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Why email is (usually) a terrible way to prospect

There are exceptions to every suggestion, but in general, email is a terrible way to prospect for new business. I'm reminded of this daily by the barrage of emails I ignore, and in some cases — like this one, I use it as a classic example to prove my assertion.

Emails are easy to send. You can send an email to multiple people in a short time and usually with no, or minimal cost if you're using a fancy email marketing service. Emails are also easy to delete. Raise your hand if you'd like to get more emails each day? I didn't think so. Prospects are people too. Here's the email I received this week; let's analyze it together: The opening line is classic "product peddling" as it's all about them. "Our company..." At this moment, I could not care less.

Then it gives me a bunch of random links, and in today's hyper-sensitive world of cybersecurity, rule number one is to never click on a link from someone you don't know.

His closing paragraph is equally noncompelling. "I am here to help..." Help with what?

At RAB, we teach that all prospect engagement should begin with a Valid Business Reason (VBR). That reason has NOTHING to do with your company, products or services. It's usually a piece of research you've found in your pre-call planning that relates directly to their business or a problem their category of business is facing.

For example, if you were calling a restaurant, you might say, "According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants today are still facing a shortage of up to 1 million employees from pre-pandemic levels. What challenges are you having recruiting for your restaurant?" Note, that it's an open-ended question rather than, "Are you having trouble?" They can simply say "No," and hang up. The point of a prospect call, email or face-to-face meeting is always to engage the prospect. Get them talking about themselves, then ask for a meeting to explore further.

Other than saving this email from Eric to my "Bad Prospecting Examples" folder, I will take no action and simply would have deleted it.

I also received a follow-up email from another solicitation where they asked me: "Are you the person who handles HR decisions at RAB?" I simply replied, "Not even close." They then replied, "Great, would you mind telling me who is the appropriate person?" To which I responded: "Yes, I mind. I don't reward lazy prospecting."

I'm really a nice and for the most part helpful person, except when it comes to horrible prospecting approaches. I don't think I'm alone — which is why email and other forms of lazy prospecting simply don't work. We can and we should do better.

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at You can all so connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, SVP of Professional Development, RAB