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OLLIE’S TIP: A framework tells you roughly how your email should be structured and what you should be saying in which bits so that you structure it properly. That’s it. Doesn’t tell you anything else to say. Templates are very different to frameworks. People always mix them up. A template is basically everything that you’re going to say, and you change a couple of words, email, by email, that’s it. You might change the name of the person, you might change their title.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: We’re talking to Ollie Whitfield, the Growth Marketer at Autoklose and VanillaSoft. Ollie, we’re talking about emails. I was thinking about this, we really haven’t done a show, specifically on crafting emails. Anybody who’s listening to today’s show sends emails, and they need them to get through, and they need to be crisp. You’re going to give us some advice on how to get some better cold email engagement, how to get some more meetings booked, which of course, is one of the main drivers for people who are listening. Basically, as we like to do, the more meetings you get, the more sales you get, the happier you are. First off, it’s great to see you. Let’s get started.
Ollie Whitfield: Thanks very much for having me, Fred. It’s funny that you say you don’t talk about cold emails too much. I feel like I talk about it every single day. We’re at total opposite ends of the spectrum here. I’m glad to share with you.
Fred Diamond: We do emails all the time. We haven’t devoted our show specifically to emails. We’ve done a bunch of shows on social selling, particularly LinkedIn, but we’ve never really focused specifically on emails. It always comes up about the rhythm and the resonance of your communications. Email, call, text, whatever it might be. Emails play a huge role for everybody. We want to talk today about how to get them through the clutter and how to get people to do what you need them to do, which of course is getting connected, getting to a meeting, getting them to read your proposal, whatever it might be.
Ollie Whitfield: Yes, sir. Cold email is a big one. A lot of people talk about it, but we over complicate it sometimes, just being honest. There’s plenty we’ve got to talk about today I know.
Fred Diamond: Let’s get started. What’s the first thing you want us to know?
Ollie Whitfield: The first thing I want to bring up, I feel like the subject line topic is brought up all the time. Generally speaking, the advice is normally the same. To share a little bit of our research or proprietary research I did last year into subject lines. There’s not a lot of difference between the length of words that you use in your subject line. Let’s say you have a one word subject line, the open rate is X, a two word subject line, the open rate is very, very close to that, and a three word and a four word, they’re all very close together. It’s only when you start to go to five words, six words, seven words. It’s past that it’s past common sense in a way. If you can’t read the whole subject line on your phone, it’s not really worth doing. That is the best opening. My stats particularly say two to four words. Like I said, one word and five words are pretty close by so don’t worry too much about it. Primarily worry about what’s going to make sense in the email. Worry about what they’re going to get when they open.
One thing that I always find quite funny, a subject line that I might get all the time, it’s like, “Growth marketing manager, Plus company,” or whatever company they work for. I know my title and I know that that’s their company. It’s within the perfect subject line word count, but it doesn’t really give me a reason to open it. I know my title, and I know what you’re going to say. If for you, just picking on you, Fred, I’m going to say, “Webinar plus podcast, plus cold email.” You’re probably thinking, “What the hell? What’s this going to be about? I got open that.” You probably do open that. Then it’s about my company from there. That’s still three separate things which are relative to what you’re doing. You’re doing all of them right now. Talking about cold email, and we’re doing a webinar and it’s going to become a podcast. All of that’s relevant to you, you just don’t quite know why yet. Then you click it. That’s the main thing for subject lines.
I got five frameworks for you, Fred, and we can go through them as quick or as fast as you like. My problem when I started as a salesperson when I was a few years younger than I am right now, I was never really taught. I was never a proper salesperson in a sales gig when I started doing that. That’s why I wasn’t taught. What I did was basically gut feel, I just thought that at one point or another, “I want to help us grow as a business, and we need to get some new clients so I’m going to do what I feel is my skill, and I’m good at writing stuff. I’m quite creative. I’ll just try.” I did okay, like really very average, to be honest, my emails were pretty very long, they’re all jumbled up all over the place, quite hard to read, I imagine. Probably just easy to get rid of. That’s the main thing with any email, they’re quite easy to get deleted and get rid of it. At least if you’re on the phone, you got to deal with the awkwardness until they go away. An email, you’re very dismissible instantly.
