Embrace the Four Ps of Personalized Prospecting

In his famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie offers 30 principles on how to improve your networking skills based on a variety of human emotions. He talks about how people love to feel appreciated, and to feel like their ideas and needs are being heard. Carnegie’s tenets are especially relevant when applied to the sales profession—which is highly dependent on getting leads and winning people over.

There is a lot of buzz about personalization in sales and marketing, and for good reason. Personalized emails can deliver nearly 50 percent higher open rates and nearly 22 percent higher reply rates. But it's important to remember that the key to success is not necessarily encompassed by the buzzword personalization, but is achieved by treating your prospects as you would a friend in real life. The human-to-human connection is what converts prospects into customers, in the same way that Carnegie's principles promise to win friends.

Here are four ways that you can start emulating Carnegie today in your sales email outreach and begin to see an increase in email engagement. Think of it as the four Ps of personalized prospecting—person, people, praise, and prescription.

1. Person: Finding Common Interests

A cold email pitch can feel robotic to a prospect, as if 100 others received the same email. Think about the marketing emails you receive from your favorite retailer every day with the latest and greatest deal—would you respond to one of those? No. They aren't intended for you specifically, and they don't warrant a response. Don't make that mistake in your sales email; find a way to connect with the individual outside of what you're selling.

Before you send that first email, get to know your prospect through his online presence. Peruse his social media pages and look for something the two of you have in common. This shouldn't be that you both live in the United States or both love sports—look for something out of the ordinary that can serve as a bonding moment. For example, if you both grew up in the same county or support the same college sports team, call it out. This will make the email feel specifically aimed at one person, and your prospect will be more compelled to respond and commiserate over your uncommon commonality.

2. People: Leverage Networks

First person, now people—but yes, there is a difference! While connecting with an individual using a common interest is a great strategy, highlighting mutual connections is also an effective tactic. The randomness of a cold B2B sales email can be off-putting and lead prospects to wonder: How did this person find me? Who does he think he is trying to sell me something out of the blue? Avoid these defensive reactions by referencing other people in your email.

Take a look at your target's LinkedIn page and see whether you share connections. Do you know someone who could introduce you first? Do you know one of her colleagues personally who you could talk to about your company’s offering and then reference that conversation in your email to your preferred target? Social proof is comforting and motivating for people. If they know that other connections are involved in the process, they'll be more likely to respond and hear you out than if they could merely mark your email as SPAM and never look back.

3. Praise: Flatter Often

Prospects are human, and people love flattery. Research shows that even if prospects can tell that praise is a sales tactic, they will still develop a positive attitude toward you. Offering praise takes personalization to the next level and will make prospects feel like you took the time to find out what's going on in their lives. It establishes rapport early and can break down the initial barrier to engaging someone in conversation.

Before sending that initial cold email, take a moment to peruse LinkedIn and Google. Look for promotions or significant company announcements as opportunities to incorporate praise in the lede or subject line of your email to catch the recipient’s attention right off the bat. While you look for opportunities to compliment, you may find announcements that aren't positive. Did your prospect's company just conduct layoffs? Was there a merger? Was your target demoted? Even if your focus is on the positive, always be on the lookout for red flags that indicate that you should modify your outreach strategy.

4. Prescription: Suggest Tailored Solutions

Cold sales emails often make the mistake of diving right into the proposed product or service. They list product features, generic value proposition, and make sensational claims about the product. But each prospect’s situation is different. Each need a personalized reason to invest in a product or service.

When researching prospects, take a look at their business and hypothesize their goals. This could vary by role, industry, or size of a prospect’s company. Do your due diligence and consider the ways your offering could benefit this person specifically, and limit your initial email to laying out that tailored value proposition. For example, the prospect may work at a new, smaller business and may be intrigued by a special price or inexpensive offering, or he might be a manager at a large enterprise where service and support will be essential. Whatever your prospect’s situation, by prescribing your offering as an answer to their specific needs, you are more likely to convince him to hear you out.

In an age where emails are flying fast and people are inundated with communication, it's necessary to take steps to make your note stand out in the noise. By personalizing your email, you set yourself apart from the many other cold emails your target has received that day and establish a good relationship early on in the sales process. These personalization ideas are not rocket science—they are simple ways you can begin tailoring your emails today and seeing results tomorrow.


Mark Ruthfield is vice president of sales at Yesware, where he's responsible for the strategic direction of sales and the management of Yesware's sales team. Prior to Yesware, Ruthfield was the vice president of sales at ZoomInfo. Ruthfield has more than 20 years of business experience in leading technology companies through start-up, turn-around, and accelerated growth situations. 

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