10 Common Mistakes with Outbound Prospecting Emails and How to Fix Them


Outbound prospecting is a lot of work. It’s also somewhat of an art form and requires a certain amount of finesse. This sales channel can be a valuable asset to your collection. However, since the average response rate is only around one percent (1%), it’s safe to assume that many people aren’t using it to the best of its capacity.

And it’s no fault of their own—writing cold emails is challenging. Trying to find the right balance of information and calls to action (first hint: you only need one) can prove to be a challenge, even for the best sales teams. Fortunately, there are some tips and strategies out there to assist you in improving your response rates, open rates, and more. Sometimes, the best way to learn is through other people’s mistakes. We’ll highlight the most common ones here. 

The 10 Most Common Outbound Email Mistakes

1. Not researching your customer enough

The worst way to reach out to a customer is blindly. If you don’t know your target audience, you’re wasting your typing and your time. Take the initiative to do in-depth customer research so that you are only reaching out to the most likely prospects and the most valuable leads. It’s better to get the attention of five people who are actually interested than 500 who could go either way. 

2. Misleading subject lines

People aren’t into clickbait, no matter what the marketing tells you. It worked a lot in the past, and it might still work for some news outlets and social media posts, but ultimately, it’s bad business. Remember, you’re talking to people here—give them a reason to trust you and want to open your email. If they open the message and realize the subject line was misleading, they’re going to be irritated in addition to totally disinterested. 

3. Too many hyperlinks

Links are great, but in email, they should be used sparingly. Sometimes, emails don’t translate properly across servers. That can cause links to get mixed up, scattered, and cluttered if there are too many of them. Save the extra links for your blogs and other resources. In emails, you should only bother linking to your landing page or website, your email address (in your signature), and any other relevant content. Keep it to a maximum of one or two links in the actual email itself. 

4. Spelling and grammar

Are you a business selling a product or are you just some guy sending emails? The last thing that consumers want to see is an email (or any kind of professional content) with typos, spelling errors, or bad grammar. Use tools like Grammarly and your good old spell checker. Google things you’re not sure of for extra reassurance. The diligence will pay off when your emails are professional and error-free. 

5. Not building trust

We mentioned this with the misleading subject lines—you’ve got to build the trust of your prospects and your email has to do it quickly. Too often, teams get caught up in the “quickly” aspect and forget to deliver something of value and talk to prospects like they’re just people. Take the time to give people a reason to even consider trusting you, let alone using your product or service. 

6. Lots of words, no real message

You’re not trying to impress people with your words. Again, save that for the blogs and other content that you create. Your email needs to be succinct, concise, and direct. It needs to be friendly but get to the point. People don’t have a lot of free time. They don’t want to read your life story. 

7. Multiple calls-to-action (CTAs)

Just like links, too many CTAs can go wrong quickly. Not only is it a bit pushy, but it makes people feel like you’re not actually talking to them, just selling them something. One call-to-action per email is enough unless you’ve got more than one conversion option in mind. Even then, though, you should keep the initial email to one or two CTAs so that there’s no confusion or feeling of forced sales. 

8. Not following up 

One of the biggest mistakes that are made with email prospecting is the lack of follow-up. How often do you actually check in on the leads that you’ve emailed? Do you reach back out to people to see if they missed your first message, or if they have questions or concerns and just haven’t gotten around to getting back to you? If you aren’t following up, you’re letting potentially good leads walk right out the door. 

9. Wasting the first sentence on introductions

“Hi, you don’t know me, but…” 

Stop right there. You’ve already given everyone a free pass to move on to the next email. Also, no one cares that you’re Brandon and that you’re a Developmental Sales Representative that works with the blah, blah, blah… you’re prospecting. Get to the point. Your signature will tell them all they need to know about who you are and why that matters. You can get friendly once you get them interested. 

10. Marketing lingo and jargon 

Save the lingo for the office meetings—your prospects want you to talk to them like they’re real people because they are. It can be helpful to speak your words aloud as you’re writing emails-- if you can’t cohesively get your own message across, how will anyone else? If your emails sound like you’re talking, then you’re doing it right. You can use stats and industry terms, sure, but don’t overdo it and come off sounding like a giant advertisement. 

Another mistake is assuming you’ll have the time for follow-up 

If your prospecting goes well, you’re likely going to find yourself inundated with new business. You’ve got a whole new list of prospects, both warm and cold, for lead intake and qualification, scheduling appointments and meetings, and you might even need a little extra help with outbound sales—what are you going to do?

When you can’t afford to do it yourself, or even if you just don’t want to, the 24/7 virtual receptionists at Smith.ai have you covered. Schedule a consultation now to learn more or reach out to us at (650) 727-6484. 

Business Education
Sales Tips
Written by Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

Take the faster path to growth.
Get Smith.ai today.

Affordable plans for every budget.

Sign up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to receive news & updates from Smith.ai.
Thank you!
Your submission has been received.
Yikes! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Take the faster path to growth.
Get Smith.ai today.

Affordable plans for every budget.