When I finally worked out what a framework is, it was like, “Oh, my Gosh, what have I been doing?” They are not even templates. Templates are very different to frameworks. People always mix them up. A template is basically everything that you’re going to say, and you change a couple of words, email, by email, that’s it. You might change the name of the person, you might change their title. If you’re saying, for example, “I saw that you are hiring account executives.” The next prospect, you might say, “I saw that you’re hiring a sales leader.” You just change little tiny bits. A framework is the opposite. It tells you roughly how your email should be structured and what you should be saying in which bits so that you structure it properly. That’s it. Doesn’t tell you anything else to say.
That’s when I realized, “Yeah, I’ve been rinse and repeating something that’s not that good anyway. Why am I doing it? I need to structure this better.” Then when I worked out how to do that, and I found some good frameworks, it changed my results, to be honest with you. I don’t know about you, Fred. Do you feel like you’re freestyling your emails and you end up mixing up bits of it, your trigger event falls into your call to action, all that kind of stuff? Because that’s certainly what happened.
Fred Diamond: Now, we send a lot of emails from The Institute for Excellence in Sales, and I have to remind myself that we’re talking today specifically about cold emails. Maybe to some new prospects, or hopefully get some degree of interest, which of course, then we’re going to possibly have some other type of contact, phone, LinkedIn, whatever it might be. We use templates, come to think of it. We repeat the same email. A lot of what we do also is focused around an action. It may not necessarily be focused around a prospect transaction, it’s usually to get someone to come to an event, or to listen to something that then they may find as value. If I find people have downloaded our webinars, for example, that gives me an opportunity to go back to them and say, “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about the time that we had Ollie Whitfield on the show, because it sounds like your salespeople may need some help with emails.”
Ollie Whitfield: Got you, I got five for you. Full disclosure, none of these are mine, I did not create a single one of them, my good friend Google helped me find them. But if I tried to create one, they would probably not be as good as the ones that I found. I went through hundreds of lists on Google. I’ve pretty much picked out my favorite five. If you go in a loose order, what I’ve done here is I have five I picked, pretend you’re writing a cadence to your prospect, I pick them roughly in the order I think you would use these templates if you had to do one by one. The first one is somebody called Josh Brown, he’s written one and it’s on his website. It’s the four T’s basically.
That stands for the trigger event, the third-party validation, and then finally teach me and tell me. I won’t give you a full version of the example here, because it’s kind of hard to do it if you’re not seeing the screen. Something like name, and then on a new line, “I noticed that your sales team has changed a little bit since you took over as the sales leader”. That’s your trigger event. You’re not having to say, “I noticed you’re hiring. I noticed you have a funding round, I noticed you opened the new office.” You can do that, but it can be as conversational as the one I just said it. To say, “Your sales team has changed a little bit since you took over as the sales leader.”
If that’s accurate, that could mean some of the team have gone, there’s lots more people, you’ve changed the breakout of the team into markets or that type of thing. That can say a lot in very few words. Going down the line again, the third-party validation. I’ve got a few things to tell you about this, but something like, “We’re helping companies like A and B and C regain control of sales performance” is the example I have. That’s just my value prop on the end of it. Main thing about a third-party validation is please never say something like, “HP and Oracle and Samsung and Apple,” if you’re talking to an SMB. I don’t understand the reference at all and I work for a company that has 100 employees. By no means are we small, but it is a world away from Apple and those people.
In terms of budgets, in terms of what would work for me versus what would work for them, in terms of team, how we would buy, what we would do with your tool or service, just every single thing about it is unconnectable for me. It doesn’t really mean too much. Whereas if I say something like SaaS companies like you, Gong, LeadiQ, they are sales tech companies, much like ours. They’re not competitors of ours, we know people in both of those businesses. Very easily if you’ve probably reached out to me and said something like this, I could say, “Oh, Devon at Gong, what do you think of Fred and his team?” Or I could go, “Ryan at LeadiQ, what do you think of this company? How are they doing? What are you doing with them?” Easily and that for me gives us safety. I can discard off one way of being dismissed here. If it’s HP and Oracle, “Yeah, cool, whatever.” If it’s people I know, and like, we’re in with the chat.
