“Best of luck [[name]]”
I am letting you know you’ll no longer be hearing from me. I am crossing you off my list, but if there is a time in the future when this becomes a priority feel free to reach out”
Sound familiar? This emotional trigger, the ubiquitous breakup email, exploits its clients and has become a hallmark of business development and salespeople over the last 6 years.
Here’s how it usually goes: your email sequence runs for 21-31 days, sending 6 emails and making 4 calls. Now you’re on the last email, or your client got hot and bothered after a demo, but you haven’t been able to get them on the phone. What do you do? You send them the breakup email hoping they’ll be shocked and feel pangs for what could have been.
While playing hard to get in a relationship is one thing, using this tactic when you should be building trust with a prospective client is counterproductive and lazy. The breakup email has become increasingly pervasive. Let’s walk through how this tactic came to be and why you should stop using it.
The email breakup email plays off two parts; the subject line designed to grab the prospect’s attention by surprise, and the body of the email where the emotional games play out.
Saying ‘you haven’t gotten back to me, now I am not going to continue to waste my time on you”. Makes the client feel responsible, and implies that they didn’t follow through on something. Followed up by “I won’t be reaching back out but if you’re curious to learn what results our other clients are seeing, reach back out.’ spreads FOMO while implying social proof.
The popularity of this tactic makes sense. It plays to common emotional triggers that generate a response. The breakup email is largely seen as an acceptable sales tactic, though mildly manipulative. But in a world where most CEOs, execs, and sales managers are preaching “add value’”, I ask everyone reading this, do you really believe that this breakup email is adding value?
I don’t believe that the ‘always be adding value’ sales strategy is best all the time, but that’s besides the point. The breakup email servers only the seller and does not serve the client. The client will not benefit from this interaction, they will only feel manipulated.
It’s important to understand how the breakup email became so popular. This trend has two contributing factors, #1. Sophisticated Email Marketing #2. Sales Email Automation Tools.
Let’s dive into #1. The breakup email started off as a clever marketing tactic that has been adapted to sales. For a very long time, email marketing success was measured on things like, opens, clicks, and response rate. As the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets managed”. Since those were the KPIs, smart, clever, and savvy people figured out ways to optimize for opens, clicks, and responses.
Now, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to imagine a situation where BDR/SDRs or even salespeople were reaching out to potential customers, struggling to close sales, and A VP of sales says I’ve got an idea. “Hey email marketing team, can you give sales a few tips to help them improve their response rate with their clients?” There it is, the cross-pollination of marketing tactics into the sales world happened.
The reason I pointed out that marketing’s KPIs are opens, clicks, and response rate, is because this crossover tactic is optimized for marketing KPIs and it's not optimized for sales KPIs. It's the wrong tool for the job. Sales’ goal is to get engagement not simply a response. Marketing is used to handing off ‘responsive’ leads to the sales team, but once he sales team reaches out they are looking for engaged leads.
#2. Sales Email Automation Tools.
The second reason why the breakup email became such a popular tactic was the introduction of sales email automation tools. This allowed sales reps to spam clients at an all-time high rate. I say spam because when used improperly these rapid emails are unwelcome, ineffective, and often end up reported as spam.. When done right email automation can be incredibly valuable, and at first it was. Sales automation software started to really take off in 2015-2016. This almost immediately gave rise to the counterbalance to mass communication, ABM or Account Based Marketing. ABM relies on highly targeted and tailored efforts directed at very few potential customers, rather than lightly personalized, mass emails, commonly referred to as spray and pray.
Sales Automation tools have been an incredible blessing and a curse that has befallen sales. Sales has never been more equipped to engage clients than they are today. Like anything that you don't have to work hard for, you take it for granted, you get lazy and begin to rely on the tools to do your job for you.
The ability to reach literally hundreds of people per day has allowed sales to act as a giant sieve, filtering for the people who are ready right now, but never engaging up the ones who will be soon.
The breakup email, based on romantic tropes, is optimized for open and response rates, but this form of manipulation won't lead to greater client satisfaction or sales for your company. In a recent Linkedin Article: Top 10 common sales tactics that backfire, SaaS VC, author, and sales evangelist Jason Lemkin lists sending a break-up email and dumping people into email cadence as two of his top 10. That’s 20% of his list of backfiring sales tactics that apply to a breakup email! So where do we go from here with a silent prospect who won’t reply to our emails?
