CEOs: Your Sales Reps are Damaging Your Brand With Lazy Prospecting Emails
By Bob Ruffolo
As a CEO, I’ve got a prized inbox. And so every day I get dozens of emails from salespeople hoping to prospect me and gain my business.
And I get it. I know that prospecting is part of the job of sales reps — and I know that many of them are going to go straight to the top and shoot their shot.
I understand that I’m a target, but what I’ve seen lately has left me more and more dismayed.
Sales reps are getting lazy. They’re blasting out prospecting emails without doing the slightest bit of research.
These emails are so bad that I’m not just ignoring them, I’m getting irritated by them. Not only are these emails not going to get my business, they’re doing real damage to the image of the companies these reps work for.
This kind of lazy email outreach is disruptive and damaging — and when I see the company they come from, I mentally cross them off the list of companies I would ever do business with.
If you’re a CEO who’s not paying close attention to the work your sales team is doing, your brand could get tarnished without you even knowing it.
Stop thinking of sales as ‘just a numbers game’
We’ve all heard the same thing over and over in our professional lives: “Sales is a numbers game.”
I want to unpack what that actually means: that we think more about aggregate data than individual prospects.
Everything we track is about the aggregate: Conversion rate, close rate, sales velocity. Every KPI is a generalization that lets us zoom out and focus on averages.
This makes us think that sales is just a numbers game. We just have to apply those numbers to the future and we can predict how many deals we’ll close.
But I’ve come to see that this is the wrong approach.
With every lost deal, with every abysmal open rate we shrug and say “sales is a numbers game.” And we ignore the collateral damage that comes with that mindset.
Think about it.
A “sales is a numbers game” approach means that if 5% of your cold email targets get back to you and you close 10% of those, all you have to do is reach out to enough people to make the numbers work.
Need to close 10 deals this quarter? Well, 10 is 10% of 100, so you need 100 people to respond to your emails.
If you know you get 5% reply rate on your prospecting emails, that means you need to send 2000 emails this quarter.
But this ignores the staggering numbers on the other side of this equation: if 5% respond to your emails, 95% are annoyed by them — and many will write you off because of your sloppy approach.
Yes, you close 10% of those who respond, but what about the other 90% who chose not to buy?
This is the damage done by the spray-and-pray approach.
Think about the effect on the vast majority of people you’re targeting. Not only will they not buy from you — they’ll be left with an unfavorable impression of your brand. They’ll think you’re too lazy to put in the effort to research who you’re going after.
They’ll think your brand is desperate and disorganized…. if they think of your brand at all.
Bad prospecting is more widespread than you think
A few weeks ago I got so frustrated with these lazy sales emails I posted about it on LinkedIn. I took a screenshot of a particularly bad email (one that didn’t even take the time to fill in where the template said “[company name]”.
What I said hit a nerve, and professionals of all kinds rallied around what I had said.
But here’s the worst part.
This whole experience made me want to go check out the emails my own sales team was sending out to prospects. I was taken aback.
Even though we work hard to base our selling on relationships, my own team was sending out the same templated nonsense to other businesses.
And I immediately saw that just as I was criticizing other businesses, lazy sales emails were hurting the IMPACT brand — something I’ve built with years of dedication.
Email after email, each doing more damage to my business’ brand.
Change needs to start at the top
It’s easy to fault the sales reps. They’re phoning it in by not doing any real research before they reach out. But the blame doesn’t stop there.
Every sales manager who gives an arbitrary quota for prospecting is incentivizing quantity over quality. When a sales rep hears they need to send 50 prospecting emails this week, corners are going to get cut to reach that quota.
Let’s raise our standards and try a different approach.
Think about the numbers I shared above. Let’s say each sales rep needs to close 10 deals this quarter. Imagine instead of 2,000 boilerplate, stocky emails they sent out 100 carefully crafted, fully researched emails that spoke directly to the pain that prospect is experiencing.
I guarantee their response rate will be way higher. I guarantee their close rate will be higher, too.
I think they’d probably still get your 10 deals — all without alienating 1,990 people in the process.
This way, they don’t look lazy or desperate. They look well-informed and caring — exactly how you, as CEO, want your business to be perceived.
Wondering where to begin?