Monday Mornings with Madison

EMAIL AS A SALES TOOL

Are you e-mailing hundreds or thousands of anonymous prospects in lieu of calling them?  Has e-mail become your selling ‘crutch’ of choice because it gives you the impression that you are bypassing the gatekeepers?  Does email save you from hearing the dreaded rejections that come with cold calling?  Do you send e-blasts and then follow up only with prospects who give you the green light to move the sales process forward?  Are you using e-blasts as a way of ‘showing’ management that you are ‘selling?’  

If that sounds eerily familiar, keep reading.  These days, most people who sell for a living spend 80% of their time trying to communicate with prospects via e-mail instead of by phone.  There are several reasons for this.  First, no one loves rejection.  The sheer force of anticipating rejection makes people turn to e-mail to generate new prospect relationships because it hurts less to get no reply than to hear a verbal “no.”  Second, emails give the impression of reaching decision-makers directly, circumventing gatekeepers and voicemail.  Third, e-blasts are easy to generate.  Most salespeople don’t deploy e-blasts on their own.  They turn to their marketing department or a vendor to handle the writing, designing, coding, and deployment of e-blasts. 

However, as any experienced marketer can tell you, blasting emails week in and week out to anonymous prospects is generally ineffective as a sales tactic, especially when selling a product or service that is sophisticated, complex or expensive.  Moreover, it can cause list burn.  A marketer will consider an e-blast successful if the email deployed to 10,000 anonymous prospects generated 200 replies.  That is a 2% response rate. 

However, a 2% conversion rate is considered dismal for salespeople at most organizations (unless they’re selling luxury yachts or private jets).  Salespeople who convert 2% of their prospects regularly don’t usually last long…  except when it comes to e-blasts.  If a salesperson sends out an e-blast to 10,000 prospects and receives 200 replies, it is viewed as a success.  Ignored and forgotten are the 9,800 emails that generated no response (or may have even prompted an onslaught of ‘unsubscribe’ replies).  Why?  It is because the sales process is perceived to begin when the salesperson starts interacting with the 200 warm prospects that responded to the e-blast.   The sales tool is not accountable as part of the sales strategy.

That brings us to the fourth, and most important, reason why salespeople love sending e-blasts in lieu of making phone calls or going on sales calls.  Sending an e-blast is not viewed as a step in the sales process.  If the e-blast produces little or no response, the salesperson is not responsible.  Instead, it is viewed as an unsuccessful marketing strategy, even when used as a sales tool.

So why is an e-blast typically ineffective as a sales tool?  It goes back to the basic issue of trust.  An e-blast is ineffective in introducing a new product or service to a decision-maker because the prospect receiving it doesn’t know you.  An e-mail cannot possibly establish the natural dialogue between two people that allows the trust level to reach the level necessary for a healthy, long-term relationship.

That said, many will continue to use introductory e-blasts as a sales tool to reach new prospects.  If so, here are some things to avoid:

1.  Avoid sales pitches. If you feel you must use e-mail to start a new relationship, make your message about issues and problems you believe your prospects are having.  Don’t sell and don’t say anything that shows you assume both of you are a match.

2.  View e-mail primarily as a great sales tool for follow-up with prospects.  Use it to reach out to people with whom you’ve had contact, to send information and documents, after you’ve developed a relationship.  You can also deploy e-blasts to contacts with whom you do have a relationship as a way to keep in touch and stay top of mind.  Leave e-blasts to new prospects for the marketing department to handle as a way to introduce a brand, communicate important news or explain key changes that may be of value or interest. 

3.  Don’t use your company’s name in the subject line. Unless you are Walmart, Coca-Cola, or Google, your company’s name is not going to mean anything to recipients.  When you put your company and solution first, you give the impression that you are a sales pitch waiting to happen. Your subject line should be a humble reference to issues you may be able to help prospects solve.

4.  Stop conditioning your prospects to hide behind e-mail. When you e-blast new prospects, it’s easy for them to avoid you by not responding. Also, they get used to never picking up the phone and having a conversation with you.  There may be good reasons for that.  They may be avoiding you because they’re afraid that, if they show interest in what you have to offer, you’ll try to close them. This creates sales pressure — the root of all selling woes.  Avoidance then becomes a vicious circle. If you learn to create pressure-free conversations, you’ll start getting phone calls from prospects who aren’t afraid to call when they need you.

5.  Avoid using “I” and “we” in introductory sales e-blasts. It gives the impression that you care only about selling your solution, rather than being open to a conversation that may or may not lead to a mutually beneficial match between what you have to offer and the issues the prospect may be trying to solve. If you can change your sales language to a natural conversation, your prospect will be less likely to stereotype your message as SPAM.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Email is a wonderful tool but only if used wisely.” Jeff Davidson

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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