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Why Your Prospects Don’t Respond to Your Cold Emails and How to Fix It!

Girl sitting on the floor with a laptop raising his arms with a look of success

There is a science to getting emails read. There is a science to how our brain works and how we engage with email and if you want to understand that science, you’re gonna like this post.

Getting emails read is one of the greatest challenges in sales today. As more and more people abandon the phone, email has become our go-to communication tool, yet most sales people suck at emails and so do their marketing department.

According to this Hubspot post, less than 24% of sales emails are opened. That’s opened, that doesn’t even address responded to.  Think about that; you have to send 100 emails, just to get 24 opened. If you can muster a 10% response rate out of that 24, you’ll get a whopping 2.4 responses for every 100 emails you send. That’s not meetings, that’s not sales opportunities, that’s simply email responses.

Those are NOT odds I’d want to live or die by.

If you or your sale organization is relying on emails for your inbound or outbound sales team, you have to get good at writing compelling, emails.

The problem with emails today is most people don’t understand the science. Yes, there is a science to getting people to open and then respond to your emails. If you want to write good cold emails, you’re going to have to understand the science.

It works like this.

Our brains are programmed to block out the familiar, the repetitious, the expected. In an attempt to manage its resources, the brain refuses to pay attention to things that are expected or familiar.

However, when our brain is triggered by something that is unfamiliar, unexpected or our of the ordinary, a specific part of the brain is triggered and forces us to stop and take notice. We can’t help ourselves.

This section of the brain is called the ACC or the anterior cingular cortex. Within the ACC is the error negativity signal or the “oh-shit” circuit as scientists like to call it. The ACC or the error negativity signal is designed to keep us honest. Its job is to pay attention when our unconscious brain is not.

It works like this.

As we’re going through our day, our brain has cataloged our surroundings. It puts everything into a pretty little box. It knows what happens when we get to the office; it knows what traffic is going to be like. It knows how everyone is going to act around the donuts. It even knows that 90% of the emails cluttering the inbox are useless noise. Because the brain already knows this, it goes into autopilot, ignoring or paying very little mind to all those things around it, so it can be focused on the things that matter.

This holds true throughout the entire day, that is until . . . something unexpected or unfamiliar happens.

Then all hell breaks lose in the brain and the brain forces you to take notice. It won’t let you focus on anything else. It locks you in until the brain catalogs the information and says, act or don’t act.

Being aware of the science behind attention is a huge advantage when it comes to cold emails.


Because, you now know the secret sauce is to trigger the “oh-shit” circuit.

The key to triggering the “oh-shit” circuit is to create intrigue, and there are three very distinct ways to create intrigue.

  1. Create a knowledge gap. When we know something our prospects don’t, they become curious. People don’t like to feel they don’t know enough, particularly in their field. When a knowledge gap exists, specifically in an area someone feels or believes they are knowledgeable in, the error-negativity signal goes off, forcing the prospect to want to fill the gap, to want the information.  Do the research, learn more than your prospects to create a knowledge gap and offer them some insight that will get them to want to engage in learning more.
  2. Surprise – When we’re surprised by something, it stops us in our tracks. Surprise is one of the best ways to trigger the error-negativity signal. Surprise is when you offer something the prospect wasn’t expecting. Almost all sales emails look, act, and feel the same. Therefore the brain knows exactly what’s coming and blocks it out and tells the prospect to delete. When an email surprises a prospect, the prospects error-negativity or “oh-shit” circuit springs into action, making sure the prospect takes note of what just happened. That’s why creative, surprise emails only work once. Trying it again with the same person and the brain says; “I’ve seen this before, move on.”
  3. Mystery — Creating mystery is another way of creating intrigue by triggering the error-negativity signal.  When a mystery is created,  when a story or scenario that we can’t solve for or guess the outcome is present, we get sucked in trying to solve it. Our brains don’t like being in the dark, so we find ourselves looking for the answers in order move on. If your email is mysterious, prospects will respond in hopes of getting an answer.

Getting emails opened is no small order. We are becoming more and more desensitized to them. We are blocking out more and more of our email, and so are our prospects. We’re deleting them faster and reading fewer and fewer of them. The one button delete is becoming more and more common. We’re not even scanning the first few lines. If it doesn’t stand out or capture our attention in half a second, we’re out.

