I Can’t Stand This Email Technique Any More

John Barrows
June 1, 2016

I’ve hit my breaking point. After having the same email technique used on me twice in one day, and having three of those same emails forwarded my way, I had to write. You might know the one. It goes something like this:

Subject: Alligators


I’ve attempted to reach you, but have had no success. Either you’ve been eaten by alligators or you’re just plain swamped. If you have been eaten by alligators, my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members. If you’re still alive, one of the following is more likely to have happened. I hate to keep pestering you, but I do want to express my desire to chat with you more about whether or not our mapping solution may be a fit. Please pick one response and let me know what our next step should be.

  1. Yes, I’ve been eaten by alligators. Please send flowers.
  2. No, I haven’t been eaten by alligators, but you may wish I had been, because I have decided I have no interest in your service. Sorry, you’re sunk. (Thanks for your frank honesty. I can handle it.)
  3. Yes, we have some interest in learning more about Company X but here are my challenges…
  4. Yes, we have some interest in leveraging Company X to manage our work better. Call me to set a time for us to meet.
  5. I’m not the right person, please contact ____.

Replace alligators with hippos, falling rocks, or whatever, and I’ve gotten some form of this email over 100 times in the past two years.

Look, I’m all for new approaches and sales techniques, but we need to know when to let one go and this one’s time has come. It was cute when it first came out. I actually thought it was a decent tactic. But then I got it a second time, and a third, and then a forth, and so on. Now I find it completely annoying.

To be fair, I recommend my own, very specific technique to get someone to respond after they have gone dark. You can read about it here. It’s the new version of the alligator email, but a lot shorter and way less cheesy. It is currently operating at an 80% response rate, which is fantastic. However, it has the same problem as the alligator email: the first time you get the e-mail it will probably work. But the next time you get it you’ll know it’s a technique and will probably never respond again.
Instead of focusing on techniques, let’s concentrate on quality and on putting things in emails that are both relevant and specific to the prospect. Focus on their priorities or on something that happened in their business. Once you get the conversation started, send them a summary email outlining the key take-aways like priorities, timeline, and next steps, and ask them to send you an email back confirming the accuracy of what you wrote. If they go dark on you, send that summary e-mail back once more and ask them if anything has changed. Ask people upfront if they are OK with telling you “No” and then when or if they go dark on you, call them out.

I’m all about expectation setting and transparency. My experience suggests that the more accurately I set expectations and the more transparent I am with the prospect, the more open and transparent they are with me. Transparency means I don’t have to use too many “techniques.”

Regardless of my thoughts on techniques versus quality and transparency, can we at least agree to put the alligator email technique to bed? Please?


P.S. Check out my free resource center where you can find more of my techniques 😉

John Barrows
Founder & CEO, JB Sales