How To Get Your Sales Emails OPENED

Ian Brodie is a marketing consultant who knows how to write emails that get opened. In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Ian explains why there’s way more to writing emails than click bait subject lines.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Ian Brodie
Experienced Marketing Consultant

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Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast.

 

Ian Brodie:

There’s an old rule, I think in that kind of newspaper headline writing that you spend about 50% of your time writing the article and about 50% crafting the headline, because if nobody reads the article, it wasn’t worth writing.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, Sales Nation. I am Will Barron, host of the Salesman Podcast and welcome to today’s show. And today’s show we have Ian Brodie. Ian Brodie’s been on the show before so I’ll link to that episode in the show notes to this episode over at salesman.red. And Ian is a marketing expert with a particular focus and a huge knowledge base on email specifically. So in today’s show, we’re looking at how to title an email so it gets opened, and then write an email so that action is taken from it. Because of course, just sending out these emails is a pointless waste of time if nothing comes from them. You can find out more about Ian over at ianbrodie.com. And with all that said, let’s jump in to today’s episode.

 

Will Barron:

Hi Ian, and welcome back to the Salesman Podcast.

 

Ian Brodie:

Hey, fantastic to be back.

 

Will Barron:

Glad to have you on and I’m glad that we’re going to talk about emails today because you’ve just given me a whole bunch of value about 45 minutes of essentially free consulting of what I need to do with salesman.red. What I need to do with everyone asking me for more content through the podcast and all that. So yeah, Sales Nation, any changes you see on the email front have come from Ian himself and-

 

Ian Brodie:

My fault. Only if they’re good ones, obviously, if they all go horribly wrong, it was someone else.

 

What’s More Important: The Perfect Email Body or a Catchy Subject Line? · [02:20]

 

Will Barron:

For sure. No, and I appreciate that Ian and I think it’s worth saying that, that you’ve given me upfront before we even get into the show and that just clearly shows the kind of guy you are. Today we’re going to talk about prospecting over email and very specifically the email itself, because I think this is hugely underrated by sales people, marketers clearly know an awful lot about this. And even marketers have gone from making this horrible, weird spammy email. And the focus now is to go to one-to-one marketing to try and make it as customised as possible. Yet sales people have only just discovered that they can send email to more than one person at once. And so they’re back at step one of spamming people at the moment. So we will get into that, but first question, massively leaded and loading. What’s more important, spending four hours crafting the perfect email or spending five minutes, making sure that it gets opened because it’s got a good subject line?

 

“There’s an old rule I think in newspaper headline writing that you spend about 50% of your time writing the article and about 50% crafting the headline, because if nobody reads the article, it wasn’t worth writing.” – Ian Brodie · [02:40] 

 

Ian Brodie:

Well, you have to see the latter, wouldn’t you? There’s an old rule I think in that kind of newspaper headline writing that you spend about 50% of your time writing the article and about 50% crafting the headline, because if nobody reads the article, it wasn’t worth writing. Now, I’m not sure you quite need to go to that extreme, I probably don’t. But it is vital that you get a decent subject line because otherwise people just won’t open the email. It’ll all be a bit of a waste. These days, subject line is more than just the subject line as well. If you notice, if you use Gmail or anything like that, not only does it show the subject line, it shows the first few words of the first sentence in the email as well. So it’s almost like another mini subject line in the first few words there.

 

Ian Brodie:

And very often you’ll get something mad, like, “To unsubscribe, click here. To view a version on the web…” And what’s that? So you want to make sure that what people see, so probably better than the subject line is the first thing that they see when your email drops into their inbox. And then it’s those three things. It’s your name, so that’s important as well. It’s important that they recognise, and I know this is something you talk about. They’re almost preconditioned to think that if they get an email from you, it’ll be good, because they know your name, et cetera. Then certainly there’s a subject line then there’s the little snippet that appears for a few words based on what’s at the start of the email.

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. Well, I think the salesperson’s name is the most underrated thing in sales at the moment. We’re doing a lot of content on personal branding within your industry, within your marketplace. And so we cover that on other shows and I’ll link in the show notes to a couple of things that we’ve put out on that front. But subject line and then we’ll come onto the first few words in a second, because that is something massively underutilised. And of course, if the subject line is enticing, then the next line is, “Hey, I’m trying to sell you this,” then you’re probably not going to get opened. And it’s probably something that is not used by sales professionals, understanding these first few lines.

 

Ian Brodie:

Yeah, that’s a good point. That will be worth dwelling on that for a bit.

 

The Dos and Don’t of Creating Email Subject Lines · [04:40]

 

Will Barron:

Before we come to that subject line, are there any dos or don’ts on… And again, we’re not sending emails to thousands of people, salespeople are sending them to individuals primarily. Are there any kind of clear cut dos and don’ts, so we can cover subject lines then move onto the content of the email itself.

 

“Don’t use the same subject line that everyone else is using. Try and think of the individual receiving it and what they’ve been on the receiving end of beforehand. And if you really know your customers, you should be aware of what’s going on in their sector, in their lives, and the kind of emails they normally get.” – Ian Brodie · [05:13] 

 

Ian Brodie:

Yeah. I mean I think the clicker, the dos and the don’ts, there’s kind of standard don’ts are around don’t mention Viagra or have loads of dollar signs or whatever, because obviously that’s going to get pulled up by a spam filter. The other don’t is don’t use the same subject line that everyone else is using. If you imagine, try and think of the individual receiving it and what they’ve been on the receiving end of beforehand. Now, if you really know your customers, you should be aware of what’s going on in their sector, in their lives, the kind of emails they normally get.

