What Coco Chanel Taught Me About Sales

In, this week’s blog post, I’m really excited to introduce Michael Thomas. Since every one of us in sales is always looking for new and creates ways to stand out in the inbox, you’re going to love his approach.

Michael is CEO of SimpleData, and previously led the sales development team at Highfive. He knows a thing or two about getting emails opened to say the least.

So, without further ado, Michael Thomas:


In outbound sales everyone is always seeking higher response rates. And how could you not? More responses means more appointments and that leads to more pipeline which leads to more revenue. But you know that. I’m writing on the PersistIQ blog to tell you something you didn’t know. I’m here to talk about humor in outbound email templates and what I call the “Email Different” strategy.

In the last 6 months I’ve used this strategy to go from 3% reply rates to 30%+ reply rates. Little chuckles and giggles from my prospects have taken my sales development game to the next level. I’ve received emails like this:

Hi Michael,

Great email — in fact, one of the best I’ve ever personally received. Well done! I have time on Tuesday at 2pm.

And this one:

Hi Michael,

I’m not interested in your service. But great email and hustle. I have 5 minutes later today. Call me.

Before explaining how to write great sales emails, it’s important to review the physcology behind why people open and respond to emails. I’ll spare you the boring textbook stuff and instead tell a story.

A couple months ago I was trying to think of a great subject line for one of my email campaigns at Highfive. Nothing was coming to mind so I decided to look at my inbox for inspiration. As I scrolled through Mailbox I noticed a similarity between all the emails I archived. They tended to be long, capitalized and include exclamation marks. In other words there was a pattern.

Here are a couple examples of bad subject lines:

“Michael, Wahoo! You have someone…” — This one is so long I have to open it to even read the rest. Fail.

“Your Customers at SimpleData” — When have you ever received an email from a friend or someone you know with this subject line?

In order to get high open ratesl I knew that I would need to do something that broke through the noise of my prospect’s inbox. I needed to be a signal, not an emoji followed by all caps. This taught me an important lesson in sales email and a skill that is at the foundation of why humor is so effective. I learned to be different.

Some entrepreneurs have Steve Jobs quotes plastered all over their wall. But I prefer Coco Chanel’s “In order to be irreplaceable, one must be different.” I hear this quote ringing in my head before I write any email template. If I am not different I’ll get caught in the archive frenzy we all take part in when we arrive to work on Monday morning.

Here are a couple examples of subject lines that work:

“New sales plugin” — this feels like an email sent from a friend.

“Software devs” — this feels like an email that your CEO sent you. Short, sweet and abbreviated.

Getting someone to open your email isn’t enough, however. Salespeople aren’t compensated on open rates; the dollar bills roll in when you line up demos or close deals. So the question is, how can you write effective copy that gets people to respond positively and enter the funnel?

What’s true of subject lines is true of email copy. The best emails stand out in the noise of the inbox and survive a trip through “Archive Hell.” Here’s an example of an email template that steered me clear of the Monday frenzy:

Hey {{first_name}},

Looks like I didn’t catch your attention in my last email…

sorry I missed you

I think SimpleData could offer a tremendous amount of value to your sales team. We offer a really effective way to outsource your entire lead generation process. The result: more leads for less money. But more importantly happy reps 🙂

Do you have 7 minutes (maybe 8 if it runs long) to touch base this week?

It’s borderline silly, but the SimpleData brand isn’t “buttoned up suit” anyway, so it works. This email generates great response rates as a second email in our outreach process. And the reason is simple: everyone loves puppies.

I received an email from an SDR recently that said the following:

Hi Michael,

I must say, the puppies were great addition to your email and really caught my attention. (Who doesn’t love puppies).

Let’s talk this week. I feel there might be a good business fit for SimpleData and Act-On.

Her VP of Sales forwarded my email to his entire sales team and asked someone to reach out and learn more about SimpleData. And the result was a huge deal in the pipeline. $48,000 to be exact.

In addition to standing out with puppies I’ve sent prospects quotes. Here’s an example:

Subject line: Energy and persistence conquer all things

I read that quote this morning when I woke up and felt inspired to reach out to you one more time. As someone in sales I figure you will respect the hustle at the very least 🙂

Are you interested in learning about SimpleData? Would love to hear from you either way, {{first_name}}!

If there’s one thing that salespeople love more than puppies, it’s persistence. In this email I acknowledged the fact that I was being persistent in hopes gaining some respect and getting the response. It works. This is the third email in our outbound sales process and it helps us get 30%+ reply rates in our campaigns.

In summary, sales is no different than the rest of life. Those who are different stand out, and gain attention at the very least and respect (or responses in the case of sales) at the best. Humor and short subject lines has been the most effective way for me to stand out so far. But it may be something entirely different for you. Throw spaghetti at the wall and see what works!

About the author

Michael Thomas is the CEO of SimpleData, a service that helps companies outsource their lead generation. Previously he led sales development at Highfive.

Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

This post was brought to you by PersistIQ.  Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale.  See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.

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