Sell to Win

How to improve your sales outreach in the era of email fatigue

Ashwin Balakrishnan
Contributor, Sell to Win
Ashwin Balakrishnan
Contributor, Sell to Win
red eye novelty glasses how to improve sales outreach in the era of email fatigue

Your prospects are preoccupied by the state of the world—and so are you. Here’s how you can shake the pressure and help them do the same.

The verdict is in: emails cause stress. And sales emails can feel extra stressful for a number of reasons:

  • Vague subject lines get in the way of prioritizing them quickly and easily.
  • There’s an implication of added labor if you show interest.
  • They compete for attention with internal emails vital to people’s work and careers.

Once you add other modern concerns to the pool—inflation, housing, health, and climate to name just a few—it’s easy to see why so many people just ignore emails that would have previously captured their attention.

In 2022, prospects feel more stress than ever when they open their inboxes. And so do you as a sales professional, whether you realize it or not.

Even before the pandemic, only 8.5% of emails got a response, making it a challenging channel for even seasoned sales reps.

Here’s how to move in the right direction toward making things right for yourself and your prospects.

Why prospects get stressed by email

Before you can fix the problem with prospect email fatigue, you have to know what’s causing it.

In modern email culture, there are two types of stressors I feel as a decision-maker whenever I open my inbox: life stressors and work stressors.

Work stressors are related to my job and career, and can be controlled or solved in part by the products and services many sales reps have to offer. Life stressors include everything else and are unlikely to be alleviated by a sales email.

Here are some of the leading causes of email stress for your prospects:

  • Feeling tapped out. Unpredictable work situations, stagnant careers, economic instability, social unrest, health crises—in the modern “attention era,” people, news, and priorities compete for our attention nearly 24 hours a day. Every email, however helpful, runs the risk of catching prospects at a time when they have no energy to consider it.
  • Feeling overwhelmed. Depending on their role and company, an individual might field anywhere from a handful to several dozen sales engagements every day. Not just emails, but calls, meetings, demos, and direct mailers. If your email asks for too much too soon, it may end up being ignored.
  • Fear of another task. Even when a sales email ticks all the right boxes, replying leads to activity that can feel like work. While pleasing to a sales rep, prospects may find scheduling a demo and reviewing documentation to be intimidating. The key is to make this next step as effortless as possible.
  • Lack of personalization. We’re not talking about using the {firstname} tag and calling it a day. Real personalization calls for a bit of research to find out exactly what a prospect’s current challenges and priorities are, and then address them in a way that makes your solution feel like it’s tailor-made for their present situation.
  • Life situations. Sometimes, work simply isn’t a priority for your prospect. The person you’re writing to might have a sick relative, health issues of their own, or be part of a marginalized community dealing with issues related to freedom and safety. It’s important to recognize that sometimes, you can do everything right and still not get a response because your recipient has far more important things to deal with.

Why sales reps fall into a rut with email

There are two sides to every story. If we’re considering the recipient’s reasons for struggling with email, we need to think of the sender as well.

Sales reps say they’re struggling, too—not only with the state of the world but with keeping their approach fresh and innovative. You want to be creative and helpful; you want to close more deals, create more value, and make more money.

It’s not always an easy road, but it can be a simple one. Here are a few mistakes to avoid along the way.

  • Doing the same things. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is a quote commonly misattributed to Albert Einstein, but it’s accurate. If you’re still using the same sequences and cadences you used a year or three ago, you haven’t adapted to the state of the world. The email blast simply doesn’t work anymore. Apple hides user information, more people hit “spam” and “unsubscribe” than ever before—all of this demands you adapt how you communicate.
  • Feeling isolated. Whether it’s a misalignment in shared goals or leadership with unrealistic expectations, sales reps who feel distanced from marketing aren’t being set up to succeed or weather any crisis. A great place to begin is by leaning on your marketing team and being there for them in return—there are plenty of ways to get started.
  • Chasing the wrong goals. Sales reps and BDRs aren’t always asked to prioritize the right things. You might focus too much on outreach volume and sequences, and not enough on solving actual problems. Sales is an opportunity to genuinely help people make life a little easier, with revenue and income by-products of said mentality.
  • Ignoring your own humanity. Sales reps are people too. You’re not immune to the effects of stress, uncertainty, and fear. And yet you’re asked to go on selling like nothing has changed. Take a step back and figure out what you need to excel at your job. This might mean changing your approach to work, having conversations with your manager or leaders, or even finding a team that better aligns with your own values.
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5 tips for better sales outreach to combat email fatigue

Now that you know where prospects are coming from and what you can do to freshen things up, here are a handful of tactics you can implement to improve both the quality of your emails as well as your overall sales skill set.

  1. Focus on quality over quantity. It sounds clichéd because it works. Reaching out to fewer prospects might seem daunting, but front-loading the research phase can make it worthwhile. If each person you contact is a good fit on paper for what you’re offering, you should theoretically see a higher rate of success than if you didn’t personalize each outreach. Find out what separates great sales emails from spammy ones.
  2. Modernize your sequence. Taking everything we’ve discussed about prospect mindset into account, rework your approach with user experience in mind. More important than the number of touches is what you’re saying and the order in which you reveal information. Also consider new ways to qualify and disqualify recipients, and while it may seem counter-intuitive, don’t scale back on following up. We still need reminders of the value you can provide.
  3. Nail the first impression. Like a marketing landing page, your first contact is where prospects form their initial opinion of you and your company. Make it as strong as it can be. The keys to doing this are genuine personalization and a high degree of relevance. If you’re struggling with how to get started, there’s a great example of cold email structure that gets it right.
  4. Become a better writer. There’s a reason copywriting is one of the most in-demand skills in revenue operations. Mailshake even lists it as one of the 15 skills that make sales reps great at their job. Courses and expert advice can help you learn the basics of writing a hook or completing a thought, but testing different approaches is what really helps unlock growth of your open and response rates.
  5. Make it easier to talk to you than ignore you. Remember what we discussed about people wanting to say yes but not wanting to do more work? Asking for too much too soon or making it tough to respond can hinder your success. It’s easier to get a prospect to express interest and begin a conversation. And when it’s time to set up a demo or discovery call, make booking a slot as simple as it can be.

TL;DR: Give your sales outreach a distinct flair

There are plenty of unconventional approaches you can use to stand out in crowded inboxes, such as integrating physical touches like digital mailers and embracing the underrated art of meme selling.

It’s always easier to be different than it is to be better, and it’s certainly the approach more likely to get you noticed (and remembered). Quality can be a very subjective concept, but uniqueness—well, there’s no comparison to be made.

Still not sure where exactly to get started? Nutshell’s got you covered. Download the complete guide to writing MUCH better sales emails, and email growth@nutshell.com if you have any other sales outreach-related questions to run by our team.

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