Fred Diamond: At The Institute for Excellence in sales, we go after large companies, they sponsor the institute, companies, like you mentioned. In a lot of my communications, I’ll say, “Like some of our members, Salesforce, Amazon Web Services, and IBM.” That’s because I’m trying to go after companies of that size. You make a brilliant point here. We always talk about this on The Sales Game Changers podcast, everything’s about the customer or the prospect. If I’m a, like you said, Director of IT, or whatever it might be, or applications or something like that at 100-person company, what I’m probably going to think is not “Wow, these guys are doing great work with great companies.” He or she is probably thinking, “They’re way too expensive.” Or, “They don’t understand my needs,” and they’re going to quickly dismiss it. That’s a brilliant point there, Ollie. Thank you so much.
Ollie Whitfield: That’s exactly right. It’s unresonatable, if that’s even a word, I just made it up. That’s the point of this whole part. You’re trying to say, “This would probably work for you because it works for these people who are like you.” Whereas if they’re massive companies or if you set an Asian massive company, a different market maybe, I don’t know if it would work or anything like that. That’s that bit. The third bit is the teach me part, this the third line, “Wondered if you ever wanted more visibility into each rep’s activity and making sure they hit the right leads first.” Long story short, this is me pitching our company and the things that we can help with that sales leader do.
I’m teaching them the things, giving them a view through the window of what they might get from talking to us and working with us in some way or another. We could do a better example of that. The final line is, “Tell me how we proceed.” My example is, “Are you interested in learning some more?” Pretty light call to action. I don’t really like to put the Calendly link straight in there and say, “Hey, first time I’ve ever emailed you, you can book a call with me.” They might not want to, timing might not be right, topic might not be right. My main goal of the first email is, “Are we accurate?” If interested in learning some more, then okay, great. It’s not this topic that I hit on in this first email.
Fred Diamond: You raise a great point there, Ollie Whitfield. I used to be the Marketing Director for Compaq public sector. I was in marketing for Apple Computer back in the 90s and I used to do a presentation called the 42 Touches. The whole premise basically was that it might take as many as 42 touches to get to where you want to get to. That’s a lot. Back then, email wasn’t as ubiquitous and social media wasn’t necessarily as well. Even still today, people are busy. We’re doing today’s interview in July of 2022. Even though there’s a lot more ways in theory to touch people and to find them, you’re not their priority in most cases. Especially as we’re still in some regards in the pandemic. You over in the UK, it was really, really hot this week, historically hot. I’m sure a lot of IT directors were probably thinking about, “How do we keep the systems going?” As compared to, “What new vendors do I need to make an impression on today?”
Ollie Whitfield: Yeah, very much so. Now as we’re recording, I have rain. A day or two ago, I had 40 degrees C. I don’t know how to deal with this.
Fred Diamond: I like that framework. There’s a couple others you got, right?
Ollie Whitfield: Yeah. We have four more. This next one, I guarantee you and especially as you just said, you were a Marketing Director, you have used this one. Maybe you didn’t even know it, but you have used it and you probably have seen it in many, many cases and not known it. AIDA spelt A-I-D-A, is attention, interest, desire and action. This is very, very common in billboard ads, in newspaper ads and anything old school like that where it’s on a magazine or a coupon, bus shelters and those things. Pretty much what you’re going to see throughout this one and the previous one, maybe even the last one. The first line is either some attention grabber, some trigger event, it’s the reason for the email every time. That’s okay, you can change that you can add it to the other frameworks that we have here that don’t specifically have that. You don’t always have to lead with this. Sometimes the reasoning and the timing is enough. You may not need something like, “I saw you’re hiring salespeople.” Or whatever it is.
This example would go the attention grabber is, “Noticed you’re hiring five salespeople.” Point blank, that’s an easy observation to find. That shows it’s relevant, it’s true, it’s accurate. That’s it, we’re going to move on. Nice and short. If you think about it, going back to that subject line, let’s say we have two words in the subject line, and it says, “Hiring reps.” Then I can see on the rest of my screen the whole of first sentence. I’m going to see from Ollie Whitfield @ OliverWhitfield.com. Then it will say, “Hiring reps.” Then it was also say, “Hi, Fred, noticed you’re hiring five sales reps.” You will see that all on one line in your screen in your inbox. That’s the point of the brevity there. Next bit, you go down the line, and you’re onto your interest. This is where you’re trying to say, not, “Let’s book a call because we solve ABC problem.” I’m trying to say to them, “We’ve got a new tactic for…” insert by persona. We’re showing them a new thing. Most of the time, if other companies in my space are using a new thing, I probably want to know what it is just for awareness. I might also consider using it.
