I teach a class on “Getting In”, which includes how to write a communication that will grab the attention of a senior level prospect and get them a first appointment. Although I have been teaching it for years, about once a month I will get an email from a former student asking for a copy of the format, so I’ve decided to release it here. At the same time, one of my former students, who is now a senior executive and therefore is the target of these types of letter, occasionally sends me examples of terrible letters he gets, so this is also my modest attempt to raise the reputation of salespeople in general.
Your subject line should be unique to the recipient. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can refer to an issue that is important to their industry or their company. You can use a quote from their CEO or their annual report. If you’re feeling particularly bold, you can even refer to their competition, as in “beating Company X in service quality.”
One caveat: it’s essential that the first paragraph of your email be a natural extension of the subject line, or they will feel like they’ve been victimized by a bait-and-switch tactic.
Lead Off by Referring to the Prospect’s Company, Not Your Own. This will demonstrate your knowledge and expertise and imply a problem-solving approach. Do the research so you can refer to an issue you know the company is facing (either because you know about the company itself or because you are aware of issues faced by other companies in that industry).
“In reading your 2010 10K, I noticed that one of your principal strategies is to improve asset efficiencies by 10% in the next two years.”
The next sentence can amplify the problem or opportunity they face:
“Meanwhile, increasing security requirements are forcing increased investment in…”
You can also find a useful perspective on how to write this first paragraph in this article posted by sales expert Jeff Ogden.
Next, introduce Your Company and Describe How You Solved That Problem for Similar Clients.
“__________________ can help you get maximum efficiency out of your ____ assets and infrastructure by…, as we have done for…”
This section should be brief and focus on results, not products. Leave out your features and resist the temptation to throw in terms such as “industry-leading, cost-effective,” etc.
Tell Them Why They Need to Get Personally Involved. If they are intrigued after reading your first two paragraphs, they may still think it’s OK to pass on your note to a lower level person. Although this is not always a bad thing, you’ll be better positioned for the sale if you can keep them personally invested in the process.
“Although these decisions are normally made by your purchasing department, the technology has advanced to the point where we impact a broad range of company functions, and only someone at your level has a broad enough vision to set the initial direction.”
Request Action. Inform the prospect that you will be calling to arrange a meeting. (Helpful hint: find out the gatekeeper’s name before sending the message, and incorporate it into the message)
“I will call you early next week to arrange a meeting with you or your designated representative to plan for how we might be able to deliver similar results to…
If you will not be available at that time, kindly inform Madeline when would be a convenient time to talk.”
This outline has been very effective in helping my students—and me—get C-Level appointments. It’s important to be brief and to the point, and to keep it as prospect-focused as possible. Resist selling your product and/or benefits; your main purpose is to get that first appointment or discussion.