2015 Hubspot article states that a BDR manager saw a 33% increase in response rate when using “breakup emails”. The key is that their examples are not manipulative emails that play on emotions. In reality they are just emails that aimed at closing the email cycle. Here’s how we recommend approaching this email.
Ultimately the goal of engaging a client is to remind them of why they should care about what you do. The idea behind many email sequences and ABM strategies is to share examples of how you’re going to not only understand the problems they have but solve them in a way that they can feel the benefits.
At the end of an email sequence, it’s fair to say that 1 of 3 things is most likely the case:
#1. The pain isn’t strong enough yet and your client doesn’t have a sense of urgency to find a solution.
#2. They are actually really busy and this has fallen down the priority list. It will come back but you don't know when.
#3. They went with a competitor without telling you.
Now, our solution takes all 3 of these solutions into account and puts the reps in the best position to eventually win the deal.
This is where I propose that instead of a breakup email you send them a breakdown email. You breakdown the ways that you predict that they will continue to see pain exhibited in their day to day business until they solve this problem.
This is a tried and true long play sales strategy. By predicting the problems they are going to see you achieve many positive outcomes.
#1. This establishes you as an authority on their pain.
#2. It builds trust in your opinion.
#3. You’re the incumbent solution when they absolutely need it.
#4. They’ll be humbled in their previous stubbornness, dismissal, or lack of trust in you, this will put them in a more receptive state of mind.
This strategy plays on the ‘hiss’ principle that was used to market CDs against cassette tapes in the late 80s and early 90s. When CDs were first introduced they used the phrase “avoid the tape ‘hiss’ and get the pure sound of a CD” to get consumers to adopt the new technology. Once the CD industry had called out a ‘hiss’ sound, it was all that customers could hear when they listened to a cassette. Eventually, they couldn’t stand it anymore and were happy to pay for the more expensive CDs to get relief.
This worked because it hyper-focused their client’s attention to a tangible problem that they could feel. Once customers felt the difference and knew that there was a solution, their brain couldn’t focus on anything except that problem and getting relief.
Now you may be wondering how a Breakdown Email actually works to engage a client that’s stopped talking to you when you reach the end of the email outreach. It’s important to remember this isn’t meant to get an immediate response (like a breakup email), it's meant to get a meaningful response when they acknowledge that you were right all along.
This works to add long term value to your client and the relationship between you in these 3 ways:
#1. If the pain isn’t strong enough yet, you can predict the symptoms of that pain going forward. Now they’ll focus on the pain you pointed out and become more and more aware of it, until they come back and buy.
#2. If they’re actually really busy but it's still a priority, then they know you’re invested in the solution and it cements the relationship by the fact that you’re continuing to reinforce your expertise and calling out the solution they need to take action on to help themselves.
Last, #3. If you can predict problems that your competitors cannot solve, you’ll focus their attention not on what your competitor is doing right, but what they are doing wrong/cannot do for the potential client. This makes you much more likely to get them back later.
When you put it all together it looks like this:
Hi John Doe,
We’ve had a few good conversations over the last 2 weeks about the issues around how to level up your team’s ability to close deals instead of losing them to your competitors.
We’ve struggled to get time back on the calendar to discuss what Rose Garden can do to help you pick up the money that is currently being left on the table every day.
I understand that you’re busy and this may have taken a momentary backseat to other priorities, but we both know that this will continue to be an issue under the surface until it’s addressed.
Let me breakdown the challenges that you’ll continue to see unless this gets resolved.
As we’ve discussed briefly already, these are challenges that Rose Garden is able to provide some immediate pressure relief on when you’re ready to discuss further.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
This is just one example of how sales tactics get used up and become ineffective. As soon as tactics become commonplace people's attention gets lost and your tactic becomes everyday noise, not something that stands out.
Your sales process should be reevaluated regularly. Take a good hard look at what you’re doing and determine if it’s actually effective anymore.
Technology changes and so does the way people interact in business. There are all kinds of opportunities for people to connect and communicate. At Rose Garden, we help you connect with your clients more effectively.