“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 Breakup Email Blueprint
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.
- The subject line typically reads something like ‘Goodbye and good luck’ or “Best of luck”. It’s some sort of declarative statement to remove yourself from continued interactions.
- The body is basically a one-two punch of guilt trip and FOMO.
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.
How Did We End Up Like This?
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.