 

“The thing is, templates get overused. Once a book is a number one bestseller on Amazon, every salesperson under the sun is using the same subject line in the same format. And if your customers are just getting this exact same email, then they stop reading it.” – Ian Brodie · [06:02] 

 

Ian Brodie:

So years ago there was a very good book written by Aaron Ross about the prospecting he did via email for salesforce.com, very successful book called Predictable Revenue. And in that he had his kind of template for his prospecting email. And then there was another thing, not in the book, but a big kind of course called Breakthrough Email that had another one, et cetera. But the thing is those templates get overused. So once a book is a number one best seller on Amazon, every salesperson under the sun is using the same subject line in the same format. And if your customers are just getting this exact same email, could you tell me who the right thing or right person in question. They’re all getting the same email, then they stop reading it. They just automatically see the subject line and they go, “Yeah, yeah. Another one of those.” The first couple they get, they’re kind of engaged by it. The next ones they go, “Oh, right.”

 

Ian Brodie:

It’s similar in marketing. It’s a famous thing about a subject line that I think Obama first used as part of his reelection campaign, which just said, “Hey!” H-E-Y with an exclamation mark. And apparently that worked really well for him, got more people sponsoring and contributing to the campaign reelection fund than any other email, that particular subject line. And that was published and then everyone started using it. So you’d get emails from everyone saying, “Hey!” And eventually you just go, “Oh, another one. Have you not got any kind of originality?” So don’t use the same subject line that everyone else is using. Ideally you want that subject line to invoke two things, I think. One is, it has to give a sense that they would get some benefit from opening this email. It has to be some kind of enticing thing that they would look at it and think, “Oh, that could be quite useful for me.”

 

“Ideally you want that subject line to invoke two things. One is, it has to give a sense that they would get some benefit from opening this email. It has to be some kind of enticing thing that they would look at it and think, “Oh, that could be quite useful for me.” The second thing is it ideally needs to invoke some kind of curiosity. The curiosity factor is important to make sure that no matter how valuable what’s in your email is, people recognise that not only is it going to be valuable, but it’s going to be new for them. It’s not just going to be a repetition of what they already know or they’ve already seen.” – Ian Brodie · [07:06] 

 

Ian Brodie:

The second thing is it ideally needs to invoke some kind of curiosity. And the reason I say curiosity is imagine you got an email and it had the subject line mentioned something that you thought was very valuable, but you’d already got that. You already thought you knew that topic inside out, whatever it was, it was talking about, you thought you were already an expert on that. No matter how valuable the topic was, you wouldn’t bother reading the email because you already know it. So the curiosity factor is important to make sure that no matter how valuable what’s in your email is, people recognise that not only is it going to be valuable, but it’s going to be new for them. It’s not just going to be a repetition of what they already know or they’ve already seen. So that kind of combination of curiosity and value is what will get people to open.

 

Ian Brodie:

To some degree, curiosity is perhaps the most powerful factor. So I did, I messed up an email probably about two or three weeks ago. Just back from holiday, I recorded a video for my blog. And normally what I do is record the videos on Monday, I upload them to the blog. And then on Tuesday, I sent out an email to my list to tell them, “Hey, there’s a new video. You can go watch it.” But I forgot. I just forgot to send the email. I uploaded it, shared on social media, completely forgot to send the email.

 

Ian Brodie:

So on Wednesday I thought, “Oh God, I haven’t sent the email.” And then what I thought was, “Well, I might as well take advantage of my mess up.” So I did a split test of two different subject lines. And one subject line was a basic standard one, telling people what was in the video. So I can’t even remember what it was, how to get more people engaged with your content or whatever it might be. Then the second one I tested it against was something along the lines of, “Oops,” no, it was, “Sorry. Meant to send you this yesterday.” Which doesn’t at all say what’s in the email, doesn’t really have any value, but people go, “Oh, I wonder what he meant to send us yesterday and why it’s so important.” And indeed that curiosity based subject line got, I think something like a 30% more people all opening it and about 20% more people clicking through to the video, which is the important thing, actually getting them onto my site watching the video.

 

“Curiosity can be quite powerful. So if you’re thinking of writing an email to potential clients, you can, without being misleading people, invoke a bit of curiosity about what it is you’re going to talk about with an unusual subject line.” Ian Brodie · [09:42] 

 

Ian Brodie:

So curiosity can be quite powerful. So if you’re thinking of writing an email to potential clients, I would think about how you can without being misleading, because obviously when they open the email, if the thing you put in the subject line has got nothing to do with what’s in the email, they’re just going to close it and be disgruntled. But if you can kind of invoke a bit of curiosity about what it is you’re going to talk about with an unusual subject line that can help.

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. So there’s two, well, there’s three things I want to dive into here. One, I just want to share the most open email I’ve ever sent was entitled, “Amazon just killed car sales professionals,” because Amazon have just launched, depending when you listen to the show and watch the show of course, Amazon have just launched a kind of search engine for cars, where they list all the details, the pricing and that kind of thing. So the email obviously led into that and people got used out of that and it was interesting from their perspective. I’ve done more kind of click baity. And what I mean by that, I can’t think an example off the top of my head, but when the more click baity I tend to find that more people perhaps click on them, but then people go on the email, don’t click anything in the email, then jump straight away from it. So there’s a balance there, which leads me onto the next question here Ian, of-

 

Ian Brodie:

I just want to say, Will, that is a great email subject line because you are covering both. What was it, Amazon have just killed-

 

Will Barron:

Car sales professionals.

 

Ian Brodie:

Car salespeople. So two things, the benefit, I suppose, is the inverse benefit. Because if they find out, there’s the huge dis benefit if they don’t find out that information that they could be one of the people killed, but the curiosity is what on earth have Amazon done? And especially the language you’re using. So you using quite strong language like that works quite well as well. So I use words like, my worst sales meeting ever, with worst in capital letters and stuff like that. And that just really works. People are interested in that kind of thing and just to go, “Ooh, I wonder what that is, wonder why that’s happened.”

