Your Email Strategy Needs an Update

Nick Hedges

Several years ago, salespeople found out that writing pithy emails to business contacts was a great way to get their feet in the door of an organization. A brief and simple introductory message sent directly to the company’s CEO would often be enough to set up an introduction with the decision-maker. And just like that, you’re in touch with the person who will eventually make the purchase.

But in the past few years, the practice of salespeople sending unsolicited emails to business contacts has exploded. The consequence is that if you are in a decision-making position at your organization, chances are that you have to wade through a sea of irrelevant email every morning. What this means is that you likely almost never respond to a salesperson who just sends you a cookie-cutter email and doesn’t follow up with a phone call.

This does not mean I’m advocating for the elimination of email as a sales communication channel. In fact, I still think it is a highly relevant aspect of a prospecting contact strategy. However, as a salesperson today, the content of your emails needs to be much tighter and the cadence of your outreach much more sophisticated if you hope to engage with your prospects.

Surviving the Mass Email Epidemic

Aaron Ross wrote Predictable Revenue in 2011, introducing the world of sales to mass email outreach. The calculated, volume-driven approach it brought to sales was an effective way to heighten a company’s impact quickly. Yet in the years since then, consumer expectations have changed. With average click-through rates hovering around 3 percent, the attention people are willing to pay to marketing and sales emails has dropped fast

Salespeople should take note of this shift in people’s preferences and consider other strategies for reaching buyers that don’t rely solely on email. While email is one of the most efficient channels for casting the widest net, it’s important to keep in mind that sales is about more than reaching as many potential buyers as possible. Sales is about nurturing opportunities into something more. When salespeople do use email, it should serve a specific purpose. If reps are thoughtful and strategic about the way they email prospects, they stand better chances of meeting with a receptive audience.

Transform Email From a Crutch to a Stepladder

Make it personal. I recommend that you never send another email that doesn’t have something that is personally relevant and specific in the first line of the email. Look your prospect up on LinkedIn and Twitter, and research their company before you start writing your email. Use what you learn to create a really succinct and personal introduction to your email. If you have someone in common in your social network who you can cite in the email that’s even better. Do this and you will see better response rates. In fact, according to research by Aberdeen Group, personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14 percent and conversions by 10 percent.

Avoid clichés. Getting personal does not mean simply dropping someone’s name into the subject line. Businesspeople in 2016 have become all too familiar with templated email marketing for an emphasis on their name to draw attention. In fact, it’s likely that they’ll associate names in the subject line with spam and ignore the email entirely. Similarly, “cute” email marketing techniques (like asking people if they’ve been eaten by an alligator when they don’t respond) have become hackneyed and overused. Business audiences in particularly are far more likely to be put off than charmed by a generic or hokey email that they’ve seen multiple times before.

Use a variety of channels. The most reliable way to move a deal forward is simply to use more than one channel. Continue to send emails, but don’t forget to pick up the phone. Buyers don’t regard phone calls the same way they regard email, and it’s easier to create relationships with prospects when there’s an actual conversation. Working the two channels together establishes to the prospect that there is a real person behind the communication, not just a bot. In fact research shows that prospects who receive emails have a 16 percent higher chance of being reachable by phone.

Pay attention to cadence. The optimal number of emails to send to a prospect for a first connection is usually five. They should be strategically spaced out and timed to keep your company fresh in buyers’ minds without overwhelming them. Buyers are busy and need reminders, but they don’t want to feel hounded. Sending out five timely emails with six calls interspersed creates a good balance between being persistent and being respectful.

Email will continue to be an integral part of business communication for years, but using it effectively is a dynamic art. Keep these four rules in mind during outreach to ensure that email remains a useful tool for developing relationships, instead of an annoyance to your buyers.

Nick Hedges is CEO of Velocify, a provider of cloud-based intelligent sales automation software designed for fast-paced sales environments.