Breakup with the Breakup Email in Sales

Occasionally, after a salesperson has tried to acquire a meeting with their dream client, mostly having used email as the only mode of communication, they send their prospective client a “breakup letter.” Sometimes the breakup letter looks like a cry for pity, and other times it seems more like an ultimatum, a strategy some believe to be appropriate when a client goes dark during the sales conversation.

The gist of the breakup letter is that the salesperson offers their prospect the chance to tell them to go away, that they are not interested, and that they should be left alone. So much for creating value for your dream clients, and so much for the professional, patient, persistence necessary to succeed in sales. There is no good reason to send a “breakup letter,” and there are better strategies available to you.

Email Alone is Inadequate

The first challenge for salespeople is to break free from the belief that sending emails to prospective clients is prospecting. While emails may be part of an overall prospecting sequence, by itself, it is wholly inadequate to the task of gaining a meeting with your dream client. Your dream client isn’t very enthusiastic about reading the many similar emails that are in their inbox each day.

The poor results salespeople experience that cause them to believe they need to send a breakup email are a result of not trading enough value to command a meeting. More email messages are not better than fewer, especially when the core message is weak, self-oriented, and requests the prospective client to respond to you. It is a ridiculous request when you are pursuing their business and one that pretends that your prospect is responsible for scheduling a meeting with you.

Sending a breakup email suggests that your interest in your dream client extends to your willingness to move heaven and earth to do business with them. As long as moving heaven and earth means sending six emails, many or most of them automated. The breakup email is giving up without a serious attempt at acquiring a meeting.

The Breakup Phone Call

Imagine you have sent six emails without so much as a peep from your prospective client. Frustrated, you decide to make a breakup phone call, telling your client that if they don’t respond to your attempts, you will go away and move on with your life, asking them to tell you to go away and that they are not interested.

Would you have the courage to call your client and use the same words you used in a breakup email in a phone call? Would you expect a positive result? It’s unlikely you would, as doing so would make you look weak, desperate, transactional, a non-peer, and like someone undeserving of a meeting.

What Quitting Says About You

You might have to call on your dream client for years before you acquire an opportunity. You might have to persist for a long time before you find an opening, which is almost always true on large, complex B2B sales where winning requires you to displace a competitor, maybe one with a long history and deep relationships. Average and below-average people tend to give up, recognizing that the client’s current partner has had their business for years and is likely to keep them for many more.

Quitting means that you weren’t all that interested in your dream client, nor were you really interested in a meeting. You were just another salesperson that made a half-hearted attempt at a meeting and gave up without so much as a whimper.

Professional sales, especially winning big deals, requires a patient, professional, persistence. Big clients tend to work with a partner for a relatively long time. Given a long enough timeline, every dream client on your list is going to change partners. All along that timeline, there will be salespeople who are patient and persistent enough to communicate frequently and confidently enough to create relationships, bumping into opportunities for communication when the client is susceptible to a meeting.

Having given up on your dream client and sending them a breakup email, you will send them another email, only to have your contact reply that they chose another supplier, and they will have done so without giving you so much as a thought.

The Problem with Ultimatums

The problem with ultimatums is that people accept them. What does one expect when they offer to quit and give up on themselves and what they want? Do you expect your prospective client to be sympathetic and tell you not to give up, that they’re busy, but they really hope you’ll keep pursuing them? Maybe you expect them to give you a pep talk and tell you to keep your chin up and things will get better.

When my son was four, he threatened to run away because he couldn’t have what he wanted. I told him to get a suitcase and pack up all the things he was going to need. He started crying. Not because I told him to get a suitcase, but because he didn’t have a suitcase.

You may think you are being B2B sales professional when you are being childish, complaining that you can’t have what you want when you want it.

Better Choices

First, if you cannot get a meeting and are only using email as the mode of communication, start using the telephone instead of email. Stop using a medium that allows your prospect to say no by deleting your email and use one that allows for synchronous communication.

Second, if you struggle to get a meeting, you are likely not trading enough value for your prospective client to say yes to your request. Answer the question, “How would my prospective client be better off having met with me?” Unless and until you can answer that question, prospecting is difficult. If you don’t believe you belong in a room with them, they won’t either. Your willingness to quit says you don’t think you belong in the room.

Third, if you believe that sales is transactional, you will have a difficult time getting meetings, creating opportunities, and winning big deals. Success in all human endeavors is largely the result of consistent action and the persistence to continue even when you are not producing the result you want.

Instead of sending a breakup email, pause, pursue another list of your dream clients and come back to the ones that have ignored you in a few weeks or months. There is nothing to be gained by quitting, and everything to gain by staying the course.

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Filed under: Sales

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