How NOT to introduce yourself

My friend Stephanie West Allen recently posted the following sales letter to a list we’re both on as an example of how NOT to write a sales letter. I actually laughed, this is so bad. I’ve changed the name of the sender to protect the not-so-innocent, but have left the company names in, because without them it doesn’t make much sense. To the author of this letter, if you’re reading this, get out a pen and take notes!

SUBJECT: Stephanie, this is Ivana with XO Comm., we offer VERY significant savings on Voice, Data, IP, pt to pt private lines, PRI’s Kudos for being specific in the subject. At least you’ve given enough info that I can decide immediately that this message is not of interest to me and delete it. Is that what you want? If so, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunity. But email subjects should never be longer than 40 characters – that’s all most people will see of it.

My name is Ivana Selyuafone. I am a Senior Account Executive with XO Communications / Allegiance Telecom. So far, so good… Just out of curiosity, though, are there any Junior Account Executives? 😉

XO Communications recently acquired Allegiance Telecom and is now one of the few National, Local Service Providers in the United States. As the largest CLEC, XO is now the biggest competitor to the Bell Companies. Along with having a Tier 1,Industry-leading 0C-192 National IP Backbone, our Network currently has 22,400 fiber route miles with 2300+ On-net buildings in 73+ Markets. This paragraph is full of industry jargon that only a CIO would understand (what the heck is a CLEC?), and it’s all about you — of no interest to me. Why do I care about your merger? Why should I care if my local phone provider is national instead of regional? Unless you know this is going to the CIO of a large multi-site company (and Stephanie isn’t), this is meaningless. At this point, you’ve lost your reader completely.

XO is well-known as being committed to 24x7x365 Customer Service that is second to none, and with regard to provisioning, maintains some of the quickest install intervals in the Industry. In Summary, XO has the ability to serve customers from premise-to-premise, over XO Facilities, ensuring the highest levels of performance and reliability. More jargon ("provisioning", "install intervals") and cliched hype ("second to none", "premise to promise").

I welcome the opportunity to speak with you regarding Solutions that XO may be able to provide for you. I can also provide you any quotes that you may be looking for. Still focused on the writer, not the reader. How can you provide solutions when you haven’t asked about my needs yet?!? And the second… a presumptive close before we’ve even spoken?!?

Some of the solutions/services we provide are: Voice (Local PRI T1’s, Multi-Market PRI’s, Basic Phone Lines, Long Distance), Integrated Access Voice & Data T1’s, Toll Free IVR, Dedicated Internet Access (DSL, T1, T3 to OCx), Point-to-Point Private Lines, Point-to-Multi-Point Private Lines – with DS3 Hubbing, MPLS, Collocation & Web Hosting, IP VPN, Conferencing, Local Access, Metro Fiber and Metro Ethernet, Intercity Ethernet, and most other Wide Area or Metro Area Data Networking Solutions. Why are you offering me all this stuff when you don’t even have a clue what my business is, what my facilities situation is, and what I might even be remotely interested in? Moreover, if you’re going to make a list like this, make it bullet points, not a single paragraph. And what’s with capitalizing everything?!? This list is completely unreadable.

PLEASE see below for a current listing of some of the best Voice and Internet rates available:
Local Voice Service: PRI T1, WITH local loop: $409/month (most locations).
Dedicated Internet Access: Full 1.536 Mbps T1, WITH Router & local loop: from $549 to $649/month
You don’t have to say "Please see below" for the next line. And what’s with the capitalized "PLEASE"? How desperate are you at this point? And what’s with the capitalized "WITH"? It took me 10 seconds of trying to figure out what it stood for before I finally realized it just meant "with". And what’s with the three significant digits on the T1 speed? Isn’t 1.5 close enough?

If you would like a detailed QUOTE or proposal, or you would like to arrange a meeting in person, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly, either by phone or by email (contact info below). Again with the all caps. Why is a QUOTE more important than a proposal? It might stand a chance of catching my eye if it weren’t for how many other times it’s already been used.

Thank you for your time. We look forward to providing cost efficient solutions for your upcoming projects. Please visit our websites at your convenience (links listed below).
Additionally, I am including a link to our Network Maps.
Again with the presumptive close — WAY too presumptive at this point.

Best Regards,

Ivana Selyuafone


Wow. If this were just pure spam, that’d be one thing, but this was a message from a real account executive at a legitimate company. I’m sure this was a mail blast, not a personalized email, but that calls attention to why you need good segmentation in your database, because this message is nonsensical jargon to anyone not intimately familiar with the telecommunications industry. Even a small business owner who’s the decision-maker on this is going to be lost after the second paragraph.

This is why you need networking, and online networking at that. A far more effective (and less offensive) approach would be search for CIOs of small companies on, say, LinkedIn, Spoke, Ecademy, etc., get a trusted introduction if one is available, and approach with a short simple message like this:


Our mutual friend R. E. Furr suggested I talk to you. I see from your profile that you’re CIO at the Notso Small Company and that you all have multiple locations around the country. I also see that we share common interests in skiing and jazz.

I am a Senior Account Executive with XO Communications / Allegiance Telecom. Our recent merger allows us to provide a single-vendor telecommunications solution, competitive rates, and top-notch 24x7x365 service nationwide. Would you be willing to spend just 10-15 minutes for a phone call in which I can learn more about what you do, you can learn more about what I do, and we can see how we may be able to help each other out, either directly or possibly with referrals?

Thanks in advance,


Based on the existing research and my own experience, I think you’re going to get about a 25-50% "yes" response on this — orders of magnitude higher than on the other. And every person you talk to has the potential to refer you to other people, if you develop a good rapport and communicate your benefits clearly. But don’t think of that first call as a "sales call". It’s not — it’s a networking call. If it’s even remotely a fit for them, they’ll let you know, and then you can start facilitating their buying process.

Remember, the relationship is more important than the transaction.