 

Ian Brodie:

And people you can use that one similar to yours in almost any sector to kind of, if there’s some news going on, that’s relevant to your customer. So if you can think of something that’s big in the news relative to your customer. So in this case, it’s Amazon making some changes. And then obviously the email has to follow up on that. So if you want a meeting with them or a call with them, then obviously you have to be able to talk to them about the implications of those changes and maybe help them see how your services could help them with that and get them over that problem. But highlighting some news and talking about the big, dangerous implication for them, that’s good.

 

The Email Open Rates Salespeople Should Be Aiming For · [12:50]

 

Will Barron:

Good. I appreciate that. It was more fluke than anything else. And the only reason I know it worked is that we AB test a lot of our subject lines, as I think sales professionals probably should as well. I don’t know if there’s any tools out the less for marketers, more for sales that enable this, there probably are. But I think it’s definitely worthwhile because as I said, I’m no expert in this and it was almost you kind of get the gut feeling that, I would click on this, but you don’t know until you test it. And from that, rather than me emailing a list of thousands of people for people listening to this now who perhaps just about to sit down at their laptop and do a bunch of cold emails, is there a open rate which they should be aiming for approximately?

 

Ian Brodie:

If there is, I don’t know it, I think you go relative. You’re constantly aiming to beat your own benchmark because firstly it is always worth remembering that open rate statistics are not a hundred percent accurate because they’re reliant on a kind of hidden small one by one pixel embedded in the email that’s unique to the person you’re sending it to. And then when the email gets read, the image gets pulled off a server and it tells, “Oh, they’ve opened the email.” But if they’ve got image are switched off on their email reader, then the pixel doesn’t get pulled because the image is not being shown.

 

Ian Brodie:

Now that’s a particularly true in corporates. Corporates tend to be the environment where images are switched off by default. So if your customers are in corporate organisations, your email open rates statistics will be quite inaccurate and not really comparable with anyone who’s emailing a different group of people. They’re comparable for you week in, week out because if images were switched off last week, they’re going to be switched off next week sort of thing. So you can compare your own open rates, but I wouldn’t go on the open rates as a kind of benchmark. It’s not easy thing to do. As I say, it’s not super accurate. And different industries are very different. So some, if you email to people who are kind of… Well, firstly, most of the starts off are kind of permission based off where people signed up, but if you’re emailing cold, it really is very different by sector, maybe corporate people open it less than people with their own personal email and that kind of stuff. So I would just try and benchmark your own stuff and keep improving.

 

Email Open Rates Versus Actions Once a Prospect Opens Your Email. Which One is More Important? · [14:44] 

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. Well, that leads me on to the next question here of which, and for B2B salespeople specifically, should they be concentrating on open rates or should they be concentrating on action from a email? Whether it be a reply or a scheduled phone call or something of that nature.

 

Ian Brodie:

Yeah, absolutely. You want to focus on the action. I mean, long term, you want to focus on sales, and if you can track those, that’s great. The problem with that is usually there’s often quite a long cycle between the email being sent and someone getting a sale. So by the time you’ve added two and two together and you’ve got enough data to have a statistically significant result, it’s two years later and there’s not much you can do about it. So I would go on the first meaningful thing that you can measure, which would be getting a call for example.

 

Ian Brodie:

So you’ve got multiple stages, kind of see it as steps in a chain. So first step is they’ve got to open it. Then they’ve got to kind of click through to the thing to schedule a call or reply or whatever. And then they’ve got to actually, set up the call and then they’ve got to actually turn up on the call. And you can use one of those later measures as your key measure of them actually showing up on a call because that’s probably, maybe only a week or so after you send the email. So that’s measurable and you can tie it back to the campaign and make changes. And that’s better than open rate.

 

Ian Brodie:

Having said that, don’t ignore open rate completely. Clearly if no one opens your email, you’re not going to get anyone setting a call. The exceptions would be, if you write a particularly polarising email open subject line, that’s designed really to pull out your ideal customers and to kind of repel everyone else. So if you are emailing to a bunch of people, a really simple example, I wouldn’t recommend this particular subject line, but just to illustrate the point, if you are selling computers and you’re targeting people who have IBM computers already, and the subject line said, “Open if you have an IBM computer,” then the open rate on that’s going to be relatively low because loads of people don’t have IBM computers.

 

Ian Brodie:

But since those loads of people weren’t your customers anyway, whether they open it or not, doesn’t matter what matters is whether the IBM people open your thing. So you might find you have a lower open rate on that one, but a higher action rate because you’ve narrowed it down in terms of people reading it to just be your IBM folks. And they’re thinking, “Oh, this is especially relevant to me.” Now that isn’t a great subject line, but you see what I mean. [crosstalk 00:17:11]

 

How to Pre-qualify Your Prospects Through Your Email Subject line · [17:10] 

 

Will Barron:

That is a great subject line. I think that’s something I’ve never come across before, so I really appreciate that, mate. And is this something that happens? Is this something that’s taught and is regularly practised because as I said, if you can pre-qualify your customer through a cold email that is super useful for the audience.

 

Ian Brodie:

I’ve not thought about it a lot before in the sense of these emails, but yeah, there’s a guy who writes marketing emails. So sending out emails to loads of people called Daniel Levis, and he specialises in sales type emails. And his type of email is not to everyone’s tastes. It’s not quite lurid writing, but it’s full of objectives and this is the worst and… And very long emails. But they are designed specifically to narrow down as quick as possible to your ideal customer and to repel people who aren’t your ideal customer. So if you get Daniel’s emails and you’re not a good customer of his, you won’t be getting them for long. You’ll kind of go, “Oh no, I don’t want to get this.”

