Making a great first impression on a prospect can be tantamount to the success of the relationship. First impressions, after all, are everything.
But how can a sales rep get off on the right foot with every prospect? Or maybe more importantly, how can they avoid souring the relationship before it even really begins?
It all starts with the first email a salesperson sends. This email sets the tone for the relationship going forward, so it’s important to get right.
But many salespeople unintentionally turn their buyers off without even realizing it due to poor word choice. Below are 31 commonly-used phrases that kill a relationship from the very first email.
1) "Hi, my name is and I work at … "
Using this phrase indicates that you haven’t taken the time to become familiar to the prospect before sending this email. According to studies, cold emails are not effective. Instead, reps should build a rapport online before emailing a prospect.
2) "Whenever you have a second, let me know."
Including a clear next step for the prospect at the end of the email is the best way to keep the conversation moving forward. Using this phrase, however, could leave the prospect in limbo because they aren’t sure what it is the salesperson would like them to do.
3) "This is the perfect product for your company."
While it’s great to believe in your product, unless you know the business’ specific pain points, goals, and ins and outs, this phrase isn’t accurate. Feel free to indicate that you believe your offering might be a good solution, but don’t overstate your case.
4) "This offer won’t last forever."
Today’s buyer is working on their own timeline, regardless of how close to the end of the month it is. This pushy phrase scares buyers away because they aren’t ready to make a commitment yet and don’t want to feel rushed.
5) "Our product will make you hit your goals."
Until you’ve spent time talking in-depth with a prospect about their business, you don’t know if your product will help them reach their specific goals. Sellers who make guarantees without information can sour a relationship because they have no credibility.
6) "Who at your company would be the best person for me to talk to?"
Using this phrase indicates that you haven’t taken the time to research the company, go beyond titles, and learn about individual responsibilities. Instead of reaching out blindly, reps should focus on the people downloading materials from their website and capitalize on this demonstrated interest in their product.
7) "Our product does A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, .... "
Too much information can be overwhelming. Instead of listing off each and every feature your product offers, make an educated guess about one pain point based on your research and offer a tactical suggestion for that specific pain point. This approach provides value and doesn’t overwhelm the prospect.
8) "What do you think we should do next?"
By putting the ball in the prospect's court, they might not respond at all because they’re not sure what to do. Offer clear options about next steps which will allow the prospect to choose their own path.
9) "Do you have problems with X, Y, and Z?"
An introductory email shouldn’t be about figuring out if they have a problem. It’s best to save the lengthy pain discussion for your first call. Instead, salespeople should spend time researching this prospect, make an educated guess as to what their most pressing pain point might be, and speak to that pain in the email. Clues from website downloads, financial statements, and job boards can tip a sales rep off to where a particular company might want or need to improve.
10) "Would it make sense for us to chat?"
If a rep provides value, it always makes sense to the prospect to explore their options. Focus on helping from the get go, and it will inherently make sense to get on the phone.
11) "To whom it may concern:"
Studies have shown that personalized emails have higher open and response rates. By opening with “to whom it may concern,” the prospect might feel slighted because it appears this email is going out to 100 random people. When in doubt, personalize.
12) "I know your time is valuable, but … "
... But what? This phrase implies that what the prospect is about to read is a waste of their time. Prospects are looking for a return on their time invested, and using a phrase like this primes them against seeing one.
13) "Sorry if I've wasted your time."
Salespeople need to provide value with every touch. By writing that they might have wasted the prospect’s, the rep indicates that this and any future emails are wastes of time. Don’t set the wrong tone.
14) "Sorry to bother you, but … "
Saying "sorry" means you’ve done something wrong. When a prospect sees that you’re apologizing for sending an email, they might assume the message is completely valueless.
15) "The product only costs … "
Mentioning the price of the product in the introductory email can scare the buyer away because they don’t fully understand the value of the offering. Listing any price is going to be a deterrent to the relationship. Provide value first.
16) "Are you free for a demo tomorrow?"
Requesting time for a demonstration in the very first email might make the prospect feel like the rep is forcing them through the funnel faster than they want to go. Instead, allow the prospect to decide when the time is right for a demonstration, which will naturally happen after they’ve built rapport with the rep and understand the value of the product.
17) "Just a quick email to ... "
As Nancy Friedman points out, "just" is a weak word. Using “just” implies that what the salesperson is about to say won't be important. Erase “just” from every sentence and take note of how the sentence improves and becomes stronger.
18) "I’m not trying to sell you anything."
Really? A prospect is likely to read that statement and say, “but you’re a salesperson ... right?” While the goal might not be to sell the prospect anything right away, ultimately the rep does want to convert them into a paying customer. Honesty is the best policy.
19) "Our product increases revenue/decreases cost/reduces risk."
Every company on the planet claims to increase revenue, reduce risk, or decrease cost. Generic claims make buyers’ eyes glaze over. With the introductory email, salespeople should try to paint a clear picture of what specific benefit their product offers for this individual prospect.
20) "I guarantee that this product will … "
Guarantees are great, but unless the salesperson knows every detail about the prospect and their business, they shouldn’t offer one. Don’t make a guarantee in the introductory email until you understand the prospect and their business.
21) "Can you do me a favor and ... ?"
Asking for a favor before providing value puts the prospect in the awkward position of asking themselves, “Why should I do this?” Provide value to the buyer before asking them to do something for you.
22) "If I could just have two seconds of your time."
What good can happen for this prospect in just two seconds? If a rep is looking for only two seconds of a prospect’s time, it suggests that what they have to say isn’t valuable. Don’t be afraid to ask for a half hour and give yourself the chance to provide value.
23) "What makes us different from our competitors is … "
Why bring up your competitors in an introductory email? This email is meant to gauge interest in your product, not a competitor's.
24) "We’ve helped plenty of companies just like yours."
While this company might have similarities to other companies, it’s important to remember that every prospect is different. Instead of trying to generalize that you’ve had success with others, inform the prospect why you believe you will have success with their business.
25) "Don’t miss this opportunity!"
Using a sales-y phrase like this can deter a buyer because they are working on their own timetable, not the salesperson's. The threat of “missing out on an opportunity” might signal to the buyer that they need to look at other companies willing to work on their timeline.
26) "I can tell we’re going to make a great team."
But what if they’re not a great fit for your company? This email is about learning about the prospect and setting up a meeting to determine if the prospect really is a good fit. Don’t jump the gun and predict a perfect relationship; learn as much as you can about the buyer before making a statement like this.
27) "I was wondering if you’d be interested."
This phrase signals that you have not done a proper amount of research to determine whether or not this prospect would benefit from your product. Salespeople can rely on inbound leads and a commitment to research to stop using this phrase.
28) "We accept all forms of payment."
This phrase can turn a buyer away because the prospect might have recently learned about this product and aren’t anywhere close to ready to buy. Instead, gauge the prospect’s interest and when they’re (much) further along in the funnel, bring up payment.
29) "I know what you’re attempting to do."
While sales reps have worked with many companies, implying that you know the ins and outs of a prospect’s business can hurt your credibility. It might also come across as presumptive to the prospect, damaging the fledgling relationship. Salespeople should learn as much as they can from a prospect before making assumptions about the prospect’s goals.
30) "Trust me ... "
Trust is earned, not given. By using the phrase "trust me," salespeople imply that they might not be trustworthy and have to ask for trust rather than earn it.
31) "Could you put me in touch with ... "
Like #6, this phrase not only reveals that you haven't done research but also asks a prospect to do work on your behalf. You haven't even established a relationship, so why would your prospect take time to help you?
A perfect sales email can be tricky to write, but a really bad one is easy to avoid. By taking the time to write a clear, concise message, sales reps can provide value to the prospect from the jump and ensure a great first impression.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.