What You Need to Know About Pitching Over Email

Dear Salespeople That Straight Pitch Me,

While I consider you my sisters and brothers, we need to talk. Every day, you fill my inbox and my LinkedIn inbox with notes straight pitching me what you sell. No one wants you to succeed in sales as much as I do, including you, and whomever it was that taught you that pitching over email is your best choice for acquiring new clients or customers.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with pitching under the right circumstances pitching strangers without any context or conversation is extremely poor form. An approach that starts with pitching is what one does when they either don’t know better or when they hold weak beliefs, specifically the idea that everyone is a prospect (everyone is not a prospect).

As far as one can tell, the negative feedback and poor results do nothing to persuade you to change your approach. Please accept my advice in the spirit in which I deliver it, as one who wants you to succeed in sales if that is indeed the path you have chosen.

Selling Is Other-Oriented. You Are Self-Oriented.

When you pitch your product or service by describing what you sell in the first paragraph of your email, you project that your email is about nothing more than you gaining a sale. Your approach has a significant problem that causes most people to tune you out. Your first problem is that you repel people because you appear to be self-oriented.

When the sale you make is about you, it’s about the result that you want for you. You would improve your approach by focusing your conversation about what your client wants and needs, their challenges, their opportunities, and their goals. Acquiring what you want is only possible when you help someone else get what they want, as Zig never tired of reminding us.

You will improve your approach by becoming other-oriented. Instead of focusing on straight pitching people, you might spend the time to understand their world, develop a theory about what they might be struggling with, and develop an approach that speaks to what they might want. You’ll also want to slow down.

Don’t Sell Too Soon.

If what you sell is something people buy all the time, and if there is no serious consequence for making a mistake, by all means, pitch away. Maybe you sell batteries in a convenient store, the example Rackham provided in SPIN Selling. There is no reason not to ask for a sale if there can be no adverse consequences.

When the opposite is true, when your prospect doesn’t make the purchase decision you are going to ask them to make frequently, and when bad choices come with significant consequences, pitching means you are selling too soon.

When you pitch in email or Linkedin, requesting a meeting at the end of the note does nothing to mitigate the fact that your approach is transactional, as are all “spray and pray” approaches to sales. To sell a prospective client, you first have to create an opportunity by prospecting.

If you want a better, modern approach to prospecting, please see Mike Weinberg’s New Sales Simplified, Jeb Blount’s Fanatical Prospecting, Mark Hunter’s High-Profit Prospecting, Tony Hughes’s Combo Prospecting. Also, please read the first three chapters of Eat Their Lunch for a consultative approach for complex B2B sales, especially one that requires you to displace a competitor to win new business.

And then, there is the question about the value you create.

No Value Creation

B2B selling has changed quite a bit over the last decade. You may have heard advice about “social selling” or “the digital transformation of sales,” or some other overhyped fad that captured salespeople’s attention by promising that the new toolkit would make selling easier.

For all of my criticism of social, no one who believed in “social selling” would recommend you pitch people directly. The first rule of social selling is to do no selling. No one would train or teach you to do what you are doing now.

One of the most substantial changes in sales has been the b2b buyer’s expectations about the value they expect salespeople to create through the process. Your email does nothing to create value for the contacts you spam each day. There are several prerequisites to creating value.

First, you have to possess the business acumen to be able to understand your business, your contact’s business, and the intersection that is how you create value for them. These things are necessary to consultative sales. Second, you need to trade something of value for the time you are asking your contact to give you.

The only thing you need to sell at the start of your relationship with a connection is a meeting. Please watch this video about trading value about the time you are asking your contact to give you.

It is poor form to sell over email in your first communication with a contact. A contact is not a prospect, and you will not create an opportunity before you acquire a meeting. It will be helpful for you to think about this as “sell the meeting,” “sell the process,” and then “sell your solution.” Reversing the order here also reverses the outcome.

Stop Taking Bad Advice About Lead Generation

Almost daily, I receive an email pitch from someone who wants to mine LinkedIn for qualified leads. The people sending these notes mistakenly believe that anyone upright, breathing, with a body temperature in the neighborhood of 98.6 degrees, is a prospect. Why they think people want to spam other people as a way to acquire the new relationships that might result in a new opportunity is baffling. Please stop taking bad advice about lead generation.

B2B salespeople, please do your homework. Read books, take courses, get the training and development you need to succeed in sales. Become someone people want to buy from, not someone that repels people by spamming them over email and LinkedIn.

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