 

Ian Brodie:

The people who want the kind of stuff he has are like, “Yeah, that’s right.” But the people who aren’t… It’s interesting, I did a webinar with him, oh, about two, three years ago. And I remember afterwards, I got emails back from some of my follows saying, “Oh, I really didn’t like that. I just didn’t click with him at all. Not the guy for me.” And yet others went, “That was brilliant. That’s the best webinar ever.” He kind of polarised the audience into the people who were in sync with his way of thinking and the people who weren’t and that polarisation can happen in an email definitely. I mean, essentially you’re calling out your ideal customers.

 

Ian Brodie:

So if you look at, for example, your Amazon killed automotive sales people. I think the interesting thing is the curiosity got lots of people to open that because your open rates were good, but if someone’s not an automotive salesperson, not a car salesperson, they might not have opened that email. “Oh, well I’m not a car salesperson. I won’t open it.” So now I suspect they opened it out from the curiosity of Amazon killing them. But if you’d written something like, if you only wanted to target car salespeople and you didn’t know that the recipients were all car salespeople, there could be some other people in there. If you called it, “Seven things car salespeople must do to blah, blah, blah.” That’s going to mean only the car salespeople are going to open it really. And therefore your open rate will be relatively low, but they’d be a bit more engaged because they think it’s just for them.

 

Will Barron:

That’s super interesting. And I don’t want to dwell on the mass emailing versus what most people are doing, who are listening to this of the single emails. But I very consciously put all our content out there to deal with the B2B sales professional. That only makes up about 60% of our audience. There are 40% of entrepreneurs, sales managers, sales directors, CEOs of startups, things of that nature as well.

 

Will Barron:

So it’s interesting, I could potentially try and split and narrow down the list and do more, not that I’ve got time to do any of this, but in an ideal world, to be able to do more unique content for perhaps the non B2B salespeople listening. And this would be a great way to go about it. But yeah, I’ve not heard anyone kind of pre qualify through an email subject line before, perhaps in the email content and all the stuff that goes beyond the other end. But if you are one of those perhaps SDRs or sales professionals that are targeted and number of leads brought in their number of phone calls, this could be an easy way to go about that and make them more effective. And from-

 

Ian Brodie:

Yeah, and let’s be frank, if you’re sending single emails to individual people, you can pre-research who they are. So you can try and qualify down in the email subject line a lot about them that you already know.

 

Why You Need to Pre-qualify Prospects Through the Email Subject Line · [20:51]

 

Will Barron:

[crosstalk 00:20:51] I’m thinking with this because you’re right, you could do your research, but it’s very difficult to know whether someone’s in a place where they want to buy right now, whether they’d like to know about it. And so that’s why I’ve got the back of my head of with your IBM computer example, you could say, “Do you have an IBM,” you’d have to be shorter word wise and they might go into the email itself. But you could essentially say, “Do you have an IBM computer? Is it a massive pain in the ass?” Perhaps not, do you have budget to change? That might-

 

“When most people talk about subject lines, what they say is the only thing about them is to get people to open or click through the email. And actually that’s not necessarily true. With a subject line, yes, the first job is to get people to open the email, but you want the right people to open the email and you want them in the right frame of mind. You’re almost pushing them down the sales path.” – Ian Brodie · [21:51] 

 

Ian Brodie:

Well, you could kind of say problems with your IBM computer question mark, and that then, well, if you don’t have an IBM computer, you’re not going to bother opening it. If you do, you might go, “Yeah, bloody do.” And because it’s old and it doesn’t work, et cetera. And you kind of go and then they open it. And the interesting thing is when you’re pre qualifying the subject line, it’s not just an open, it’s an open from someone who now thinks this is specific to me. This is going to have something useful in it. So one of the things Danny Levis talks about, when most people talk about subject lines, what they say is the only thing about a subject line or an article headline is to get people to open it or click through et cetera.

 

Ian Brodie:

And actually that’s not necessarily true. With a subject line, yes, the first job is to get people to open the email, but really want the right people to open the email and you want them in the right frame of mind when they’ve opened it. You’re almost pushing them down the sales path. Similarly, if you want someone to click through to take action somewhere, you’re not just aiming to get the click, you’re aiming to get the right people to make the click. And you want some amending behind the click. You want them already thinking they’re going to take the action, not just clicking out of curiosity to see what’s there. So there’s definitely something to that pre qualifying through the subject line, because I think it does get people more in tune with the message because they think it’s [crosstalk 00:22:43].

 

The Email Opening Line and Why It Needs to Be Perfect · [22:57]

 

Will Barron:

Sure. And of course all this is happening in the subconscious. This isn’t a conscious thing perhaps. And so we probably talk all day about the persuasion, perhaps tactics and techniques. But I want to move on to because you mentioned it at the top of the show and I’m conscious of time here, I don’t want to skip this point because we could talk about subject lines all day. This first sentence of the email that I know myself, I use Gmail and it comes up, obviously. I’ve got a massive ultra wide screen monitor so I get half the email in that line of text on the screen. I don’t know about iOS, but on Android phones, it gives you a little, perhaps six, seven words or so.

 

Will Barron:

So I think it’s important to dive into this because, and I’ve never really thought about this before, even though I know this consciously, I know and I’ve seen it and I can see, I’ll choose whether to open or not an email, whether it’s a priority or not because of this bit of text, which obviously that’s why it’s there, but I’ve never really experimented with it from a sales perspective and probably the audience haven’t as well. Most people say hi name. I am yada yada yada. Or they try add a bit of value in the first sentence. Is there a best practise of what that first sentence should contain? And is it still all about just getting them to open the email at this point?

