Whenever I teach new sales reps how to do effective cold emailing, I always explain to them that no matter how good their email is, they waste their time if their subject lines are not exciting enough that the recipient even bothers to open the email. This means that the subject line is arguably the most important part of any cold emailing strategy, with open rates being a particularly important measurement. And yet, most businesses seem to get it wrong consistently. Part of my training both in my book, Authentic Selling: How to Use the Principles of Sales in Everyday Life, and in the new online course I am launching called Weirder Than Waldo, entails having these young aspiring salespeople open up their own email inboxes. I ask them to look at the subject lines of the various emails they have from all of the retailers or other brands who captured their email addresses as part of some marketing campaign many moons ago.

“What you see in your inbox? Don’t do that,” I tell them.

Why is it so easy for me to ascertain that these subject lines are overly generic and boring? Because most businesses engage in mass-marketing, and therefore cannot spend much time personalizing their message in an attempt to connect with their customers in a meaningful way.

As human beings, the number one need we have is acceptance. So when you are reaching out to someone for the first time, your goal – and this goes for your subject line, too – should be to make that individual feel accepted. And a great way to make someone feel accepted is to lead with some sort of shared value or commonality that you have. This will allow you and the other person to feel connected more meaningfully than just two strangers, one of whom is apparently seeking something from the other.

So, without further ado, I want to give you three simple subject lines that rarely fail for me. I have used these time and time again to get meetings with C-Level executives within the Fortune 500, and there is a method to my madness that I will gladly explain.

1. Referral-based subject line

Hands-down, the best and most successful way to get a meeting with someone or really just for them to take you seriously at all is through a referral. For example, if you were a good friend of mine and you wanted to talk to my parents about buying a timeshare, odds are you would have little luck just calling them on the phone out of the blue. However, if you spoke to me first and I encouraged you to contact my parents based on what I learned about the opportunity myself, and if you told my parents that you were a friend of mine and that I asked you to contact them, it would almost be a little rude for them to ignore you. And that is because my parents love and trust me.

With referrals, you are passively obtaining trust with your target client through a third-party. Businesses ought to be doing more of this, as word-of-mouth marketing and referrals are really the strongest marketing tools in their arsenal. For example, suppose you have a customer who is willing to give you the information of three friends who might also enjoy their brand. In that case, it stands to reason that you will be much more successful obtaining those three new customers using the name of your existing customer than going in cold.

In these cases, my subject line is simple: “referral from [referring individual]”. It is succinct and clear about why you are reaching out but leaves enough unknown that you will almost certainly get an open from an intrigued prospect.

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