If you want to improve your email open and response rates, you have to start creating emails that are intriguing. You have to understand the science and how our brain works. You have to trigger the error-negativity signal.

The same, boring, self-centered, valueless emails aren’t going to cut it. Leverage the science, learn how to create mystery, surprise, or a knowledge gap in your emails and trigger the “oh-shit” signal.  It’s the only way to win.



If you’d like more information on how to do this or see some examples, check out my our newest ebook on the science of getting prospects to respond, I talk about all three of these approaches and go into more detail on the science of intrigue. http://info.asalesguyconsulting.com/ebook-sales-emails-worth-opening









Download Now

I’m Speaking at Dreamforce

The giant sales conference that is Dreamforce is coming up in just under a 3 weeks and I will speaking.

My topic, coaching.


If your going to Dreamforce come say high and learn how I teach sales organizations to build coaching processes that win.

Register here: https://success.salesforce.com/Sessions?eventId=a1Q3000000qQOd9EAG#/session/a2q3A000000LBH9QAO

See you there!

13 Must Read Sales Books to Become a Badass Sales Person [Updated]

A few years ago I created a list of the best books sales people should read to become a badass.  You can see the list here.  The list included some amazing books. What made that list so special was the surprising number of books that WEREN’T sales books.  The original list of must read sales books for sales badasses included some books that address traits and skills that are critical to sales, but aren’t solely sales related.

This updated list is a little different.  This list is all sales books.

A lot has changed in the sales world in the last 13 years. Inside sales, inbound, outbound, Account Based Marketing, lead generation, buyers journey, etc. are just a few of the new terms that have penetrated our sales vernacular.  Therefore with all the changes, keeping up with the new and valuable selling methodologies of today is critical to success.

This list was built to help sales people and sales leaders crush it in the sales world of 21st-century.

Growth is critical to success, and deliberate learning is the best and most productive way to achieve that growth.

If you’re interested in expanding your skills, broadening your understanding the new world and learning new skills these are the sales books for you. (To order or read more, simply click on book thumbnail)

1) The Only Sales Guide You Will Ever Need – Anthony Iannarino

sales-guideThis book should have been called, “The Anatomy of a Sales Person” because that’s what it describes. With chapters like Self-Discipline, Optimism, Competitiveness, Story Telling Diagnosing and more, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need will snap you in shape. Anthony’s direct approach lives little for interpretation.  Broken into, two Parts, Mind Set and Skill Sets, Anthony walks you through how these two very different elements to sales come together to create a powerful description of what it takes to become a true badass sales person.

If you haven’t read a sales book in a while, this is the first one you should read. It will revive those parts of your skill set and mindset you already had AND help you develop new ones to be successful in the 21st-century.


2) Fanatical Prospecting – Jeb Blount


If nothing happens until something gets sold, then nothing gets sold until you can prospect. Prospecting is where everything happens. It’s how we build our pipelines. It’s how we position ourselves for success.  If your prospecting is suspect, nothing can save you. Jeb has written a killer book designed help you build a solid pipeline faster. Learn about the 30-day rule, the law of replacement, the P’s holding you back and more. If you want a bigger pipeline, this book can help you get it.



 3) How to Get a Meeting With Anyone – Stu Heinecke

how-to-get-a-meeting-with-anyoneThis book completely surprised me.  It tackles the most difficult challenge salespeople struggle with, getting prospects to respond.  Stu Heinecke triggers your mind to think in entirely different ways. Leveraging his own unique stories and those of others, How to Get a Meeting With Anyone, teaches you how to get the attention of your buyers and get them to respond to you.  This book is not about email meetings, but rather how to build targeted, specific campaigns for your most valuable prospects. This is a must have compliment to any organization doing ABM (Account Based Marketing)



4) Sales Manager Survival Guide – David Brock


In full disclosure, I consider David Brock a mentor. When I first started my consulting company, David offered amazing insight, support and most importantly confidence building. He convinced me I was capable of things I wasn’t sure I was ready for. That’s what makes David’s book Sales Managers Survival Guide so valuable. David has practiced and lived sophisticated sales leadership for decades and he’s good at it. This book should sit on EVERY sales managers desk and be part of the on-boarding for new sales manager. Sales Manager Survival Guide covers everything from hiring and firing to comp plans, to performance reviews, to succession planning and more. David has written the definitive guide to sales management. Go get it.



