My social feeds seem dominated with “hints and tips” for writing massive numbers of emails in the shortest periods of time. Today, I hit the tipping point, one was leveraging ChatGPT to write these emails.
In reading it, the author had, apparently, discovered the concept of “mail merge,” using Google tools. And creating the “killer” email message using Chat, neglecting the fact that Chat can only produce a well articulated, grammatically correct, mediocre message (I’ve written about the problems with these technologies before).
But every day, I see some expert presenting us their insights about how to produce 1000s of emails in just minutes. And, more concerning are the 100’s of likes and comments from sellers looking to immediately implement this advice. The one I saw today had over 1000 likes and over 80 comments requesting the templates. I’m just imagining the 80,000 emails these people will be generating today when they receive the template. And then, there may be the overachiever that spends 30 minutes, rather than 15 minutes.
These people never pause to think, “Why is it that we have to be sending 1000s of emails, each, every day?” They never reflect on their personal experience in being the recipient of the emails others are sending them. All of them complain about being deluged with meaningless, irrelevant emails. Yet, each of them continues to contribute to the problem!
And then, there’s the oneupmanship these experts will try. Tomorrow, I expect to see, “Write 2000 emails in 15 minutes…” and the cycle will persist.
When I start questioning these people about why they provide this advice, I get answers like, “Well sellers aren’t getting the volume of engagement they need so they have to send more emails…..”
Then I ask, “Why aren’t the recipients responding?” And the answer usually says, “Well they are getting too many emails, we need to get enough emails out there so we stand out and someone might open one…. We need to get enough people to open and respond to one, so we need to up our volume of emails…..”
And then they say, “But we teach them to personalize them….” And each one of these techniques shows the same “personalization” method. Insert [First Name] ….. Insert [Company Name]….. Repeat [First Name]….
Never a mention of relevance to my specific business, the issues that we have, or what I am even interested in…… Of course if the person took the time to research that, or even do some broad categorization, they couldn’t sent 1000 emails in 15 minutes.
I start thinking in B2B selling:
Why do we have to be sending 1000s upon 1000s of emails a day? Are there really 1000s and 1000s of potential buyers that we need to reach? That each seller has to reach out to 1000’s of people every week is inconceivable to me! How does that sales person ever understand the organizations they are reaching out to, the issues they are likely to be facing? How do they understand the individuals they are reaching out to and how to best engage them?
We know the answer to this—they don’t. Despite the technologies and tools available to help them do this, when they are dealing with 1000s of outreaches a week, there is no way they can do this. If they can’t do this, then how impactful will those outreaches really be?
Why do we not ask ourselves about the low response rates? We hold our sales people accountable for sending 1000s of emails every day. We know our competitors are doing the same thing, so our customers are drowning in emails saying, “We can solve your problems,” even though the senders have no idea the recipient actually has those problems. We and our competitors inflict out sequences on them. Yesterday one “guru” suggested 20-30 outreaches out performs 10-20 outreaches by double digits. We have Gartner suggesting it takes 66 outreaches to get a meeting. So for that 1000 emails we take 15 minutes to send today, we are going to inflict another 20,000, 30,0000, or 60,000 emails.
We know our own reactions to the meaningless emails inflicted on us every day, yet somehow don’t consider, “Do the people we are inflicting our emails on feel the same way?”
We know some of the large email systems or corporate email systems try to put in place tools to filter these masses of emails. And any number of “guru’s” offer tricks and techniques to get around these. Why do we have to adopt email artifices/gimmicks to avoid having corporate email systems treat our emails as spam?
I’m sorry, but B2B selling is broken!
That our only strategy for making our numbers is ever increasing volumes of outreaches, sequences, cadences. That we seek to add 1000s more to our lists every day. That we focus on tools and techniques that enable us to send 1000 emails in 15 minutes. All of this should tell us that something is broken.
But we don’t pause to think about this, we don’t pause to consider, “Why isn’t this working? Why aren’t people responding? What might we do differently?”
Instead, we look at our social feeds. Those with the greatest number of likes, those with the greatest number of comments, those with readers saying, “This is fantastic, I’ll do it today….”
When are we going to recognize this is insane? When are we going to stop this and start engaging prospects and customers in meaningful ways?
Alice Heiman says
Absolute, insanity. If it’s not working just hit the MORE button rather than take a minute and think about why it is not working and make the needed changes. What each salesperson needs is 3 to 5 conversations per day with someone who has the potential to buy from them. That would be leagues about what they have now. Most salespeople I talk to don’t even have one conversation a day. That is very grim. So instead of thinking about sending more emails or making more calls, let’s figure out ways to intrigue our prospects to want to have a conversation. Quality, not quantity, of out reach does this. Referrals and contact marketing do this. What really does it is referenceable customers. Customer that are so successful you can reference them anytime and they are willing to tell others with and without prompting.
David Brock says
Thanks so much Alice! We are in wild agreement. The issue is managers (and gurus) are solving for the wrong problem. They seek to explore how many more outreaches they can generate (hence advice on how to generate 1000 in 15 minutes). Instead they need to be thinking about, “What do we need to change to generate 3-5 conversations a day?”