The bait is a new tactic, that’s the interest creator there. Then you go down the line for the third part, and this is the desire part. This is probably my favorite bit out of any of these, to be honest, Fred. I think a lot of sales are emotional. There’s logic involved in every single one, but if you solve for me a problem that really, really annoys me, I’m motivated to do it. Whereas if something’s good already, and you want to take me to great, “Yeah, cool.” It’s not quite as much of a difference.
If you can find a way to tap into the emotional part of this, this is where desire comes alive. Nobody likes making a ton of cold calls but it’s clearly important to a healthy pipeline, and a happy sales leader because of that. If that’s you, and I’m selling my product to you, I know for sure you want to have a healthy pipeline, and you want to be a happy sales leader because it’s a pretty tough job. If nobody likes making a ton of cold calls, which is very true, that’s also emotional. We all know how my team feels about making calls, but I know how much we need them to. That’s quite emotionally loaded and stacked up there.
That’s obviously a good reason to go on to the action, which is, “I definitely agree with what you just said there in the desire part. The action, maybe we should talk. Will it make sense to talk next week? If not, maybe we should leave the call after three minutes as a safety blanket.” That one’s probably my favorite, give or take. I really like the first one, but this one’s a close second.
Fred Diamond: They’re both great. As we’re thinking here, there’s a guest we’ve had a couple of times, her name is Liz Wendling. I don’t know if you know Liz or not, but she does a lot of coaching for sales professionals on communications. One thing that we’ve talked about a couple of times is people tend to say things like, “I would love to give you a demonstration of our product.” Or, “I would really love to have you as a customer.” Of course you would. I would love to have IBM and Facebook and whomever as a customer of mine, but the customer doesn’t really care. The customer cares about what we’ve talked about already, which is, “Do I need to pay attention to you because you’re going to help me either be more productive or help us grow our revenue or whatever else the business driver might be?” In the two frameworks that you’ve discussed so far, it’s not about me loving to give you something, it’s about, how are you going to get value out of the relationship?
Ollie Whitfield: I love that phrase. “I’d love to book a demo with you.” As much as you love your wife or husband or whatever. No, it’s such a strange phrase. I know what you mean. Okay Fred, I got two more that are fairly similar. Why don’t I do those at once, and then we have one left?
Fred Diamond: Great.
Ollie Whitfield: Cool. PAS, problem, agitate, solution. This will be very similar to the next one. This is a bit shorter. The reason that these two are back to back and they’re not first and second, I like to lead with my best foot forward, always. Normally I like to finish off strong too. Of course, we’d all love to have the greatest cadence in the world but it’s just not possible. Hopefully within the days between these emails, we’re calling, we’re doing LinkedIn and other things. But in the middle as well, we normally analyze everything that we’ve ever got, any customers, or any of our own prospecting. The middle of the reaching out is where things drop off a bit. This is where we’re not putting our best bet. That’s always at the start and the end for us anyways. Problem, agitate, solution is a bit more generic.
For example, “Ever wondered why one sales rep books less demos compared to the other?” If you’re a sales leader, probably that’s annoying. That’s a problem. You don’t really want that, you want consistency so you can have good pipeline, easy deals to close. That’d be an example of your first line, then you go down to your second line, your agitate. Basically you just talk about what happens if that’s unaddressed. The main reason for that is because obviously, you want them to find a solution, which hopefully is you, or at least you may be able to help them with that. To lead on that example, agitating that first point would be, “One sales rep books less than the other, it’s because they’re not disciplined on which leads to approach and when it’s a free for all. That making it even worse. It’s their lack of discipline, it’s they’re not sure, lack of process, that type of thing.”
