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Pen Pals or Prospects?

Posted by Laurie Page on Thu, Feb 14, 2008

One of the services I provide for The Bridge Group is to coach Inside Sales reps on effective prospecting and closing techniques.  This is the type of work I have been doing for technology companies for over 15 years and I thought I had seen it all...but apparently not!

I am starting to see a trend emerge that scares the heck out of me.  That trend is for Inside Reps to use email as opposed to the phone.  It makes me crazy knowing that reps have replaced having a conversation with a prospect to using email to communicate!  

I understand email is a viable tool, and if used properly, can be an advantage.  I do in fact recommend email be used as part of the process.  However, I've found it's overused, and in many cases has replaced human interaction.

We must consider the following:

  • How do you initiate and drive the sales process via email?
  • How do you effectively communicate your value proposition, conduct an in-depth qualification and handle objections via email?
  • How do you establish a relationship and develop rapport?   

Now don't get me wrong, prospects do respond to email, in some cases, more often than voice mail.  Email is a great tool for:

  • Helping to identify the correct contact
  • Obtain a referral
  • Schedule a follow-up conversation
  • Confirm the details of a conversation
  • Etc.. 

But it should be part of the process not the whole process!  Email should NEVER equate to more than 20% of a rep's activity metric.

Lastly, don't get me going on all of the grammatical and spelling errors I see.  Never mind the pure amount of information included... white papers, articles, demos, etc.  It's almost like we are assigning the prospect homework!   

What happened to providing appropriate information at various stages of the sales process?  Nope, let's throw it all out there and see what sticks!

I can hear Inside Reps saying "I get better response rates via email."  Yes, you do, but I bet they are mostly rejections and/or leads that are not fully qualified yet are progressed to the next stage.  No wonder sales reps complain about the quality of leads they receive!

Now, I have to go make some phone calls.  Thanks for listening.

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20% laurie? 30-40% email has been effective for me. Dont get me wrong, business is done over the phone and prospects can more easily say "no" via email. But to initiate a conversation and at least get the attention of a decision maker its often easier to do via email. You can contact more people in less time via email and more rapidly market a product/service via email than you can by leaving numerous voicemails over and over and over....
Also, people can more easily fwd emails than they will voicemails, and when youre prospecting (cold calling) into huge organizations I think its helpful to suppliment the phone calls with effective emails.
I do, however, agree that at the end of the day if you need to qualify opps you need to speak with someone. But to get the attention of a prospect its often easier to do so by supplimenting a phone call with an email.

posted @ Thursday, February 14, 2008 11:00 AM by email fan

I hear you, and agree. I find it a great way to introduce the company, technology, and myself, with some expectation they will have given it a cursory glance so the call is a little smoother.
Errors in syntax etc. very bad.

posted @ Thursday, February 14, 2008 11:04 AM by Suzanne Curtis

@email fan. If I understand Laurie's post correctly, she is not talking about using email to "market" your product or service. She is talking about using email to "qualify an opportunity" - big difference.
So many ISRs fall into the trap of thinking activity equals opportunity that I see where she is coming from.
Another great post on a topic that addresses the same issue can be found on the Hubspot blog. Mike's post is about using email to do lead nurturing. Here is the link

posted @ Thursday, February 14, 2008 12:06 PM by Trish Bertuzzi

The key sentence for me in Laurie's post is "...replaced having a conversation with a prospect to using email." Email can supplement a conversation but not replace it. Like Rick says, reps that email instead of picking up the phone are scared.
Who else is concerned that management would consider email a part of an Inside Sales rep's activity metric anyway?
Let's fix this problem right away - throw away email as an activity metric and get back on the phones!

posted @ Thursday, February 14, 2008 11:40 PM by Michael Kreppein

Telephone sales as a purity died a long time ago with the advent of voicemail. Inside Sales is about selling to people who you are not face to face with correct? So, I can speak to them, I can write to them and I can even IM with them. The key is to correspond with your prospects and customers in the manner that is most comfortable to them - not in the manner that makes your manager and his spreadsheet with call activity, bathroom time, prospect to close ratios, and all the other nonsense used to supposedly gauge how well a person is doing their job. That said - if you can't write well - don't rely on email or IM - use email to get your self a phone call. If you can write well and your prospect and clients like communicating that way - then do it and use the phone just to maintain that personal connection from time to time. Get the sale, get a customer and who cares whether you use the phone or smoke signals. We should use all the tools at our disposal, not the just the ones that can be monitored by a spreadsheet. After all, if you use it correctly almost any form of communication can be personal. Now, I will say writing in little "forum" comment boxes can be a little tough.

posted @ Thursday, March 27, 2008 3:53 PM by James Burns

Although these blog comments are 6 months old, it's still topical, as I see more and more reps losing sales because their competitors were building relationships through actual conversations. My blog has an interesting take on a related subject, call metrics, I know of one rep that uses email "blasts" (I call it spam) in lieu of calling high, and her numbers are really suffering. Use email as augmentation, not as the main form of communication.

posted @ Thursday, September 18, 2008 12:25 PM by Geoff Alexander

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