Thanks so much for taking the time to add your wisdom!
Great post Dave. No wonder less than 50% of salespeople are making quota.
David Brock says
Thanks Chris. Just such a shame we measure sales success on revenue and orders. It would be so easy if we measured it on emails and dial…….. 😉
Usman Sheikh says
I agree B2B sales is broken. However there is a big difference in sending out 1000s of “mediocre” emails vs sending the highly personalized few – even if generated by ChatGPT + personality insights algorithm.
Before ChatGPT came about the big complaint was that salespeople, and I’ll include marketers too, cannot write emails. Now the complain is that 1000s of mediocre emails are going to flood my inbox. I don’t agree the volume makes it better but I do know the ChatGPT and personality driven algorithms when combined do result in better more engaging emails. In early experimentation we, at xiQ, have shown an increase of 14% higher engagement when emails are more personalized (refer to the individual and their company). Please note the ChatGPT phenomenon is not even 3 months old. It’s only going to get better.
And the emails are much better quality than those written by a vast majority of salespeople and marketers!!!
I/we don’t advocate 100% machine derived emails we recommend machine generated human supervised communications. And we don’t subscribe to the volume model.
But reality is there are many more stakeholders involved in the B2B decision making process and it’s humanly impossible for salespeople to write personalized emails to all. That time simply doesn’t exist to research each decision maker and pen a personalized email every time!
I agree that the broken part is “more is better”. That needs to be fixed for sure.
But composing and writing more personalized (actually personalized not mail merge personalized) emails is a very real problem and a big area of concern. 84% of deals are lost after sales qualify a lead and 40% of pipeline is in indecision because sellers have not been able to “connect” with all the stakeholders in a meaningful way. My 2 cents.
David Brock says
Usman, thanks for the thoughtful response. I don’t think we are disagree, but I think there are some nuances that are important.
1. Well written emails with personality insights are very powerful.
2. I see a lot of potential in ChatGPT, I’m not sure it’s greatest potential is in sales/marketing emails. I’ve spent a lot of time with it. Even through a series of carefully refined prompts, it’s “insights” are very generic. We have always found the more specific to an individual/role/company, the higher the impact/response rate. While one would aspire to be very specific, getting as close as possible is achievable and in some level of volume (though not 1000s).
3. Currently, ChatGPT is very limited, even with heavy prompting. A large part of it is that it’s data bases have not been updated since 2021. So “insights” it develops may actually be very wrong. Think back to 2021, issues impacting business included how to deal with the impact of Covid and get work done, supply chain issues, very cheap/available money, low interest rates, vibrant global economy. So the “insights” developed would be based on that. Yet, the world has changed profoundly, impacting every business. Most companies are trying to develop strategies around a very uncertain economy, high interest rates, talent challenges, etc. So the currency of the data bases and the source of the data becomes a real issue in developing high impact, relevant outreaches. This will be solved overtime, but it’s currently a huge issue leveraging ChatGPT (fortunatately, Chat warns you of this). Also, there are a large number of other tools, if sellers took the time to to leverage them, that give much more current insights that can be leveraged in outreaches.
4. A fundamental issue, that no one seems concerned about, is, “Why to we have to generate such huge volumes of outreach?” The low quality outreaches, constantly filling inboxes are actually driving customers away from sellers. You are aware of the data. Several years ago, 42% of buyers preferred a rep free buying experience. Today, it’s 72%, and we can expect that to continue to climb. When one does the research to understand that, it’s largely the experience created by sellers/marketers, and these volumes of poorly executed, irrelevant outreaches are probably part of that.
5. We have to rethink the problem we are trying to solve. Currently we think “what volume do we need to drive to get the responses we need?” Perhaps the better way is to think about “what do we change about how we engage prospects to get the number we need?” What, we’ve found, is the volumes to produce the desired outcome plummet, so that actually frees up time to do a little more research. As an example, response rates (meetings) to our cold outreaches is very high. So if we need 50 meetings, we have to do roughly 100 outreaches. We see data where rates to get a meeting are less than 0.1%, so to get 50 meetings, requires 5000 outreaches. So when you approach the problem differently, we open up a whole new range of possibilities. Yet we tend to be lemmings, not looking to rethink that which doesn’t work.
6. 84% of deals being lost after qualification, is not an engagement problem–we have engaged the customers. In our work, these high losses are more of a qualification problem. And that may be a result of people prospecting far outside the ICP (perhaps again a problem with the volume mentality). Or just wishful thinking and bad qualification, or bad sales execution on qualified deals. But again, this happens after we have engaged the customer.
7. The 40-60% of deals being lost to indecision occur after we have engaged the customer in a qualified/real opportunity. As you know, the two factors are: 43% failed commitment to change and 57% FOMU. How sellers address these are different than our contact strategies. I’ve written quite a bit on this in other posts.
Tools like ChatGPT are less the issue. After all, a fool with a tool is still a fool. Our engagement strategies, are more often the results of just very bad thinking and continuing to perpetuate this.
Again, I suspect we are saying similar things in different ways. But management needs to lead their organization in rethinking what we do, how we do it, and how we might more effectively engage our customers.