Then you position the solution afterwards. I don’t want to come off as arrogant and say, “Fred, this is exactly what you’re dealing with and I know that that’s true.” Because you don’t. You’re only guessing really, you can make an educated guess but you don’t ever know till you’ve heard it. I always say something like, “If you’re going through this, would it make sense to talk about how we can help you with that?” It’s offsetting the, “I know what’s happening and I know all about your problems.” You want to guess, but that’s how you got to hedge about them. My next one, which again is fairly similar, slightly different. BAB, that’s before, after and bridge. Less problem, but more before the solution as it was, so fairly similar to problem. “Maybe you feel sad, because your team isn’t reaching enough prospects.” If I was a sales leader, yeah, I probably would feel sad about that.
Then the after is where you’re saying, “Our clients have done this.” You try not to say like that, because no one’s really interested in your clients. You’re trying to say something like, “Sales teams like, insert company, hit 3x quota and had bigger deal sizes too with this new tactic that we’re showing them.” That’s the reason for the bridge. In your mind, if you’re reading that, you’re thinking, “I’m here, and that’s over there. What happened in the middle?” Then the bridge is how they explain that. “Would it make sense for us to talk about how we’re doing that new tactic, or we can show you what to do?”
Fred Diamond: Those are solid. We got the 4 Ts, then we have the AIDA, then we have the PAS, and then we have the BAB, the before, after and the bridge. As I’m thinking about these, how long do you think the email should go? One of the rules is like one sentence. If it’s the trigger, the third-party validation, the teach me, the tell, one sentence each. You don’t have like this long thing. What does your study show, Ollie Whitfield? If someone’s going to pay attention, how much time are they going to give you?
Ollie Whitfield: Between 50 words to about 100, give or take. People will give you the other numbers for that. It really depends. If you can see it on your phone without having to scroll, that’s probably good. Something like that. Then again, some of the very smartest people in the world are about cold email. I’ve had them pitch me for content, and they wrote much longer emails than people talk about being best practice. As long as you’re going for a certain play and you make it, that’s okay. If you want to do a very brief email, go for that. Make it brief and do it that way. If you’re going to do the long, very personalized one, you’ve got to go all into it. Don’t try it half and half.
Fred Diamond: We got the fifth framework here.
Ollie Whitfield: The last one, ACCA, awareness, consideration, comprehension, and action. Might sound a bit like AIDA, if you’re picking that up. A lot of these, to be honest, you can probably interchange a lot of them. Try your own ones, make your PAS, but we’ll make it PACA or whatever you want to do.
This one, awareness, pretty similar to the trigger events at the start, though this one, my example I’ve done something different. I’m saying something like, “Are you aware that new Salesforce data says that more reps are booking meetings from cold calling this quarter versus last?” Something like that if that’s true, and if you found that and if Salesforce really did say that. There has to be a very reputable source. It can’t just be my company said this, unless you are Salesforce. I trust Salesforce, you trust Salesforce. They’re a big figure in our industry. That’s why I picked them. It’s an interesting thing that maybe this person reading it didn’t know.
Then you go down the line of consideration. “Wondered how cold calling works for your team?” Picking up on that same thing and asking about, “Is this true for you?” Going down the line again, the comprehension. Why could that be important? Why could that be true? Why might it not be? I would say something like, “Truth is, cold calling can be a bit of a lottery. It’s about getting the right person at the right time, I think.” That’s just a statement. That’s me saying, “Maybe this is true for you, maybe it’s not. This is me putting the feelings out.” Then we go down to the bottom line to action, “Would it be worth talking about a new approach that my team is working with our cold calling right now?” All about the same topic we’re referencing in every single line. Always stemmed from someone that we trust. I’m saying that, “I’m in the same boat as you. We’re trying this. We think it’s lottery too sometimes, but we’ve got this new thing for you. I wondered if you want to see it?”
Fred Diamond: Awareness, consideration, comprehension, action, all right. It’s interesting, because there’s a new program that we’re launching at The Institute for Excellence in Sales, it’s our Premier Women in Sales Employer. We already have a Premier Sales Employer, which is basically great places to work, but for sales organizations. We launched that back in 2020. Women in Sales is a big part of The Institute for Excellence and Sales. We have some global programs for that. A lot of our attention is going towards that for the companies that join The IES. I’ve sent out about 30 emails over the last 45 days. I’ve gotten a bunch of response, I’ve gotten about maybe 15/20 responses.
