Some people say that there are only two things that are certain in life, these are death and taxes. Except that these folks have never run a company which if they did would immediately make them realize that there is, in fact, a third absolute certainty in life — this is the sales spam email. People have tried everything to deal with sales spam emails, and it seems like nothing helps. Up to now, that is. This post is about how I turned these cold sales emails into sales qualified leads for my startup, and best of all, converted them.

Look, I’m not going to rag on the email marketing hustle, it’s an incredibly effective tool if done right. But running a startup you’re going to get emails like:

Hi Bob,

This is Tim over at Whatever, we’re super excited about what you’ve been doing lately with your company and want to let you know that Whatever SaaS will help you do whatever.

Do you have 15 minutes to get on the phone so I can show you how Bob’s SaaS can be leveraged to do that thing.

Speak soon, Tim, Sales Guru at Whatever

It’s spam!

I’m an inbox zero type of person, a clean inbox gives me an overwhelming sense of serenity and peace. But here I am getting somewhere in the ballpark of 50 of these things daily, and that little tranquil zen email garden of mine quickly turns into chaos. So what’s a dude to do.

Asking them to not contact you often just leads them to talk to you more, and Spam Filters mostly get bypassed by biz dev gurus.

All in all, it was taking me about 20–30 minutes a day to go through all the sales emails I was receiving and cleaning them up. Too much time spent on this.

Turning lemons into lemonade (and dinners).

Turning the tables with a canned response.

Hi Tim,

Thanks for writing, as you can imagine I’m very busy, but if you’d like to book 15 minutes please send $hourlyRate to my PayPal account at bob @ and I will happily get on the phone with you.


Enter responses of disbelief and outrage. “Haha, very funny” some would say, “You’re kidding?”, said others and there was also the occasional ”f**k you”.

I mean how dare I ask people to compensate me for my time? The audacity of it all. But what happened next was fascinating.

Some people would actually pay to pitch me. I think in the three months I did this actively I made an additional ~2k or so. Not bad for canned responses. Best of all the volume of biz dev emails slowly lessened. Yay? Yay!

Follow-ups stopped dead cold, and the extra cash went to a few really nice dinners in New York, and getting myself some extra sailing gear, and get a few other small trinkets. But that’s not where the story ends.

Turning inbound sales spam into qualified leads.

Sales for new products is hard. Sales for MVP products is even harder, especially when you’re looking to convert folks to paying subscribers in a product that is in all sense of the word not ready for prime time.

At that time I’d launched a new email newsletter product that would search for news, and convert it to a newsletter format. I was using it to compose newsletters and stay top of mind. Getting new users to sub to this was a chore, so in addition to hitting the street with a solid marketing plan, we also begin tracking the “inbound flip” as a marketing channel.

An inbound flip is when someone writes you selling a service, and you respond to them kindly saying no, but offering a service that would be of value to them instead.

Here’s how this works.

Fundamentally, two types of sales emails make up about 90% of my sales email spam. These are dev shops offering me their first-born child and great development services for $25/hour, and people trying to pitch me their products.

So let’s start with dev shop spam (copied verbatim), with only names being changed.


I would like to introduce you our company BoBoSolutions ( that has been in the Web and Mobile Development for the past 3 years.

We became a well known and trusted company with an excellent track record. We are keeping our customers` satisfaction by combining excellent quality of the services provided at a comparatively low price.

Please feel free to contact us about any of your business related requirements/queries.

I look forward to a wonderful relationship together and success for all concerned.

P.S. You can see our portfolio at:

Sincerely, Panko Smelov CEO

Now I don’t know if Panko knows this but I get about ten more of these emails daily from his competitors — and like the rest of the dev shops out there, Panko offers me very little in terms of value or differentiation. But I can offer Panko something that will help him perform better.

Hey there,

Thanks so much for writing, but at the moment we’re set with our developer needs, having been in the same space as you, I’ve always found that staying top of mind with your prosects is a great way to build your brand and have them come to you when they need development services.

Are you subscribed to the f3fundit newsletter yet, it’s a great tool to help you understand how to better market and sell your services. Have a look, and good luck!

– Jace

Total canned response Maybe not the best pitch ever, but the amazing thing is that this little canned response lead to hundreds of new accounts, at which point the attribution modeling takes over.

In any case, I’d recommend the Inbound Flip to anyone looking to capitalize on the never-ending inbound sales emails, and if you have something that can offer value to the people pitching you, all the better.

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