Yes, your prospects can get offended. No, it’s not the end of the world.

by Will Rotondi

Ever make a joke that didn’t go over well? (Of course you have, don’t fib.) Humor isn’t the only area where you have to watch what you say. In a culture where some would tell you we’re becoming too sensitive and others would argue we’re simply questioning outdated norms, one aspect seems pretty certain – you’re not going to engender warm, fuzzy feelings from everyone you speak with.

That includes email. You might find it shocking, hilarious, or mildly off-putting just how angry and upset some people get when they receive an email from a person they’ve never spoken with before. There are those who think you’re spamming them and want you to stop immediately, often telling you so in all caps (to make sure you could read their request clearly, no doubt). Others will demand to know how you got their email addresses (as if there isn’t a way to find and verify them). Still more will tell you they can’t help you (even when they’re in, say, customer service – isn’t that their job?). A select few will even write to you in a way that makes you wonder how lax their HR department is about the use of profanity.

Don’t let these responses get to you. Some people simply treat email prospecting like you’ve been snooping around their bank statements. Most, however, will acknowledge that it’s part of the B2B world, and several of those will respond to you when the need for a conversation is there.

There are also some helpful tips to keep in mind so that you limit the chances of unduly chapping your audience off:

  • Keep your messages short and direct. Most of us don’t have time to read something as long as this blog (sadly) when it’s coming to you in an email. Think more along the lines of a text message’s length instead.
  • Don’t make sales pitches. Most of us dislike feeling sold to, but we do appreciate the idea of a conversation.
  • Be respectful. Don’t email your prospects more than once a week, and don’t rush them to calls they aren’t interested in having with you.
  • Keep the humor to a minimum, unless there are some universally-accepted jokes within your market space that 90 percent of those reading would a) get, and b) appreciate.

When you get concerned about how effective your prospecting efforts are, also remember: this is an investment for future business, not for immediate returns.

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