5) Deal Storming – Tim Sanders

Tim deal-storminghas written the book for large, complex selling.  As you’ll see in the next book I share, the complexity of selling is drastically increasing. This increase is being driven by more and more buyers in the decision process.   To drive deals forward in today’s complex selling world that has an average of 5.4 decision makers per sale, sales has to leverage the entire organization. Deal Storming walks you through how to leverage all the intellectual capacity of your organization to compete and win the deal. Deals Storming helps sales people get deadlocked deals unstuck and helps capitalize on the creativity of the entire organization. Deal Storming leverages a 7-Step process that has helped Yahoo, Conde Naste, and Career Builder win their big deals.  Don’t lose a stuck deal again, read this book.



6) The Challenger Customer – CEB


Our customers buying process is going through dramatic change. Deals are no longer made by one or two people, they’re made by committee and that “committee” is made up of 5.4 people on average. That’s 5.4 people you need to get behind saying yes to your product or service.  The Challenger Customer is a fantastic follow up on it’s predecessor, The Challenger Sale (on the first list).  Leveraging their research on the 7 types of buyers and what it takes to move them to a yes, The Challenger Customer helps you understand the different buyer types and whether or not they are friendly “mobilizers” or “blockers.”    If you sell to large scale organizations with long sales cycles, The Challenger Customer is a must. Combined with Deal Storming, you’ve got a powerful combination.



7) Sales Development Playbook — Trish Bertuzzi


Broken down into 6 key elements or parts, The Sales Development Playbook takes you on a journey towards sales growth and acceleration.  The 6 Parts: Strategy, Specialization, Recruiting, Retention, Execution, and Leadership, are carefully and meticulously laid out in a fashion that doesn’t let you forget the others. Trish had done a masterful job of framing what a winning 21st-Century sales organization should look like. If you’re a CRO, Sales VP and responsible for sales development in your organization, this book should be on your shelf.



8) Social Selling – Tim Hughes



As the digital landscape has changed buyers’ habits it’s increasingly difficult to reach them early enough in their decision-making process using traditional sales methods. Developing relationships with decision-makers through social networks has become an increasingly critical skill – enabling sales professionals to engage early on and ‘hack’ the buying process. Social Selling provides a practical, step-by-step blueprint for harnessing these specific and proven techniques. Social Selling is real people, Tim’s book is a winner that will make you that much more web popular and improve your digital engagment. Don’t start social selling without it.


9) The Perfect Close — James Muir

the-perfect-closeHave you ever wondered if there were a way to close a deal with out being pushy and obnoxious?  This book is your answer. Using science, James Muir offers sales people a simple two-question close that will do just that.  In The Perfect Close Muir shares his approach to get customers to close with a 95% closing percentage with zero pressure. Many of you know my thoughts on closing. Closing is a journey and Muir’s book helps you go on that journey with respect for your prospects.



10) High-Profit Prospecting – Mark Hunter

Yeah, high-profityeah, I know two prospecting books, really?  Well yup, because prospecting is that important.  Plus, Jeb Blount wrote the foreword. High-Profit Prospecting helps sales people maximize the time they spend prospecting in order to fill their pipelines faster and with better opportunities. I especially liked Mark’s don’t cold call, inform call thesis. High-Profit Prospecting addresses everything from email, social media, to gate keepers, referrals and more.  Read this and Jeb’s book and watch how fast your pipeline grows.



11) New Sales Simplified

new-salesIf there is a new sales bible for sale reps, this is it.  There are number of new sales books coming out every year touting a new and complex selling methodology and some of them are good. The problem is, like many other things, if you don’t have the basics, those books can’t help you.  New Sales Simplified is all about the basics.  I recommend this book to every new sales person or any salesperson who feels they need to “hone” their skills.  New Sales Simplified is fantastic book that delivers the sales basics with a punch.  If every new sales rep read this book before they ever made a sales call, the profession of sales would have an entirely different brand. Get it, read it every two years or so, and don’t deviate from it.



12) Whale Hunting with Global Accounts — Barbara Weaver Smith

whale-huntingWe’re in a global economy and yet their are so few books on selling to global account. Barbara leverages the expertise of fourteen current global practitioners and current sales experts to help readers navigate the complex world of global selling. Whale Hunting with Global Accounts walks you through a 4 strategy approach that will help you compete for and win global accounts.




