Even if you have a steady stream of inbound sales leads surging into the pipeline, odds are, you'll have to supplement your funnel from time to time with outbound prospecting. And that's totally fine ... if you go about it in the right way, that is.
Sales emails, when written well and sent to the right people, can be incredibly effective tools to generate new customers. But when they're written poorly and devoid of value, nothing prompts recipients to flag a message as spam faster.
Sending valuable, customized, personalized sales emails is a legitimate sales tactic. Blasting out spam is not. So how can you tell if a cold sales email actually spam? Use these 14 signs to make the call.
How to Tell if Your Sales Email Is Warm Outreach or Spam
1) The email doesn't use the recipient's first name.
We've all gotten emails addressed to "Hi [prospect]" or "Dear Sir or Madam." Did you read the rest of the message? I didn't either.
Failing to use the recipient's first name is a dead giveaway that this email was not intended solely for them. If you're working from an email template, double and triple check that you've filled in the correct name at the top, or risk getting sent to the spam graveyard.
2) The email offers nothing of value.
"My company is great. Let me tell you all about it. We do W, X, Y, and even Z."
Um ... and this is relevant to me how?
Never send a sales email to a prospect without including something that will be valuable to them, such as a piece of content, an introduction to someone they would benefit from knowing, or a helpful tip.
3) The email is not personalized in the slightest.
You're on LinkedIn, right? Good. (If you're not, stop reading this blog post and join right now. Seriously.)
LinkedIn offers up a wealth of knowledge about your prospects for the taking. You have no excuse to go into an email without doing research -- otherwise you're just writing a terrible cold email. Grab a few tidbits from the prospect's social media profiles and call them out in your message to show you've done your homework.
4) The email contains no customization.
Personalization pertains to the person -- their job, their goals, what they share on social, and so on. Customization, on the other hand, revolves around the prospect's company and industry. What's happening at their organization? What trends are shaping their industry? What are the major priorities of their department or business unit?
An email that only addresses the prospect's business in bland generalities won't strike them as particularly relevant. Take time to research the company and tailor your value proposition specifically to the organization's needs.
5) The email is just an ask.
"Hi. Do you have time for a 30-minute meeting?"
Hmm. Let me think about that. Considering what I know about said meeting and the value you promised I would get out of it, I'm gonna go with no.
Don't be lazy. Yes, the ask is your email's punchline, but it can't be the entire message. Make it clear why the prospect should spend their precious time on you, or they won't give your request a second thought as it disappears into Spam Canyon.
6) The email is solely about your company.
Remember your mother's sage advice about not talking about yourself too much? Yeah, that applies here. If your email is just one long advertisement for your company, your recipient has no reason to care. Make it about them, not you.
7) The email is sent to a large list of people at once.
Nothing says "Do business with me because I'll give you a personalized buying experience" like sending a cold sales email to every single lead in your pipeline. Yikes.
And don't think you're being clever by putting everyone on BCC. Buyers know what that means. Mass emails smack of spam, plain and simple.
8) The email is riddled with typos and grammatical errors.
"I can insure you'll get the bset service youve ever experenced plus we have a discount running right now for ............. 50% OFF!!!!!!"
Just typing that sentence made my writerly heart hurt a little. You can imagine how a message positively dripping with poor grammar and misspelled words will come off to your buyers. Spoiler alert: not good.
9) You send the email to a person who doesn't resemble your target buyer in the slightest.
Maybe you've crafted a beautifully customized sales email template specifically targeted to companies in the technology industry.
So ... why are you sending it to a prospect who works in education?
It's a no-brainer -- people don't want irrelevant information. Why would they? Keep this in mind, and only contact prospects who closely match your ideal customer profile.
10) The subject line contains spammy words.
"Earn Extra Cash While You Sleep"
"F R E E Will Not Believe Your Eyes!"
I bet you couldn't wait to open emails with these subject lines. </sarcasm>
Certain words and phrases set off spam triggers. If you're using any or several of them in your subject line, your email might not even reach your recipient's inbox.
11) The subject line is misleading.
Remember that even if your message makes it past the spam filter, prospects still have the power to mark it as spam in their inbox. And when do people mark something as spam? When the sender makes them mad.
Inserting a false "Re:" or "Fwd:" in your subject line when you've never contacted the prospect before is deceptive, and can invoke recipients' ire. Other headers that fall into this category are those like "Long time no talk" or "We should catch up."
If you don't know the person, don't act like you do. You might lull them into a false sense of familiarity for a second, but this will quickly turn into anger when they realize your cheap trickery.
12) The email contains words and/or sentences that have been obviously copied and pasted.
Here I'm talking about sentences that all of a sudden switch fonts or color. Here's an example:
You think this is a template that the salesperson customized? Just maybe.
Again, using templated emails is a smart move, but make sure the email looks uniform.
13) You copied and pasted the entire email.
Templates and scripts are not the same thing. Templates provide a starting point for salespeople to build on and contain areas that need to be customized. Scripts are blocks of text that salespeople simply copy and paste over, and over, and over again.
No two buyers are the same, so there's simply no way you're providing value to anyone if your email prospecting consists of sending the same message to everybody.
14) The email is only a link.
Clicking on suspicious links is a surefire way to get a computer virus. That said, a sales message that's just a link looks awfully spammy:
You might be directing the prospect to the most helpful resource in the world, but there's zero chance they're going to check it out if you don't put in the effort to explain what it is and how it will help them. And by the way -- if it won't help them? Don't send it at all.
If you're ever in doubt as to whether your sales email is spam or not, use this simple rule of thumb. If your email isn't customized enough to be sent to one person and only that person, it's straddling the spam line. Go back and personalize until the email is as unique as your prospect herself.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.