 

Ian Brodie:

I think it plays a dual role, so it’s getting them to open the email, but it’s getting them to read it on. So I think when many people open an email, they are semi committed to reading the email. Their curiosity has been aroused enough that they’re going to have a look at it, but they’re not committed to reading the whole thing. They could easily abandon after the first sentence if it look… They’re kind of going, “I’ll have a look. Is it any good? Is it going to be useful? Nah, not really.” And then they’re gone. So what the purpose of that first couple of lines are, and the journalists would call it the lead is to take the initial curiosity and kind of beef it up to enhance it, to get real interest going. This is the old AIDA formula, get their attention, build their interest, build desire, and get them to take action.

 

Ian Brodie:

And the first couple of sentences are building on what you’ve said already. Now, typically if I’m doing an email, what I might try and do, or even in an article, to be honest, it’s the same thing, is I’m thinking, how can I make sure that I’m reinforcing that this is an important topic for them? That’s one of the things I’m looking for in those first few words, because they could be open it out of curiosity, but they’re not really going to read on and get in depth unless they know that it’s actually important to with them. It’s something of high value. So certainly a statistic can do that. So if your first line is 57% of so and so, so and sos fail on the third whatever begins, people go, “Oh right. Blame me.” So it’s kind of saying this is an important topic.

 

Ian Brodie:

Or you can make an intriguing story or an example. So people often will read a story or a not really a case story, it’s more a story about someone else. So you could open it with… And it is got to be relevant to them. So I don’t know, if you’re talking about a B2B salesperson, and they’re sending this to their customer. So their customer might be, I don’t know, the owner of a manufacturing firm. So if you lead with the beginning of a story, so, “When John Smith, the owner of blah, blah, blah, did X something terrible happened,” or whatever. And obviously got to be relevant to your particular situation, but if they see the mention of someone who is a lot like them, then they’re going to be interested to read on. What happened to this person who is a lot like me? Does he have the same problems I have?

 

Ian Brodie:

Or you could say, “The number one problem for most manufacturing businesses is blah, blah, blah.” And again, that gets a bit more curiously. What is the number one problem for manufacturing businesses? And you’ve also said, this is about a big problem for manufacturing businesses. So if I run a manufacturing business, I’m going to want to kind of read on, on that front.

 

Ian Brodie:

So I would ideally try and do something like that, especially if you’ve only got one shot at it or a small number of shots. If you’re writing a regular mass email, like we potentially are, then they’re going to be getting that email every week, every few days. You can almost afford to waste the first couple of lines with, by saying hello, et cetera. Because a lot of the time you have a constant open rate because people like you and they know you’ve got good stuff and then it fluctuates up and down, but you can afford to miss every now and then, because you’re going to be emailing a few days later, but if you’ve got one shot at someone, you’ve got to grab their attention early on. [crosstalk 00:27:43]

 

Will Barron:

And are we talking about a sentence?

 

Ian Brodie:

I would skip-

 

The Essence of Using Front Loaded Sentences in Your Email · [27:45] 

 

Will Barron:

Are we talking about a sentence here, two sentences, because I’m conscious that if you… And I want to put into super practical terms for the audience as well, because they could take that of what you just described of awesome, awesome subject line to get people in, then they give them a five page story about one of their customers before they-

 

Ian Brodie:

Oh, no, we are talking about a couple of sentences and we’re talking about front loaded sentences as well. So by front loaded, I mean the kind of interesting words are at the front of the sentence. So you can see them on the email list, your email inbox. So your story might be… Let’s think. So it might be, “John Smith’s business failed,” or something like that is a really short first sentence. “Why? Because he blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” So you’re trying to get as much power into the first few words as you can. And ideally you want that little story told in two or three sentences, because all you’re doing is enough to get them in. You can come back to that story later and recap what happened or whatever. And that’s just one type of email. It doesn’t have to be a story or anything like that. So if you use some important stats, get them at the front so people can see them.

 

“Don’t make the overall format of your email look really weird just for the sake of getting some important stuff in the first few words. The first few words that are displayed on the inbox are going to have an incremental effect on whether people open the email or not. So, it’s not worth creating a Frankenstein’s monster of an email that doesn’t really read properly when people look at it just to get those words at the start.” – Ian Brodie · [29:03] 

 

Ian Brodie:

I mean, the one thing I would say was don’t make the overall format of your email look really weird just for the sake of getting some important stuff in the first few words. So the first few words that are going to be displayed on the inbox are going to have an incremental effect on whether people open the email or not, but it’s not worth creating a kind of Frankenstein’s monster of an email that doesn’t really read properly when people look at it just to get those words at the start.

 

“The key thing is having a mindset that just because someone’s opened your email doesn’t mean they’ll read all of it.” – Ian Brodie · [30:17]

 

Ian Brodie:

So if your email reads better in a more kind of normal format, the traditional cold email might begin, “Hope you may be able to help me with this,” or something and then say, “I’m looking for the right person to do X, Y, and Z.” If that’s a good style that works for you, don’t throw that out completely just to get something more intriguing in the first few lines. “Frankly, not sure if you’re the right person to get this email,” is relatively intriguing in its own right. I guess the big thing is read through the first couple of sentences and see if they are more likely to make people want to read the rest. The key thing is having a mindset that just because someone’s opened your email doesn’t mean they’ll read all of it. You’ve got to almost have the first couple of sentences as almost like a second subject line that are still trying to grab people.

 

Informal Versus Formal Language for Emails · [30:30] 

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. There’s so much to go into this, Ian. So we’ll have you back on in the not too distant future to dive into it, but you did a recent blog post, which I think is relevant to the conversation we’re having now talking about informal versus formal language for emails. So talking again, B2B salespeople, specifically, we’re all taught to be in our stupid kind of like monkey suits. We have a PowerPoint presentation that is atrocious, doesn’t do anything and is really off putting and boring. We have a very specific pitch that we’re told our sales manager hasn’t sold anything in 10 years said this works so continue doing it. And it’s the same in emails, we’re taught to be very professional and talk like we’re writing a letter to the person that we’re communicating with. Is that the best way to communicate? Because for example, with these stories you could give, well, a more of like a case study example versus what you would say in a conversation, which we be totally different. Should we be going down the formal route or perhaps slightly more informal?

