When it comes to converting a warm lead to a done deal, email is a crucial tool. While there are plenty of technology tools for salespeople to use – mobile apps, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on – email remains the most effective way to maintain and build a personal dialog with prospects.
It’s an ideal channel for sending a very personal message, without length requirements, that can be forwarded, tracked, and measured for effectiveness. And it’s a great platform for building a long-term, ongoing relationship; something all salespeople know is critical for closing deals.
Here are some best practices to keep a conversation going using email – and how to get your message noticed to close that important sale:
1.) Be personal and relevant. From sending the very first email to each ongoing message to your prospect, every email must be personal and show that you’ve done your homework. The days of the generic email blast are gone. You need to stand above the dozens of irrelevant emails your contacts are receiving on a daily basis that head right to their delete folder.
Think about how you can impact your prospect’s life. What kernel of information, what research, what industry news is going to matter to them and make their job easier, and demonstrate that you’ve thought about an issue from their perspective.
2.) Never “just check in.” When you follow-up with your prospect via email you should never just be “checking in.” First of all, you are too busy to have time to “just check in.” Second of all, it does not bring any value to your prospect. Each and every point of contact should offer some new data point and bring more value to your prospect. It should not appear as if you’re just following up to make your number.
Ask for their feedback or commentary to the information, or their thoughts or experience on the issue so you can initiate a response and keep that dialog going.
3.) Fridays and weekends are still prime time. In this age of mobile devices, when people are reading email 24/7, it turns out that Monday through Friday, 9-5 isn’t necessarily the best time to have your email read. Earlier this year, my company released the results of an email study we did to give salespeople advice on ways to increase open email rates. Turns out that email open rates are slightly higher over the weekend.
So saving emails for the end of the week may be the best way to actually catch the attention of your busy prospect.
4.) As they say, timing is everything. You need to be immediately responsive when you get a reply. That sounds obvious, but it’s always surprising to me how long some emails will sit in a salesperson’s inbox before he or she responds to it. If you get a message from your prospect you need to reply right away, while you’re at the top of their mind. If you’re on the road, or in the middle of pressing deadlines, you can and should still respond.
Let them know, for example, that you are traveling or in a meeting, and that you will get back to them this evening with a more thoughtful reply to their question. With Blackberrys, iPhones, Droids, and iPads, and WiFi just about everywhere you go, clients and prospects expect very quick responses on email. Don’t worry about seeming too available, this is the message you want your prospect to have, that you are easily reachable and responsive to all of their questions and needs.
5.) You can go above, but don’t go around. I often get asked, is it ok to cc the person’s manager, if I don’t get a reply from my point of contact, especially if I’ve met that person. This is a tricky subject, but my response is generally yes. This is an ok thing to do, but keep your point of contact copied and never throw him or her under the bus. In other words don’t say, “Jim isn’t getting back to me, so I wanted to get in touch with you.”
Instead say, “Hi Tom, I know you were also interested in XXX, so I wanted to send you this new research that my company just published. I hope you and Jim both find it interesting.” Ask for their feedback and suggest next steps of setting up a call that week to show them the latest version of your product, or meeting up at a conference you are all attending.
6.) Silence is death. So, what do you do when you don’t hear back….at all. How many times is ok to keep emailing a contact with interesting tidbits of information? I say about 5-6 times, assuming that each email you’ve sent is relevant, personal and adds value as mentioned above.
After the last email with no response, I advise one more message with the very short subject line entitled, “Too busy or not interested?” Perhaps they just haven’t had time to respond, and you’re giving them one last chance with a very brief message to get back to you. Another option is to try switching channels — go to voice, go to social media, try setting up an in-person visit. If your contact really isn’t an email person, maybe they will be more responsive on a different medium.
When it comes to sales today, I always remind people that they should have a long-term vision. They can’t only be focused on hitting their numbers, and closing short-term sales. If salespeople want ongoing business, referrals to new business, and cross-selling opportunities, it’s all about the bigger picture and developing a deeper relationship.
Email is one of the most effective tools for staying in touch with prospects, and continuing to send out personal, relevant, and useful information. Keep in mind the email etiquette and mechanics mentioned above to ensure your email will stand out and support your efforts to build that longterm relationship.
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