You just wrapped an incredible demo. Your flow was flawless. The conversation, engaging. Your contact, excited. You’re certain this deal will close.
But then it fizzles out. You can’t get them back on the phone for a follow-up. One week, then two melt by with no reply. What gives? How did a deal that started as a sure thing end up ‘Closed Lost’?
The thing is, your prospect’s biggest problem isn’t their boss’s biggest problem. And it definitely isn’t their company’s. This is where the art of the “forwardable email” comes in. It ties together everyone’s interests inside a single narrative to keep your dream deal moving forward.
Why Forwardable Emails Are a Key Ingredient in Closed Deals
If you’re working on closing any sort of complex deal, it’s always done in two different stages:
First, close your champion. At this stage, your prospect becomes a champion. They see “problem-product” fit, and believe you can help them move from a certain problem to a payoff. Now, they’re willing to put their influence to work to help your deal close.
Second, sell with your champion to close the contract. At this level, you’re giving your champion the message and materials they need to “multithread.” Multithreading is when multiple buyer-side contacts engage in your deal. That’s key, because the number of buyers in second meetings triple in winning deals.
A clear and compelling “forwardable” email is how you’ll bridge the gap between these stages. It’s the key to multithreading, keeping complex deals on track, and it’s a skill that all high-performing account executives must master.
How to Grab an Executive’s Attention With Just 100 Words
Let’s start with an example. Suppose I’m an account executive selling software to marketing teams. Our software helps generate qualified leads, by researching and writing SEO content. Below, I’m writing to my prospect, Morgan, who’s the marketing manager at a high-growth startup. She reached out to see our keyword tool, hoping it would condense a few of her workflows while saving her time in developing rough drafts.
After our first calls, here’s what I’d write.
Subject: Content Plan
Morgan, thanks again for the good chat earlier.
You shared some super interesting points — here’s a recap before we chat on Friday:
1. Your team (especially John) is working to drive CAC below $5k.
2. The goal is ‘capital-efficient growth’ by 12/31, before a Series B.
3. I can almost read the press release: Sequoia Leads Whopping $100M Series B on the Back of Capital-Efficient Growth.
4. To make it happen, you have to ramp SEO content by 10X…but the team’s feeling stretched and unsure how to move forward.
I built a shortlist of ways this can work to review together.
Guessing John might want to weigh in too?
Wait a second. Where are the case study links? The product decks and demo recordings? There’s a time and place for sharing this kind of content, no doubt. But that won’t create a hook that’s interesting enough for high-level contacts.
Instead, this framework is designed to grab even the most time-strapped executive’s attention with just 100 words.
A Framework for Forwardable Emails
Let’s break down this email into its framework, and unpack the principle behind each point.
Subject: Reads like their to-do list.
Hi < Name >,
1. Open with a big, company-wide objective that affects everyone.
2. Insert a trigger phrase that’s familiar to your prospect’s leadership.
3. Use visual language to share the future and stir emotion.
4. Build tension. Suggest this future might not happen.
5. Align your request with the decider’s job.
- Rep’s Name
1. Think Big. Really Big.
Open with a big, company-wide objective that affects everyone. Executives and key employees think far bigger than associates, managers, and even director-level employees. In this example, Morgan the manager is focused on her content creation workflow, but her CMO is likely focused on a broader objective — like reducing CAC (cost to acquire a customer).
To create a compelling hook in your email, dig past the first problem you find during your discovery conversations. Keep digging until you discover the true consequences of the problem, which will typically tie back to a strategic, company-wide initiative.
Remember, a single email sent by a high-ranking title that favors (or fights) your deal can be a deciding factor. Craft your message to resonate at the highest level and garner support from key titles early.
2. Use an Internal Trigger Phrase.
Insert a trigger phrase that’s familiar to your prospect’s leadership. Pay attention to the exact words your buyers use during your calls. Then, repeat those words and phrases inside your forwardable emails. The idea is to frame your message around a narrative that their leadership has already bought into — or created themselves.
Every company speaks a slightly different dialect of Corporatese. It’s shaped by how executives talk about their goals to the board, and to their business unit leaders. Mirroring this shows them you know them, and are relevant to their goals.
Plus, you want to make it unbelievably easy to forward your message around more widely, without forcing your champion to rewrite it, or translate your lingo into theirs.
3. Paint Them a Word-Picture.
Use visual language to share the future and stir emotion. Your choice of language should help your champion’s leadership see and step into a clear future (that you can help enable), while feeling a strong emotion that’s part of that future.
The idea is that facts communicate information, but feelings create influence. Consider this: After the stock market dips, billionaires donate far less to charity. Why? Because they feel poorer. They still have more money than they can ever spend, but their feelings are what determines their actions.
So in the example above, a press release would likely be easy to visualize and feel for a chief marketing officer. Plus, what CMO wouldn’t want to have that headline written about them?
4. Create Tension By Implying Uncertainty.
Build tension. Suggest this future might not happen. Every good story is built on tension. No tension, no drama. And no drama, no deal. So you need to introduce the strong possibility that the big goal you just referenced is at stake.
If there’s a real threat to the bright future an executive was just envisioning, they’re more likely to step into your deal personally. This is key to bridging the first and second stages of your deal, which we referenced earlier.
Functional problems like “streamlining content production” can be handled by a marketing manager. But that same problem, shared in the context of sky-high CAC that makes investors frown, becomes an executive issue.
5. Only Ask Them to Do What They’d Be Doing Anyway.
Align your request with the decider’s job. Ask for something they were already going to give. Here’s an example: Look at the last three internal emails you received. Now, compare them to your sales emails. How does each email end?
Generally, sales emails ask for time. “How does a 30-minute call next Thursday work?” Internal emails are more likely to reference a request for feedback, or to add a discussion item to an existing meeting — a weekly one-on-one, standing business unit meeting, and so on.
This is how the email above closes. It references what “John” would typically be doing — guiding a key conversation with critical feedback — during an upcoming call.
There you have it. A framework for forwardable emails that will help you start multithreading. Now, before you close this article, I bet you’re thinking, “This framework feels like a lot of work.” You’re not wrong, either. Crafting forwardable emails does require some extra time and thoughtfulness. But after writing your first few, it becomes faster and easier. What’s more, you’ll see a return on your time and thoughtfulness. You’ll start multithreading. You’ll send fewer “checking in” emails, and you’ll move more deals into the “Closed Won” column.