Virtual Prospecting: 4 Examples of Bad Sales Emails You Should Never Send


In the world of sales, email outreach is nothing new. It’s the most commonly used method of outreach, with 93% of B2B marketers using email to reach their customers. And now, without the opportunity to prospect through in-person networking and at events, the pressure is even greater on email to connect sales reps and potential customers virtually. 


There is some good news. According to this Hubspot article, 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months. So with a carefully crafted, compelling email, you can successfully engage your prospects virtually.


Stand Out in the Virtual Crowd


Some statistics indicate that professionals receive as many as 120 emails each day


With so many incoming messages, how can you guarantee that yours is the one that gets opened? 


You can’t. 


But, you can at least give yourself a fighting chance. Get your email noticed, opened, and hopefully returned. 


In his e-book, How to Write Irresistible Sales Emails & Get More Meetings, ASLAN CEO Tom Stanfill goes into great detail about the RAS (Reticular Activating System) and how the human brain filters through all the noise from incoming marketing messages (and all messages in general), as well as giving concrete advice on how to make your emails stand out and get opened. 


Whenever I’m learning something new, I always find it useful to see and experience real world examples. So in this article, we’re going to showcase a selection of emails I’ve received over the past few months and examine them for effectiveness. 


If you’d rather listen to the live conversation on this topic, check out our sALES with ASLAN podcast episode #64:  How to Write Effective Emails! And what does Bad look like?



The Good The Bad and The Ugly: Email Edition


For illustrative purposes, let’s check out these actual emails sent to me (I’ve removed any personal/identifying information to protect the innocent). 


To provide some context for the following messages, I’m a marketing executive at a sales training company, primarily concerned with creating leads. I receive close to 100 emails daily, about half of which are trying to get my attention on some new service or offering. 


With all that in mind, let’s discuss what to do (and equally importantly, what NOT to do) when trying to illicit a response from your prospect/ potential new customer:


Sample Email 1 

Subject: Your Competitors Likely Use Us – find out why. 



Your available press release distribution options have changed over the last few years. There is no need to stay with a single high priced press release service and an exclusive contract. The world of distribution is simply too big for that. Our clients think in terms of “footprints” of distribution because no one service will get you in front of everyone you need to reach.


(This email was more than a page long…)



The subject line here was what caused me to click. This was an email from a press release company (relevant to me as I’ve been thinking about more PR this year ). The email body was way too long – the text shouldn’t be more than a paragraph or two.

Make your points more succinctly. For this company, a major selling point was price, but the price was located 6 paragraphs down. Most people won’t read that far.  

Overall, an OK email with a great subject line. And, full disclosure, we did hire this company.


Sample Email 2 

Subject: Get Apple-like videos in 2020


Hi Scott,

Is this my lucky day today?

I’ve been quite persistent with my follow ups only because I think that we can add a lot of value to your marketing efforts.

However, my efforts have gone in vain so far and I do not wish to impose any further. Hence, this will be my last email to you and I truly hope that we can at least have an exploratory call.

I am going to leave you with a copy of our capabilities deck that has some of our work, prices, process etc.




The opening question (and this whole email) come across as self-centered and sounds gimmicky. Don’t make it about you (“Is today my lucky day?”) This is such a turn off. 

Give me at least one specific about my needs and your solution, instead of  playing a bad sympathy “guilt-trip” card. This is a terrible “break-up” email and a great example of what NOT to do. 



Sample Email 3



Hey Scott, 

Hope you have been having a great week! You mentioned you might have some time to catch up on Thursday, and I was wondering if you still had some time available today for a call so we can introduce you to <COMPANY NAME> and show you some of our effective strategies.

Are you free at 1pm EST?



This is short, which is good – but that’s the only redeeming quality. I’ve never had contact with this person before, so this email is basically an assumptive lie. Don’t do this. Next.



Sample Email 4

Subject:  Are you making this $123,169 mistake?


Hi there,

You’ve probably heard that on average, 98% of your website visitors will leave without ever converting

It’s why tools like COMPANY that show you which companies visit are so good.

And it’s why OFFERING – which can also show you the individuals – is so great. 

But of course I’d say that.

Instead, why not take it from one of our clients who generated over $120,000 of extra business in a single year with OFFERING?

So if you want to start gaining real visibility over your anonymous website visitors, why not pick a slot for a free no-obligation demo?

Speak soon,



I have to admit, that very specific number caught my attention and now I’m wondering… am I making that $123,169 mistake?? I hope not. 

Now I want to read more. 

The opening line is good, it presents a problem I have thought about, with a legit statistic that I’m familiar with. It’s a little fun and upbeat and a little self-deprecating (“Of course I’d say that…”) 

This rep then briefly introduced a client to give credence to their offering (Don’t take it from me!) and then closed with an action for me to book a quick demo. 

Overall, I like this email.

My only note would be that in the next email (this was one of a few I received from this company) provide more detail or an actual case study for me to read. 


What Not to Do


I think a lot of sales reps, when trying to prospect, take the info that product marketing gives them and use those ”key bullet points” in the opening lines of their emails. But this often sounds forced and disingenuous. It’s usually not interesting or relevant enough to warrant a response. 


That information is a value proposition that has merit, but isn’t intended to be used as is. Those are product benefits, but using them intact can come across like a laundry list of product features instead of relevant information to me as the potential buyer.


A Brief List of “Don’ts:”



  • Send canned, obviously automated emails
  • Be cute or corny (I don’t know you!)
  • “Just checking in” with your prospect to see if they got your previous email (instead add value by providing more details, specifics, or a case study)
  • “I know you’re busy, but I’d love…”
  • “Could you put me in touch with someone else in your department”
  • Play the sympathy card (“I left you a voicemail last week…” or “I’ve been trying to reach you unsuccessfully…”
  • Be self-centered
  • Ever Lie about a previous conversation
  • Start with your own agenda, instead start with the prospect’s


You have limited real estate to fill when reaching out to your prospect. Don’t waste it with any of the salesy tactics above.


ASLAN President Marc Lamson says:


“Your job as a sales rep in consultative selling today comes down to one thing: help customers make decisions. 

Help them navigate the sea of options and information and vendors, to help them prioritize and make decisions that are best for their business. The End.”


It’s your job to add value, not use false tactics to illicit a response. Your email, just like your desire to serve your customer, has to be authentic. 


An Authentic Attention Grab


If you, as a sales rep, approach me by saying, “Let me tell you why my offering is great,” then I’m not going to be interested. 


But if you lead with, “There are a lot of options out there… I’m not sure what’s on your priority list, but to help YOU decide where this offering fits in, here’s some information you may find useful. If so, let’s talk.”


“Your competition is not your competitors, your competition is all the other priorities and initiatives that your prospect is working on.”


The goal with any outreach email is to lead with the prospect’s whiteboard: start with their problem, not your solution. 


For example, instead of harping on what your solution would mean for their business, take it even further and personalize it to the challenges that that individual may be facing throughout their day. Paint a picture of the problem your prospect may have on their whiteboard, and then fill in the details of how your solution can help.  Remember, most decision makers have recently been in a meeting where something BIG has become their own personal problem.  You figure out what that problem is and how you can help them solve it and you are on your way.


We all have To-Do lists. If you can articulate how you can help me check an item off that list, you’ve got my attention. 


For more on sending effective prospecting emails, check out our podcast episode #42. Drop a comment down below.  Also, you may find our Virtual Selling Skills course is exactly what you need to build out your sales strategy in this  new virtual world.



As VP of Marketing at ASLAN Training & Development, Scott’s passion is to share our solution with those in need and those who seek sales transformation. Find him on: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

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