Instant message and chat are the some of the most common modes of communication today. It’s true. Back in the old days we had a phone, the Yellow Pages and the U.S. Postal Service to reach out to prospects. Sending out around 10 letters a week, each letter was typed on a typewriter and mailed. When we graduated to PCs and laser printers, we doubled our letters per week to 20! And for important prospects, we would FedEx an approach letter.
When we sent out a bulk mailing — which was hundreds of pieces — a good response rate was 1%, with an almost incalculable close rate. Today, with the proper software, marketing departments reach thousands of email boxes an hour and achieve a “click-through” rate of 3%.
Unfortunately, the saturation of marketing email has led many to either ignore their inbox or become experts at filtering out spam. Yet, everyone uses email, meaning email is still a relevant tool of communication.
For you, the new copier rep, will email help you hit quota? Maybe. Most email campaigns can pay off in the long run. I’ve seen all sorts of schemes, tricks and ploys forwarded as a “sure way” to get your email opened and responded to. The internet is rife with email advice, automation tools and systems designed to help drive business via smart emails. Most are reasonable, and some very effective.
I don’t claim to be the best, but I’ve seen email from your prospects’ view, and I’ve seen what works. Other than content and format, the No. 1 factor encouraging your prospect to open your email is timing. You could put together the greatest-looking, most relevant, fact-filled and concise document. You could research the company for months, diving deep into a prospect’s industry and associated challenges. You could present a great case and ask for the appointment all in four paragraphs. But if the prospect signed with a competitor two weeks earlier, none of that will make a difference.
Quick conversions — relationship building
You’ve seen these in your inbox – an enticing “Regarding” subject line that leads to a couple of paragraphs with a closing statement asking to schedule a “10-minute meeting.” As with most marketing — especially email — there is no magic paragraph or super-hypnotic phrase to get the reader to respond. But this is where you apply your unique brand. Ask yourself, “Who am I trying to attract?” Some advisors claim a funny or out-of-the-ordinary, attention-grabbing statement will get that coveted click-through. If you’re looking at the SMB, you might utilize this technique. On the other hand, when approaching a business owner, it might be best to appeal to his or her logical side by stating referenced facts, proven results in the niche, and asking for some time.
Either way, include a one-page PDF with some informational content. Nothing too heavy — perhaps a case study of a like-sized company.
Repetition is important, but if you overextend the number of emails sent, you run the risk of falling into the background noise and being considered spam. This is probably the worst possible outcome as you’ve moved from persistent to nuisance before ever talking.
Here are some guidelines my clients have mentioned to me that make it easier for them to open a cold email:
- Personalize each email. At a minimum, type out the first line of every email with a statement containing something you know about your prospect. Templated, bulk emails are a big turn-off.
- Have an honest subject line — tell them this is not bulk email.
- Never refer back to previously sent emails, phone call attempts or drop-ins; e.g., “Did you get my previous email?”
- Do not send unsolicited meeting invites. This is just rude.
- Do not sell. solve. Talk about customer success.
- Provide something, such as a link to content or a PDF.
- Include an opt-out statement — give your prospect the opportunity to tell you they are not interested.
A word about format
There are hundreds of documented email formats and templates. One approach that impresses me is referred to as “Before-After-Bridge”(BAB):
Before: Here’s your world now. Outline the challenges your prospect is experiencing.
After: Imagine what the world would be after solving this problem. Paint the picture.
Bridge: Here’s how you get there.
“RE: This is not a bulk email; I wrote it for you.
If you’re like most companies, sales transactions increase significantly in Q3/Q4, yet most executives have no way of knowing the ROI of their commission spend. <— BEFORE
Xactly’s compensation platform allows you to customize sales plans that cut errors in payments and eliminate the pain of calculating and adjusting commissions for your reps. <— AFTER
If you are willing to give us 15 minutes, I can show you how on average our customers see a 19% lower sales turnover, 5% more reps hitting quota and 37% faster sales cycles. <— BRIDGE
What’s the best way to earn your ear for a few minutes to share how your peers are leveraging incentive pay to drive corporate strategy?”
Catching a prospect in the buying cycle for your offering is like finding the holy grail. Often, one cannot control the timing of a purchasing decision, let alone influence the outcome without a bit of research. You can’t control the wind, but you can harness its power. The first thing to do when capturing the wind is finding what direction it is blowing. Research on prospects’ industries and in the field is your best friend when determining that direction.
For example, if you’re having success in the construction niche, what challenges do you help your clients overcome? When working with churches, what are the most common hurdle they wrestle each week? Today, every industry is transforming in some shape or fashion.
Find the winds of change and write a “Before-After-Bridge” email.