Some were not interested, but most of them were. “Yeah, we’d like to have a conversation,” which is the goal. As I’m thinking about it, it’s a long email. I could get to the message a lot quicker. I’m definitely going to change, as I’m sitting here anxious to go upstairs because there’s about another 15 or 20 emails that I want to send out. I’m thinking maybe the AIDA, attention, interest, desire, action. I could be real crisp with that particular email. Maybe even the awareness, consideration, comprehension, action. This has been great. It’s been great for me. I want to thank Ollie Whitfield. Tell us again what you do? You have two places where you are VanillaSoft and Autoklose. It says that you lead growth marketing, what exactly do you do for these companies?
Ollie Whitfield: I used to be a salesperson, I was a marketer, salesperson and marketer again. That means I sit on both sides of the fence. We sell sales engagement software, which means I get to talk about cold calling, I get to talk about cold email, and interview loads of smart people who teach me these things. Sometimes I get to do a talk like this where I share the things that I’ve learned. To tell you the truth, Fred, it’s a fun job if you like sales, and you’re a bit of a nerd like me. There’s a lot of my face and name all over our website. Unfortunately for my company, that’s the way it’s got to be [laughs].
Fred Diamond: Definitely. That’s how we got to meet you. We’ll definitely put the links to those sites in the show notes. Ollie, I want to thank you for the great information. We’ve done over 550 shows, we have our insights for Sales Game Changers book, we talk about emails, but we haven’t gotten down to the length that we did and the depth of today’s conversation. Thank you so much. We became aware of you through a blog post. I said, “This guy knows some stuff here.” Of course, we’re familiar with VanillaSoft. We had done some content sharing with Daryl before he moved on.
It’s great company. I know you guys do a lot of great things with a lot of the sales professionals around the globe. Congratulations to you and kudos on the great work and the impact that you are making. We like to end every Sales Game Changers podcast with an action step. Of course, you’ve given us dozens of great ideas here, five new, fresh ways to think about how you’re going to be using email, which is still the easiest way to get to people besides picking up the phone. We talk about that all the time, too. We’ve had the great Alex Goldfayn on. Do you know, Alex, by the way, do you ever come across him?
Ollie Whitfield: No, not personally, I don’t think so.
Fred Diamond: Check him out, he wrote some great books, we’ve had him on the show a couple of times. His books are basically about picking up the phone. You mentioned before, email shouldn’t be as complicated as we make them. His premise is the same thing which is, the top of funnel activity you should be doing is calling warm friends, warm prospects. He’s not a huge fan of using the phone for cold prospecting because the odds of getting through are tough. Using that as your number one strategy. Anyway, enough about Alex. You’ve given us so many great ideas. Give us one more. Something specific, people should do after listening to today’s show to take their sales career to the next level.
Ollie Whitfield: Whether they’re using these frameworks or not, take an extra half an hour at the end of the day, maybe 45 minutes tops. Send 5 extra emails. Do completely personalized from scratch, or maybe use the frameworks. Just one person at a time. Maybe you want to do the research before you write the emails. That’s how I prefer to do it. I calendar block my research, and my notes and then I come back to when I write my emails later on. Just try that and the one thing with these frameworks is they are very good.
They are out there for a reason and smarter people than me have put them together. They help you to write in a cohesive way so whether you are going to use that or not, it’s still about what you say. If your value probably is poorly executed, if your personalization is not that useful, for example I get sometimes, ” I saw that you contributed to a blog post in 2016 about how to do social media” or something. If you Googled my name, that’s probably the 55th million thing that came up. It’s probably the most least relevant, and it was six years ago and I do something different now. Sometimes, the personalization could go a bit wrong. Practice and build your muscle at finding the right stuff quickly. For example, some of our sales reps we’ve done a lot of training about this. If you wanted to research me, the brilliant thing is go to my LinkedIn, that’s what everybody does.
Everyone goes there, every prospect. If you can go very quickly to A, contact information bit, you might find my Twitter, might find some personal about me on there. Then my recommendations, see if maybe you know someone there or something that was said. Then my job history, maybe we worked at the same company, then my posts, maybe I had an interesting post about an interesting topic. Then, I don’t know, the summary, maybe I talk about a goal or objective that I’ve achieved or something like that. That’s 5 very quick things you can do that in muscle memory, and you can do that maybe in under a minute. Real quick.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo