Benjamin Franklin once said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
He probably wasn’t talking about sales, but the sentiment still holds true. If you’re writing an email your prospect won’t get any value from, why invest any time in writing it?
But it can be difficult to gauge whether or not your email provides prospects something of worth. A good test is to look out for a few problematic phrases in your emails that signal a relatively worthless message. In basketball, they call this type of assessment a heat check. When a player realizes that he has gone cold, instead of shooting 20 more times (and ultimately missing), he adjusts his strategy.
When you catch yourself writing these meaningless phrases in your emails to your prospects, it might be time to reevaluate and adjust your message.
1) “Just checking in”
It usually takes more than five touches to convert a prospect into a customer, which makes for a lot of “checking in.” However, the phrase “just checking in” can be translated to, “Hey -- do you still want to buy?” This term most often comes up after a prospect has shown initial interest but is not moving through the funnel at the rate the rep would like them to go.
As John Sherer points out, the “just checking in” email is mostly about the rep, not the prospect. “Our selfish desire to ultimately get that call booked doesn't add value to the prospect,” he writes. “It doesn't speak to the prospect's needs. It just focuses on what we want as sales reps.”
In order to avoid this dreaded phase, take the conversation beyond just the sale. For example, if your company published a new case study that would be interesting to the buyer, send it along. If you share the same favorite sports team, comment on the last game. By always providing new topics, you’ll never have to “check in” on the prospect.
2) “It’s been a while”
When a sales rep reaches out with this phrase, it reads like a last-ditch effort to close a deal. It also brings to the prospect’s attention the fact that they haven’t gotten back to you in a while. And do you really want to do that?
Relying on the right CRM is key in this situation. Instead of having to send the “it’s been a while” email along, a CRM system can help you track the last time you spoke and set reminders to follow up before it’s been too long. A good prospect should never fall through the cracks.
3) “If you get a second”
The most valuable asset a businessperson has is their time. But while your intentions might be noble, writing that you only need a few seconds of time in your email implies that the meeting you’re offering isn’t valuable. In light of this, why would a customer take a meeting with you? This can also lead to the prospect assuming future interactions won’t be worth their time either.
Instead of asking for a few minutes of time up front, send content or strategy tips early on to establish value. Then, when you do ask for a full half hour- or hour-long meeting, you’ll have something to discuss with the prospect in depth.
4) “Following up”
By “just following up” you’ve indicated that you haven’t heard back from this prospect, and you’re becoming impatient with them. And this type of approach doesn’t accomplish anything -- you’re just filling up an inbox in hopes of advancing your own ends.
Instead of “just following up,” aim to add value to all your emails and move the conversation forward. If you provide something of value in each touch -- for example, a referral, piece of content, industry insight, or strategy recommendation -- you’ll never have to use this tired phrase.
Today’s prospects are moving through the buyer’s journey at their own pace. While it can be tempting to send an email just to keep the conversation alive, this tactic probably won’t work out in your favor.
If you find yourself sending an email just to send an email, rethink your strategy and find a way to provide value. These four phrases can help you spot an email that might deter a prospect instead of converting them.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.