The Sales Clinic: Common Pitfalls of Selling by E-mail

Just like anyone else contending with a heavy workload, sales professionals like to complete tasks in the most expedient way possible. And in the 21st Century, this often entails shooting off an e-mail to some person or another in place of personal interaction. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> But when the task in question is a critical sales activity, the expedient route very often leads to a dead end. Take a look at the following five examples of common e-mail sales mistakes; do any ring true for you?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>1. Using e-mail to "follow up."</b> Now, I know some of you could give me individual examples of how doing this has brought you some business on the odd occasion, but what I'm talking about here is not relying on luck.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Let's look at this from a "new business" perspective: You've spoken with (or met with) a client previously and started to develop rapport, but they've probably got an existing supplier or way of doing things. So you didn't pick up their business from your initial call or appointment.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Let's further suppose your boss has been pressuring you about your sales figures or pipeline, so you decide you need to follow up with a few people&#x2014;this particular prospect included. So what do you do next? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Do you pick up the phone and call them, establish their current situation and needs and potentially see how you may be able to add value to what they're trying to achieve over the next few months? Do you close for another appointment, attempt to dislodge the existing supplier (or existing process), and pick up their business? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Or do you send an e-mail?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> If you find yourself in the "e-mail" category, then stop it. Right now.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>2. Just adding people to a mailing list.</b> Another great idea from the marketing department: sending an e-newsletter to keep people "informed" of your products and services. Ask yourself this: How many newsletters like these do you yourself receive, and how many of them go unread? Quite a few, I'd bet. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Don't just sit back and think the fact someone's on your generic e-mail list is helping you sell to that person. In most cases it isn't. The responsibility to move that person through your sales pipeline is still yours.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>3. Sending mainly "flyers" by e-mail.</b> Please tell me you don't do this. If the recipient hasn't used you before, getting them buying anything from you is solely a matter of luck. And the more competitive your marketplace and the higher the price of what you sell, the less likely people are to buy.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Plus, as mentioned in my previous point, this hardly constitutes "personal" communication with that prospect, does it? Is this really the professional sales job you were employed to do? If this is the best you can do in terms of "sales persuasion," you're in trouble.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>4. Responding to new sales inquiries via e-mail.</b> Let's think about this one. You or your company has expended time, money, and effort in producing the incoming sales lead. Whether it's come from a previous phone call by you or a colleague, networking, advertising, or over the Internet, here it is waiting for you.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So what do you do now? Are you going to pick up the phone and find an excuse to start a dialogue, thus gaining a greater understanding of their needs, positioning a "next step" in the sales process, and look for some level of commitment? Or are you just going to shoot off a quick e-mail containing some information, leaving them to "wander" on their own, and leaving you with no idea how motivated they are to purchase?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Looks like you've missed your chance again, doesn't it? In most cases, if they come back to you, it's only because your competition did a worse job than you. Is this really the best way of dealing with that precious incoming sales lead?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>5. Sending proposals or quotes by e-mail.</b> Now we come to my personal favorite. You had the meeting with a potential client (or at least an in-depth telephone conversation), you agreed to send details of what was discussed&#x2014;and then you put it in an e-mail. Now you're really in trouble.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Why on earth didn't you position your offering when you were face to face with the client? When you could read their body language and reactions to your offering best? When you could judge whether you had gotten the proposal right? When you had the best chance of getting them to say "yes"?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Even if you needed time to put the details together, why didn't you organize a second meeting to discuss it in more detail? What would possess you to give other salespeople a better chance to win that business over you?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Until next month, the best of luck with your sales&#x2026;and step away from your e-mail client.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Andy Preston is an expert authority on selling for small businesses. Visit him online at <a href="" target="blank"></a> and <a href="" target="blank"></a>.</i>