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One of the greatest things about social selling is how it enables reps to reach their target buyers in numbers one could only dream of less than a decade ago. Unfortunately, this also means it’s easy to take shortcuts and deploy a shotgun approach that actually does more harm than good.

Here is an example of an absolutely terrible InMail I received. It’s messages like this that ruin the system for everyone.

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Let’s take a look at what was wrong with this message.

  • The subject line was completely irrelevant. The message had no tie-in back to the subject line.
  • Poor grammar. If you’re a manager I expect you to be able to use "your" and "you’re" properly. If you’re in doubt, have someone double check your spelling before your message goes out to a client.
  • Bad formatting. The InMail is one big block of text that’s hard to read.
  • What’s the name of my company? Using a template is a great idea to save time, but sales reps should customize the parts that matter. If you’re not willing to take the time to address who I am, why should I give you my time?
  • What are you looking to learn about my company or my role? Throw me a bone here.
  • No contact information. Just as closing for next steps is important, sales reps must make it easy for buyers to contact them. 

Here is how I would have written the message:

Hi Lucas,

Noticed that you’ve started Treats Happen -- your site looks great! We actually help a number of growing ecommerce companies with their IT solutions to make sure their shop is always up and running, and they can manage from their mobile on the go.

Would you be free for a quick (5-10 min) chat early next week to talk about how we might be able to help you out?

[Name]

BTW if you want to chat sooner call me at (555) 555-5555.

Why is my approach better? Generally speaking, it adheres to some important sales guidelines:

  • It’s quick and to the point. Writing a short but effective message is a tough skill to learn, but it’s one of the most important that any sales rep can have.
  • It shows I’ve done my homework. I’m sending you (not everyone) a message not just to hit a quota, but because I truly think I can help your business.
  • It’s properly written. I’m far from the best writer, but for a sales guy, I’m pretty decent. I also know the difference between "your" and "you’re" and "there," "their," and "they’re." (I realize I just opened myself up to have this post critiqued.)

Drilling down a bit more, every sentence, and even every word, has meaning:

  1. "Hi Lucas" This is important. They spelled my name correctly and they used the form of my name that I use. If I get a cold message in which the sales rep calls me Luke (which I never go by) or spells my name "Lukus/Lukas/Lickias," I ignore it. Always make sure you’ve spelled your recipient's name and the name of their company correctly.
  2. "Noticed that you’ve started Treats Happen -- your site looks great!" This tells me you’re not just bombarding me with a generic, templated message; you’ve done your homework. A (genuine) compliment also goes a long way.
  3. "We actually help a number of growing ecommerce companies with their IT solutions to make sure their shop is always up and running, and they can manage from their mobile on the go." This sentence gets right to the point and shows how the rep can help the message recipient. In addition, the idea of managing an ecommerce store on mobile might be a pain point the buyer had not thought of yet.
  4. "Would you be free for a quick (5-10 min) chat early next week to talk about how we might be able to help you out?" Far too many reps ask for something big out of the gate, like a 30- or 60-minute demonstration. Five to 10 minutes is a reasonable amount of time, and it sets the expectation of what “quick” means. I also suggest a date for the call that's not too far in the future, but far enough out that there's likely some wiggle room in the buyer's schedule.
  5. "BTW if you want to chat sooner call me at (555) 555-5555."Just in case the message has hit on a serious pain point, I’ve given my contact information where the prospect can reach me right away.

The variances between my InMail and the one I received might be small, but they make the difference between 10 people responding to you or 10% responding to you. Take the time to review your messaging, and when you do reach out -- regardless of which channel you use -- make your outreach genuine and personal.

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Originally published Jul 1, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Social Selling