 

“I think the thing to remember is, especially these days, people are not treating email like they’re reading a book or they’re reading a formal letter. People are treating email increasingly more like instant messaging.” – Ian Brodie · [31:31]

 

Ian Brodie:

Oh no, I mean, it’s got to be like a conversation. I think the thing to remember is, especially these days, people are not treating email like they’re reading a book or they’re reading a formal letter. People are treating email increasingly more like instant messaging. If you look at the sort of email your friends and your colleague will send you, they’ll quickly rattle off a few things in relatively informal language and send it off. And that is a style that kind of connects with people. If you want the style that you write in to seem to the people who are receiving it, like it’s an email from the person you want to be seen as. So just to deconstruct that for a second, if you want to be seen as a salesperson, as a trusted advisor or a good business friend and colleague of the person of your prospect or of your customer, then you should write to them like a trusted advisor or a good business colleague would write to them.

 

Ian Brodie:

And to be honest, your trusted advisor, your accountant or your lawyer or whatever, maybe your lawyer does, but when they’re not having to write something legalese, they write fairly informally when they just write. I mean, if I look at the emails I get from my accountant, it’ll be, “Hey Ian, if you looked at this, some new stuff just came out on A, B and C. Go here, check it out, get back to me on this.” He’s not writing a formal letter. He’s writing pretty much as if he was on the phone to me having a conversation. And I think that subconsciously that just clicks over. If you are writing to someone as they’re a good business friend, that style goes into their head as, “Well, he’s writing to me like a good business friend. He must be a good business friend,” sort of thing.

 

Ian Brodie:

Whereas, it definitely works the other way around. If you write in a very formal style as if you’ve got no connection with him at all, you’re writing to some kind of anonymous person, dear sir or madam type style, then subconsciously in their head, it’s saying to them, this person doesn’t know me. This is a distant person. This is a corporation writing to me. It’s not a person. It kind of distances them from you. So absolutely I would definitely advise writing in a fairly casual style. Obviously, judge it by your customer, you probably don’t want to be writing “Hey, bro,” unless, “Hey, bro, what’s up?” Sort of thing, unless that’s your customer.

 

Ian Brodie:

I saw that discussion on a writer’s forum recently and someone had kind of written in and said, “Look, I put out some bids, like a proposal for copywriters to write to me. And so many of them are kind of these macho guys, ‘Hey bro, what’s up?’ That exact tone of voice. I’m a business person. I run a multimillion pound business, I don’t want to be talked to like that from someone I don’t know.” So it is possible to go too casual. But what you have to do is think, if you put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client, your prospect, and think what is kind of casual for them, not what’s casual for you, or not what’s casual as seen on the TV, or not what’s casual as someone is telling you as casual, what is casual for your customer and that’s the right style to use.

 

Expounding on Casual Language From a Sales Email Perspective · [34:40]

 

Will Barron:

Perhaps would a way of going about this be the language you would use if you were sat there face to face?

 

Ian Brodie:

Absolutely. And I would say probably that it’s almost like starters you mean to go on a presupposition. Depends on how you would talk to them face to face because some people when they sit face to face are too formal anyway, when they first start talking. I mean, you don’t want to be buddy, buddy, you’ve got show some respect when you first meet people. But often I think when sales people have a meeting with someone in the second meeting, once they’ve got to know them a little bit, that’s how they should have been talking to them in the first meeting. If you see what I mean, they’re a bit too conservative in the first meeting and your client just wants to get on with business. So I would kind of write to them in that second meeting style, I guess you could call it.

 

Ian Brodie:

But the other thing to do is look at how they write. So if this is someone who you’ve seen, some of their emails before that they’ve emailed other people and made an inquiry or whatever, and you’ve seen how they write, have a look at that. Look at their website. If it’s them individually, if they’re a smaller business, you might see what stuff they’ve written on their website. Don’t place too much stock in that because sometimes people end up writing far too formally themselves. But look at them as well. You can know the age, you can get a sense of who they are.

 

Master the Style for Writing the Perfect Sales Email · [36:00]

 

Will Barron:

Let me just ask then Ian, because this is something that comes up all the time. I’m not sure of the answer to this one. It kind of makes sense, but you’ll have an informed answer I’m sure. If you are dealing with, so your pitching to a CEO, they write for Forbes or whoever they write for. So they’ve got a language and the style they write in. Is the rapport building benefits to emailing them and writing in their language, including words they use, if they use smiley faces, for example, including smiley faces. Or is it more important to write in your own style and be congruent of yourself? Which way’s the best way to go about this from a first or second email perspective?

 

“If you don’t use smiley faces in messages, don’t use smiley faces in your emails. If it’s not you, it’s not you. Don’t do it because it’ll come across as false. So what I would say is have a natural style and develop that style.” – Ian Brodie · [36:45] 

 

Ian Brodie:

Oh gosh, that’s true. I’m going to kind of cop out a bit and I’d say both at the same time, so find the common ground. I definitely wouldn’t, if you don’t use smiley faces, don’t use smiley faces. If it’s not you, it’s not you, don’t do it because it’ll come across as false. So what I would say is have a natural style and develop that style. And then when you are communicating with someone, take a version of that style, that’s like their style, it’s like a subset of your, this is all the ways I could be communicating this bit of it seems to be the most appropriate for this person. But I would say that frankly, you do this often enough, you become more casual yourself in terms of when you write.