13) Social Selling Mastery – Jamie Shanks


Social Selling is so critical to sale today, I would have felt I was cheating you if I didn’t recommend both of these books. Jamie Shanks is the CEO of Sales for Life, a social selling training company. Sales for life is the permenant social selling training company in the world. Therefore, technically speaking, you could say Shanks wrote the book and training on social selling.  Social Selling Mastery helps sales people connect with their buyers and prospects where they live. Social Selling Mastery provides a blue print for sales people trying to engage with prospects all across the Internet. Leverage his companies training curriculums, provide readers with the insight and information required to be seen by their prospects as valuable resources, not pesky sale people pushing and agenda. Social selling is a real thing and Social Selling Mastery makes sure you do it right.



K, there you have it.  The world of sales has changed drastically in the past 15 years.  Products, methodologies, systems, that are dominating the sales environment that didn’t’ even exist 5 years ago, never mind ten or fifteen years ago.  The best salespeople and the best sales leaders stay abreast of the changes and maintain their stock in what it takes to sell in the 21st-century.  These 13 books are the foundation to staying ahead of the curve and on top of your game.

Well that is for the next few years. Things change pretty fast these days.

Enjoy folks.

If there’s a book you guys thing should be added to this list, feel free to share in the comments.  I’m curious to see what everyone else is reading.


#heykeenan 27 How Do You Motivate the Unmotivated?

I spent Labor Day on Cape Cod, this year. I spent it on Great Island. It’s one of my favorite places to relax and enjoy myself (and not shave 🙂 ). It’s absolutely gorgeous, peaceful and serene.

We were supposed to shoot #heykeenan 27 before I left for vacation, but we just didn’t get it done, so I figured, what the heck. I’ll do it myself from the beach.

In Take 27, I talk about how to motivate the unmotivated and what I do when I first get into a new client and I go on a short rant about the value of down time.

This one was fun.  Sorry about the wind. 😉  Enjoy

If You Don’t Have Passion, You Don’t Have Anything

Passion is arguably the most important aspect of success. Without it, it’s hard to argue we are delivering our absolute best.  Passion drives motivation. I define passion as the emotional connection to what it is we’re doing or committed to. It’s the heart part of the equation, not the head.

About a month ago, Will Baron the genius behind Salesman Red asked me if I’d be willing to talk about my passion and what passion means in sales and life on his podcast. I’m glad he did. It was a great podcast, and we covered a lot of ground.

I don’t usually go too personal, but in this podcast, I share a few personal stories that played a role in me doing what I’m passionate about. Will also shares some personal insight about his life that was tremendously inspiring.


One of the things we covered was, can someone be successful without passion.  I said no and argued, if you don’t have passion, stop doing what you’re doing. You’re wasting your life away.

We also have fun talking about;

  • why people get stuck dong what they don’t like to do
  • how to get unstuck
  • the role society has on us and the choices we make
  • how early in life our decisions begin to affect us
  • and more.

It was a fun podcast, Will is a great guy with tons of passion ;), and he does great interviews.

Problem Finders vs. Solution Creators – The Stain of Resistance

Problem finders are everywhere. Finding a problem is easy.

Your car won’t start. Yup, you found a problem.  Revenue is down, yup another problem. Your advertising isn’t working, yup you found another problem.

It doesn’t take much work to find problems; they are easy to spot because they make us uncomfortable and scare us. Problems are easy to find because of the emotional impact they have on our safety and comfort. We feel unsafe or out of control when problems exist. That’s why we call them problems.

You could almost argue, we don’t find problems they find us. We just simply acknowledge them and some of us are a lot better than others in acknowledging the existence of problems.

Solving problems, on the other hand, that takes work. Because it takes work, most of us choose to stay in the problem identification mode. We choose to demonstrate our value by finding problems. It’s the easy path.

Unfortunately, just identifying problems doesn’t provide very much value without solutions. Problem identification by itself is passive resistance. By spending our time focused on finding problems, without fixing them, we entrench ourselves in the resistance of change.

It goes like this.

We find a problem, then find the problem with trying to solve the problem. We then find the problem with the solution to solving the problem, which then leads to finding the problem to implementing the solution, paying for the solution, teaching the solution, maintaining the solution, etc. We become problem finding machines.

