This will age me!
When email first arrived on the scene, I was a front-line sales leader, leading a team of about 15 sellers in the IT Industry. The instruction came from above that all my salespeople would get workstations on their desk and start using email. I was a resistor and tried to verbalize to management that this would keep salespeople chained to their desks when they were meant to be in front of prospects and customers.
Back then, even sending a written communication – such as a letter – was an exception used for a very selective purpose. Most of the communication was face-to-face or over the phone. Selling was personal.
Two decades later, I believe salespeople have come to over rely on email for selling to both the detriment of their effectiveness and their success.
What is wrong with selling via email?
It is lazy. It is so easy to just sit at your laptop and churn out the next email. It has become the default way of communicating in a sales cycle. Many salespeople do not even tailor their emails for the intended prospect. Email selling is much less effective compared to face-to-face communication.
Here are a few of the issues if you overuse email as your primary means of sales communication:
- Emails are easily misunderstood because each person reads them with their own “filter.” Just think about how you may react yourself – you see an email turn up in your inbox from a particular individual and before you have even opened it, you have an emotional dialogue happening in your brain! You may be excited, uninterested, anxious, or even stressed by the sight of their name.
- No collaboration – because an email is a one-way message. There is no ability to jointly discuss and collaborate. Collaboration is the key to selling in today’s complex world. Plus, you lose some control as you do not know who they may forward it to. Even worse, you may not even know if it has been read. If there is no response, you end up following up about your recently sent email – “I trust you received my email.”
- There is rarely emotion involved in a sales email. We all know people make decisions based upon emotion and then attempt to rationalize their emotional decision through logical reasoning. It is very difficult to create emotion via email, unless you are a talented author!
- When attempting to sell via email, it is incredibly difficult to get the client’s attention, especially on a complicated subject. Each email is competing against the other hundreds of emails the person receives in a day. Often, people reading emails are just trying to get through them as quickly as possible before their next meeting. Can I just delete this one or should I just forward it to someone else? They rarely are in a calm, open mindset to best consider new ideas.
If these are all the downsides, when is it wise to use email in a sales cycle? Here are some examples:
- When sharing important documentation or details that is best to have read before a conversation – such as proposal, pricing information, or contract.
- When confirming actions and next steps to maintain sales momentum.
- When trying to make appointments and confirm plans.
Other strategies and considerations when using email to advance a sales cycle include:
- The power of the “CC” – using the “CC” line is very effective for escalating a situation or expanding involvement. People typically look at who else has received the email. Depending on who that is, it may create a different reaction. The simplest example of this is copying someone’s manager, which tends to put the recipient on notice that you are serious, and you may escalate the situation. If a person or department is copied on the communication that may be competitive with the recipient, it can cause other emotions. Try to always have someone on copy (CC) from the client’s environment. If you send an email to a single person, it is too easy for them to avoid replying with no consequences when there are no witnesses that they have ignored you.
- Another email strategy is when trying to gain momentum around a sales situation to try to put multiple people in the “TO” box. This immediately creates a thought process in each person who received the email, “who is going to respond to this; should I be the first; what will the others say; should I copy them on my response?” It tends to get attention quickly.
In summary, email should support your sales process, not be the primary sales vehicle. Make it a purposeful part of the sales cycle, ensuring you include personal calls or meetings in between the emails. Even a 15-minute meeting can build rapport that is more successful than email. Make a conscious decision for each communication to create your greatest chance of cut through and success.
For the next week, pause before you start sending an email. Is there a more effective way to communicate? Would a webcam meeting be more effective and enable you to make more progress? If you do decide to send an email, think through who you are sending it to and how you are using your language to create the right reaction.