 

Ian Brodie:

So when I first started writing, I was all professorial and stuff like that. I think I almost wanted people to think I was some university professor and I was almost to down to them. And over time, the edges got smoothed off and I just write a lot more like a talk these days. I mean, a simple way of doing it is just to almost dictate your email or read it out loud certainly when you’ve written it, if it doesn’t sound like you would say it. Have a look at their LinkedIn profile, that’s probably the thing they’re most likely to have written themselves and look at the language. I think there’s a little tool is Crystal Knows that analyses people’s LinkedIn profiles and tries to pick out kind of style and psychological elements from it. Again, I wouldn’t put too much stock in those things. They’re more of a fun game, I think, than anything else, but have a look at their LinkedIn profile and just get a sense of how they write, et cetera.

 

Ian Brodie:

And again, this is obviously is all ROI dependent. If you have to churn out 50 calls a day and each potential customer isn’t worth a fortune to you, you can’t afford to be spending an hour researching someone’s writing style on LinkedIn. But if you’re going for a really high value customer, it’s worth doing as much as you can. I think I would probably just err on the side of taking a typical ideal client profile. So most of my clients are like this, that’s a kind of a good fit with the style I’ve got. You’ll find the two tend to merge together. I mean, if you’ve got a very informal writing style, then you’ll struggle to get very formal clients and you’ll find over time, the only people who say yes to you and read your emails are the ones who kind of click with your style. So you’ll find it kind of adds up at the end of the day and it is both your preferred style and-

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. And I guess it’s another prequalification step for, I imagine most of the people. And I will go out with a limb and say this. If you are listening to this and you’re sending a hundred emails a day for a low cost profit on the product itself and you’re in B2B sales, your sales job probably isn’t going to be around for much longer as automation gets better, because you’re not utilising your skills as a salesperson if you’re doing that. 10 to 20 emails a day to get a couple of calls to close multiple deals per month on a higher value is probably where you want to be. And not to scare too many people, but that’s my experience and my thoughts from speaking with the guests like yourself on the show in, so I’ll go out on a limb and say that and offend half the audience.

 

Ian’s Thoughts on the Email Versus Phone Calls Debate · [40:20] 

 

Will Barron:

But yeah, as you said, if you get your personality right, if you’re congruent with it and you are dealing with higher value purchases where you can perhaps be a bit more choosy about the people you are working with, again, you’re probably pre-qualifying the people that are going to be nightmares for you, because you’re not going to click personality wise by just your writing style. So I appreciate that. And with that, Ian, I’ve got a couple of questions to ask everyone that comes on the show. So I’ll run through these. First one, and feel free to give a short or long answer depending on how it impacts you. But first one, although we just talked for 40 minutes about email, which is more powerful as a sales tool, email or the phone?

 

Ian Brodie:

I’m going to say, if you can get through it’s the phone, but not for me, in the sense of, I don’t answer calls. I only answer calls from my wife and my family. So it’s not very powerful if you try to sell to me. And there are probably more people like me out there in the world. But the truth, email reaches a lot more people. I think these days are really good strategies, email then call, pre qualify through the emails so you’ve got a much easier call. And a lot of people, even sales people, who’ve been at it for a long time, still struggle and hate making those calls. So I personally like email and it’s the way I would do things, but that may be just due to my social analysis.

 

Will Barron:

Not at all. I agree, I think sending a call email to set up a phone call clearly, if you can do it and it works is probably the best strategy rather than chasing someone on the phone. I’ve had Halifax-

 

Ian Brodie:

Certainly from [crosstalk 00:41:36].

 

Biggest Deal Ian Has Ever Closed · [41:40]

 

Will Barron:

I’ve had Halifax bank call me twice this morning and I’ve not answered the phone. So that’s how little I answer the phone to people that I’m not interested to speak to in that immediate moment. I’ve probably just been robbed, which will probably come up in this blog post. That’s why they’re calling me. I don’t know why otherwise, but yeah, I appreciate that. Next one, dollar or pound, if possible, what is the biggest deal you’ve ever closed?

 

Ian Brodie:

Oh, gosh. Well firstly, I’ve tended not to close huge big deals because I’ve always worked in consultancy where it’s just a number of consultants, so I’ve not sold big equipment, et cetera. But probably the biggest consultancy project, and this is not IT consultancy, which is filled with loads of people, it’s high end strategy consulting. Jointly was about 10 million pounds, which I think at the time was the biggest single management consultancy project in the UK for that year. But it wasn’t just me, there was a team working on that. The biggest one individually, I’m thinking about 5 million, something like that. So again, these are quite big consultancy projects because you can imagine for 5 million, it’s quite a few people, but it’s not big IT implementations where you’re picking [crosstalk 00:42:45].

 

Will Barron:

You’re being very humble about that. That is far higher than most of the people that come on the show, whether they’re dealing with consultants or individually. So I appreciate you being very candid there.

 

Ian Brodie:

I was lucky enough to be part of a big firm that tended to sell big deals. So when I say a big deal, for example, if we look at that 5 million deal that was me going and meeting the potential client, initially getting agreement with them to interview over the phone, three, four of their key executives, we interviewed three or four of their key executives, found out what was really important to them, agreed with them that I think for about a hundred thousand dollars pound, something like that, we would do a quick six week project with them where we figured out what their problems were.

 

Ian Brodie:

We did that. I sent a team of about four people in, we spent six weeks with them analysing their problems, figuring that out. I had conversations with all the executives, played them back, here are the problems, here’s what we recommend you do, here’s the business case. And at the end of that, I had the conversation with them that ended up in a 5 million deal. So it’s not as if I just walked into the client and sold a 5 million deal. We had a very good structured methodology for taking them up from a small one to a much bigger one.

 

Books/Resources Ian Would Recommend For Sales Nation · [44:14]

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. You’re still over explaining yourself, Ian here, mate. You’re very humble. I appreciate that. And you’re killing it from the deals of that size that you’ve done in the past, that’s awesome compared to… not that it’s a comparison, but we’ve other people that come on the show, they’re great numbers. So congratulations on that. Next one, what is one book, a resource other than your own that you recommend to the Salesman Podcast audience?