We, falsely, believe that we’re providing value with our finely tuned problem identification skills, but in actuality, we’re just change resistors in problem identifying clothes.

The world doesn’t need more problem identifiers; we need solution creators. We need people with creative ideas for solving the problems we’re so good at identifying.

Solution creators are change agents; they move organizations forward. Solution creators provide a powerful currency of ideas that bring tremendous value to situations.

Solution creators don’t identify problems; they dissect problems from the perspective of what’s not working and why and then go straight to solution mode.

Solution creators operate from the perspective of how can this be better? How do we replace this problem with something better that stops the pain

Creating solutions is hard. You have to understand the problem, you have to understand the root-cause, you have to understand its impact on its environment and more. You can’t create solutions simply knowing a problem exists. It goes much deeper than that.

Creating solutions is hard. You have to be creative. You have to be diligent. You have to flexible. You have to be willing to take risks. You have to be ready to fail. Unlike finding problems, creating solutions takes a lot more work and while you’re creating them can feel uncomfortable.

Problem finding feels good in the beginning, but without solutions amplifies the pain as problem after problem are heaped on one another.

Solution creation ultimately makes the pain go away, but it can be uncomfortable and not feel good while it’s happening.

Too many organizations are steeped in problem finding resistance filled with an army of problem finders looking to prove their value by finding yet another problem that’s keeping them from their goals.

On the other hand, there aren’t enough solution creators, people who can be uncomfortable in the problem in order to make it go away.

Become a solution creator. It’s ultimately what we need.



It’s Not About You – Washing Off the Slimy Feeling of Sales



Sales isn’t something you do to someone. It’s something you do for someone.

Everything changes when we put the customer first. When their problems, issues, challenges become our primary focus, we stop doing something to our prospects and start doing something for them.

That something . . .

Is fixing a broken system, it’s finding more money for capital improvements, that something is helping them compete better, that something is helping them deliver more for less, that something is expanding into new markets. That something is something that makes their world, their business, their environment better.

As sales people when we’re doing something FOR our prospects, we’re enablers.

When we’re not doing something for someone, we’re doing something to someone. When we’re focused on our product, when we’re focused on the features and benefits of our product we’re doing something to people. We’re trying to convince them, cajole them and get them to buy for our purposes. When we’re thinking about quota attainment, quarterly earnings, Presidents Club, bonuses, etc. we’re doing something to someone.

Selling it’s not about you, your company, your products, your services, your awards, your quota, your commitment to the street, your presence on the Inc Fastest growing companies. Selling is about your customer and what you can do for them.

Doing something to someone rarely feels good, thus the slimy feeling of sales.

Doing something for someone, well that’s an entirely different story.

Spazz Out 8: Not Following Instructions and The Death of Your Career

At a Sales Guy we have a unique job search approach. We look for resourceful, outside of the box, creative, driven thinkers who can get things done.  We don’t look for people who do things like everyone else and who are looking to be told how to do things.

Our job postings have very specific instructions and for the life of us, we don’t understand why only 10% of applicants follow the instructions.

Don’t be the 90% who don’t value their time and career enough to do it right.  The demand for the 90% of those who don’t put in the effort is pretty low.

What do you think?  Am I being too harsh?

What about the sales world, recruiting, or business in general drives you crazy?

It’s Here: Not Taught Audio Version

It’s here folks. The audible version of Not Taught dropped this week, and I’m pretty excited.  It’s all the goodness that is Not Taught in audio form.

I can’t think of anything better than Not Taught on your drive to work, on the subway, at the beach, or while you’re waiting for your kid’s soccer practice to end.

A lot of you have been asking, and even some of you have been pestering me, so here it is.

And yes . . .

I narrated it.

Take a listen:

Let me know what you think.

It’s available at audible.com. I hope you like.


#heykeenan Take 26: Conviction vs Selling Skills and Making the Quarter

#heykeenan Take 26 is out.  This is our first one since Max, my business development rep moved to Florida.  He’s still working for ASG, but he’s no longer behind the camera. We miss him.


In this take, I talk about conviction and the importance of selling skills as well as making your quarter as it comes to an end.

Enjoy peeps.

What’s your question?  Leave a question in the comments and I’ll answer it in the next take.

Who can ask me the most difficult, odd, question, that can throw me off my game? 😉

I’m ready.