We’ve all gotten that cold pitch. It starts off with something like “I hope this finds you well”. As you read it, your mind immediately dismisses the note.
It hits the mental SPAM filter. It signals, here comes another generic sales pitch.
This filler phrase is an example of a much larger problem. We’re failing to get to the point.
We lack clarity in our writing, and it’s killing our ability to sell.
If you’re like many sales organizations, email is a pillar in your go-to-market playbook. It’s how you reach people. It’s how you follow up on a voicemail. It’s where deals make progress.
If you’re not writing well, your deals are dying.
Just ask Clari. Since COVID set in, their data on 1.24 billion sales emails showed that:
- We’re sending 16% more sales emails
- But replies are down eight percent
With the rise in email quantity, we’re seeing quality emails plummet. One key to turning this around is to slow down. Take more time to write a better note. But what exactly is a “better” email?
A better email is one that prioritizes clarity.
Even the most personalized email needs to be clear. If your email isn’t clear it means your message isn’t being fully read, understood, and it isn’t getting results.
In sales, you're always fighting an army of unknowns. What’s going on around the prospect at that moment? What’s their background, biases and motivations?
A cold email’s success can be a coin toss.
Something as simple as did they read your email on their phone or their computer can mean a 38% difference in their attention span. Instead of the average desktop attention span of 2.5 seconds, you now have 1.7 seconds. If you’re not clear- you’re not getting a reply.
Writing clearly can be the difference between:
- a deadline made or missed,
- a deal won,
- a happy or frustrated client,
- even a top employee performing or quitting.
Now that remote work has become a “new normal”, we- as sellers- have to put additional focus on clear writing.
It isn’t easy. We’re fighting human nature.
We have a pension for wanting to be comprehensive. We want to provide the full picture. But being complete is at odds with how the brain works.
Your prospects are suffering from collective cognitive overload.
Cognitive overload is more than a synonym for Zoom fatigue. Cognitive Load Theory is a psychology theory on how your brain processes the world around it. It's a combination of your short-term memory (think, “what I’m experiencing now?”) and your long-term memory (think, “what did you eat for breakfast yesterday?”).
When you bring too much to your short-term memory, your brain can’t store it all in your long-term memory for later.
Your brain is somewhat similar to a computer. Your brain likes to process about three to five tasks at a time; It freezes up when you throw too much at it.
Slack notifications, emails, Zoom and phone calls, texts, kids in the background… it’s all forcing your prospects to freeze. They’re in fight or flight mode.
While you may remember fight or flight as a survival instinct- it’s front and center in your sales process. While cognitive load theory gives you a picture of the brain’s structure, it doesn’t show us how the brain decides to act when it’s overwhelmed.
Oren Klaff’s book “Pitch Anything” does a great job of breaking this prioritization down.
He likens the brain to two layers, the crocodile brain and the more advanced neocortex. (I’ll call it the brainy brain to keep it simple.)
The typical pitch (the one that favors comprehensiveness) is written for the brainy brain. This pitch fails because when your prospect takes in information, it has to go through a gatekeeper, the crocodile brain.
The croc doesn’t want the details, and you have to put it at ease in order to move forward. Wordy prose, buzzwords, run on sentences are a crocodile brain’s worst enemy.
The easiest way to combat crocodiles, cell phones, and screaming children?
Write with clarity. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking on your end and it will carry to their end. Here are a few tips to write with more clarity.
A focused purpose
Make it obvious why you reached out. Think to yourself, “what’s the one thing I need from this email?”. Focus on that. Clearly state your purpose or ask.
This may feel overly direct for some, but your reader will appreciate that they aren’t guessing why you emailed them.
Keep your writing simple.
Like 5th grade simple.
Want to get a reply? Aim for a 5th grade reading level by using short choppy sentences, break up paragraphs, and use shorter words.
Emails commonly start between a 9th and 10th grade level- aka crocodile food.
Buzzwords, superfluous language, uncommon words and long sentences are clarity killer. If you’re not clear, their mind will be stuck on that lack of clarity instead of understanding and responding in full.
Clarity requires brevity
Many people think of clarity as an excuse to reject brevity because they want to be comprehensive. This thinking couldn’t be more flawed.
If you bring too much information, you’ll create cognitive overload. When you get a wall of text in an email on your phone, you immediately want to shut down. You’re lucky if they save it for later.
All the details that you toiled over will be missed. Either lost because they got tripped up on a particular word, a sentence, or some other external distraction.
Before hitting send on an email, re-read it. If you can say the same thing with less, do it.
A great way to do this is to write a too long, didn’t read email (TL, DR). You’ll realize how painful it is.
If someone asked you what it said because they didn’t read it, what would you say? Send the TL, DR.
Being clear is tough. If you focus on the steps laid out, your email might stand a chance of getting past the mental gators plaguing your sales department.