work when someones need meets a suitable offer.

    I might send a handful of emails once in a while just to try to pique someone’s interest & try to get the conversation going. You are right – in the end its always the relationship that matters.

    • Noel, I totally understand this. Timing can make a difference. The problem arises when salespeople and small business owners put their entire prospecting plan in email. If you open 1 in 10, imagine how many other people are opening 1 in 10. No sales effort can survive such low numbers. I’m imagining that when you send your handful it is not the main sales effort you are engaging in.

      • No it is not the only effort but I wish it worked cause its the cheapest :)
        Bottom line is one’s message & presentation should be coherent & cohesive & the product ‘excellent’. If anything less, then throwing all the money one wants at advertising campaigns will be a painful learning experience. I’m not really surprised people send out ‘free’ email campaigns because putting the blocks in place to ‘properly’ advertise your product takes a lot of thinking, creativity & hard work.
        You are right though, its probably near bottom of the list of advertising options that works.

  3. I agree completely, Diane. The practice of emailing without knowing your prospect is just another form of direct advertising; it is simply a wasted effort to send dozens of emails to dozens of companies that just go straight to their spam filters. In fact, I think that this practice has become obsolete.

    • I wish it was obsolete! I get these sorts of emails every day. And every time I meet with a new client THIS is the form of selling they have been using – with no success. You are so right that it really should be obsolete! Hopefully with all of us saying it out loud we can have an impact.

  4. I think it can have even worse effects depending on the industry. If you are selling a one-off retail product then that is one thing but for companies like ours who sell websites, it is the worst way of beginning an ongoing business relationship!

  5. I prospect quite a few strangers through email but I’m part of a group which my customers are usually part of as well. To figure out the best prospects for your product, it’s always a good idea to check out the groups on Linkedin as well and search for contacts on there.
    I still find emailing strangers more effective then calling strangers personally for sales.

  6. “Prospecting is a lost art,” one of my professors noted while discussing marketing. This article definitely captures those ideas well. You highlighted some great points that I will even be passing down to my team.

  7. Great post Diane, thanks for sharing it :) Do companies have a real strategy behind emails? Or do they just shoot out emails and lean on the law of averages, hoping to get a reply? If only all companies reflect on that…

  8. Hii Diane,

    Thank you really an eye opening article, actually I’m using this sometime and waiting for something happen but In last its just wastage of Time.

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