 

Ian Brodie:

I reckon that most people listening will have read all the sales books that I’ve read, because I’m not a specialist salesperson. So a couple off the beaten track that you might find interesting. One is more of a marketing book it’s Influence by Robert Cialdini, which I’m sure you know, because I think you kind of hinted at it earlier, well worth reading that. And another one which is about sales, but it’s disguised. It’s a book in disguised it’s called Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, which is a book you would never imagine was about selling, but it’s about selling consultancy and other things like that by building a very personal relationship with the client. And that’s quite a nice book. I listen to that on audio book, actually I’ve got the book and I’ve listened on audiobook. The audio book’s great because the guy who wrote it, Mahan Khalsa. He’s a very funny guy, when any case he’s kind of reading the book.

 

Ian’s Morning Routine · [45:16]

 

Will Barron:

[crosstalk 00:45:16] To both of them in the show notes over at salesman.red. Next one, what does the first 60 minutes or so of your day look like?

 

Ian Brodie:

First 60 minutes of my day, frankly, most days it’s I will wake up groaning a lot cause I’m not an early riser, grab a quick bit of breakfast on the go, take my youngest son to school, then sit in a coffee shop. And in that coffee shop, I will do some planning or thinking. I’ll try and do some brain activity in that first 30 minutes. So on a Monday that’s always planning the week based on my major priorities. If it’s a Wednesday or Friday, the other main days I do it on, I might be thinking about a new product I’m thinking of creating or a blog post or something that involves creativity. I find my creative juices, my brain works best in the morning before it’s got overwhelmed with emails and all that kind of stuff coming in. So I’ll always find something I can do in a coffee shop that involves thinking.

 

Ian’s Advise to Salespeople on How to Become Better at Selling · [46:21] 

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. And final one, and you’ve been on the show before so I’m going to twist this question around slightly. If you could sit down with everyone who’s listening to this, 10, 20,000 people, but you can only often one piece of sales advice across all industries, across B2B, across some of the CEOs and entrepreneurs that listen, what would that one piece of advice be to help them become better at selling?

 

Ian Brodie:

I would say focus on finding, spending more time with the people who are the most likely to become your customers and less time trying to persuade the other people that they should be. I don’t know if that made any sense, but what I’ve found is, it’s all about kind of lead generation and prospecting with the right people. Life is lovely if you are… If you imagine the very best sales meeting you’ve ever had and where you just really clicked with the person who you’re talking to, they respected you, they knew what you were talking about, you interacted a lot. It was a proper business person to business person discussion, went really well. And then compare that with one that went really badly where they probably didn’t respect you, they didn’t really answer your questions properly. They didn’t trust you, so they didn’t give you the right information. And it was all a bit painful.

 

Ian Brodie:

What a lot of people do is they try and find clever ways of persuading that person who’s not all that interested, isn’t perfect, that they should want their products. So they learn about closing techniques and persuasion techniques and all that kind of stuff. For me far better, just not to have those meetings, don’t try and figure out how to convert those people who are not great fits, have more meetings with the people who are a great fit like the first example.

 

Parting Thoughts · [48:15]

 

Will Barron:

Makes total sense. It very nicely sums up our conversation today, Ian, of pre-qualifying through the email. That’s the biggest takeaway that I’ve got from this and our time here today. And I appreciate that. I appreciate your candid answers. And with that, Ian, tell us a little bit where we can find out more about you and find what you are doing. And then I believe you’ve got something to share with us as well.

 

Ian Brodie:

Yeah, indeed. So I do stuff in two places. One is over at ianbrodie.com. That’s my regular thing where I publish, is primarily marketing, but also sales for people who are not natural salespeople. So people who might be a consultant or an entrepreneur or whatever, but someone who is not a dedicated sales person. Frankly, I have quite a few salespeople follow me because there are quite a few salespeople who probably don’t consider themselves to be natural sales people. But you can get that stuff there. And my book is Email Persuasion and you get that at emailpersuasion.com or obviously on Amazon. And if you go to ianbrodie.com/salesman, you can get a copy of my 21 Word Email that can get you more clients, which is a really good, slightly warm prospecting email. I’ll describe it at that. It’s not for people completely cold, it’s for people who you may have had some form of relationship with in the past, and it rewarms that relationship in a way that enhances it and then gets you talking about [crosstalk 00:49:18].

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. We’ll lead to all that in the show notes, over at salesman.red, for anyone who is on a treadmill or drive in the moment trying to scribble all those links down.

 

Ian Brodie:

That’s no excuse. Get your phone out on the treadmill [crosstalk 00:49:30].

 

Will Barron:

The treadmill’s fine. And they’re in the car, I’d rather than not wrap it around a tree.

 

Ian Brodie:

Oh, fair enough.

 

Will Barron:

Because obviously a lot of salespeople are driving around listening to this commuting back and forth. And with that Ian, mate, I appreciate you for your time and the energy. And as I mentioned at the top of the show, all the context information you give me before we even click record, I’ve got a load out of this episode as well that I’m going to experiment with. And with that, I want to thank you for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Ian Brodie:

Cheers.

 

Will Barron:

And there we have it. Ian, thank you for joining us on the show. I appreciate your time and your insight, especially on this email side of things. And there’s a whole lot more to go out with this topic. So we’ll have you back on to dive into that more detail and thank you Sales Nation for tuning in. Of course there’d be no show if you guys didn’t share your attention with us. I appreciate that massively from the bottom of my heart, because I don’t know what I’d be doing at this point, probably still medical device sales, if the show hadn’t taken off. So I appreciate that guys, I really do. And with that all said, I’ll speak with you on tomorrow’s episode.

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