Usman Sheikh says
Thank you very much for the detail response David 🙏🏽
Key statement “a fool with a tool
Is still a fool”
Let me clarify a few points:
I’m referring to B2B sales and marketing – definition – big ticket (>$250k ARR) sales, long sales cycles (>6 months), multiple decision stakeholders (>4).
To me a sales email is the one that is sent after first contact with a qualified lead. Usual more personal and penned by a seller not marketer. Emails sent prior to that point are marketing emails. In most B2B companies marketers are the ones sending out those 1000s of emails to land an initial meeting.
To solve the problem we have to examine the entire customer engagement lifecycle or CX
A good B2B salesperson, and there are only a very few, despises the mass marketing approach. The first break in the process is right there. We change horses in the middle of the race. We use one set of logic, verbiage and person to land a first meeting, then start handing them to BDRs/SDRs for qualification, before finally handing them to an AE to conduct the sales process. You’ve lost the prospect right there. The fragmented role between marketing, SDRs and AEs is flawed and should be streamlined into one – the AEs role.
A good salesperson wants to control the messaging from the very first touchpoint. This cannot be done in a mass marketing culture (1000s of emails). However, due to resource, skill and time constraints, these are broken into multiple roles. There needs to be one General (AE) responsible for the end-to-end process.
Now with the introduction of AI tools like GPT and xiQ this becomes possible. As does the definition and identification of the ICP. New capabilities warrant new processes. Which will drive behavior and I believe will lead to fewer, more targeted and personalized emails going out from one individual. I apologize if I come across as touting my (xiQ’s) own horn but that’s what I know we can do today so I can speak with some surety.
What I like about GPT is its writing capabilities. Let’s agree that it writes better than a vast majority of sellers and marketers. However it lacks the research (you mentioned DB has not been updated since 2021) and personalization capabilities. That’s where xiQ comes in. Combine the two and you have the well written highly personalized email.
With GPT 4 in the near future the possibilities increase manifold.
I do see great use cases for sales and marketing using GPT in conjunction with xiQs AI.
David Brock says
Usman, thanks so much for continuing this important discussion, you are raising such critical points. Some thoughts:
1. With or without tools like Chat, tools like xiQ are very powerful in helping us refine our communications strategies so the recipients are most likely to “hear” what we are communicating.
2. We have slightly different experiences–whether marketing or sales are sending these massive volumes of emails. But the point is less about who sends them, but more about how dysfunctional they are–and how we are actually pushing the customer away, forcing them to choose engagement strategies that are more useful.
3. I totally agree that good B2B sales people want to manage the messaging from the outset. They want consistent engagement across the buying group that build on prior conversations, experiences, and messaging. Our “fragmentation,” of seller responsibilities, out of efficiency, is adversely impacting our ability to productively and effectively engage customers. And we can see this in YoY declines in performance of too many organizations.
4. I am very excited about the introduction of tools like ChatGPT in sales and marketing. But to leverage these with maximum impact we have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the tools, leveraging them appropriately. So many “fools” are jumping on board leveraging them for “research on customer needs/profiles,” and “relevant messaging,” failing to understand it is two years old—even when Chat cautions us of that.
5. I think these tools help us and help the customer think more deeply and differently about this issues they are facing. The power is less in the answers it provides, but how it helps us develop questions, think, shift positions, collaborate. However, virtually no selling or marketing “guru” is pushing this, they revel in how many 1000s of “personalized” messages they can send.
6. Unfortunately, to get the real power of these tools, you have to have people skilled in critical thinking, problem solving and collaborative communication. And these skills are sorely lacking. In 2002 I was a co-founder of an early AI based software tool. It focused on problems in manufacturing process control and, also, prescriptive maintenance. In our early days, we and our customers discovered the tool could provide profound insights, it could help them see things they never could see before. It could give them dozens to 100s of choices that could drive improvement. The problem we and our customers found was not getting those insights, but how to think about, evaluate and choose. Initially, we had to ship a scientist with each license because the customers didn’t have the ability to interpret what they were seeing (we later solved this). While today’s tools are much more advanced, they suffer from the same weaknesses. Stated crassly, to get the most out of these tools, you have to be wickedly smart. Yet there seem to be too many fools offering expert advice…..
6. Chat is very powerful for cleaning up communications (even one at a time). I probably should be running my posts through chat since I am spelling and grammatically challenged, and tend to wander and repeat myself. What I worry about is that we use these tools as a crutch for better learning, more critical thinking, etc. An interesting thing I am seeing is in education. I sit on the Boards of two large not for profits focused on different aspects of literacy and K-12 learning. They are faced with the issue of students using Chat for their assignments. What is interesting about their current thinking is not banning or even detecting Chat, but how they leverage Chat to help students learn how to write better on their own. They are in the early stages. And that’s where I see tremendous potential with Chat, if we leverage it correctly. It can help marketers and sellers learn how to engage and help customers more effectively.
Thanks for putting up with my wordiness (I was about to paste this into Chat, but decided to let this flawed version be published). I really appreciate you pushing all of us to think more deeply about how we leverage these tools.