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Is eMail on Life support as a Sales Effectiveness Tool?

email communications

richardsonsalestrainingSeptember 16, 2013Blog

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A few months ago, I did a blog post on the Top Ten Disruptive Sales Technologies. I did not include email because it was pretty much a given, considering its serious blow to postal mail and phone tag.

But it’s worth considering the question: Has the influx of new and more personal technologies put email on life support as a sales effectiveness tool?

Let’s look at two examples that suggest email may be on the way out for developing new clients and building relationships with existing clients.

1) New Client Development

Symptoms: Over a two-week span, I counted every email I received. The total number was scary: well over 2,300 emails. With 64%, or 1,472 emails, I was being sold or marketed to by either content marketing campaigns, automated follow-ups to campaigns, salespeople prospecting me, or salespeople following-up to their follow-up. Project those numbers over a 52-week year, and that’s well over 38,000 emails—over 100 emails every day of the year—focused on selling me something, providing me with insights, or teaching me something that someone thought I did not know. The effectiveness of these attempts at nurturing me as a prospect suffered greatly from the constant barrage of emails.

Diagnosis: Marketing automation companies may not want to hear this, but capturing share of mind with prospects via email has become extremely difficult. The trend reports on email opens and click-throughs all say different things; there’s no consensus. Some say open rates are up, other’s say they are down. Some vendors argue that persuading prospects to click on an email link is based on a variety of tactics. However, in conversations with my fellow senior-level marketing peers, all tell me their open rates are down, and they are having more issues with the effectiveness of email. My own marketing campaigns have seen steadily declining open rates over the past couple of years, from 27% to 23%, now hovering at around 12%. Like direct mail a few years ago, email created a cost-effective mass communications tool for marketers. Marketing automation tools ripped down barriers even further, and now there is a significant increase in reliance on email for prospecting and lead nurturing. With everyone jumping onboard, the flood of emails has made it harder to gain the attention of prospects – and using email to effectively acquire clients will get even more difficult in the future.

Treatment: In my blog post, Some Do’s and Don’ts for Better Lead Nurturing and Follow Up, I discuss a multi-channel Follow-up Communication Plan. This is critical. In the client-acquisition phase, you can no longer rely on a single modality to help you drive early-stage opportunities. You have to develop content marketing campaigns, leverage social media, and, most important, get out from the safety of email to network face-to-face, ask for referrals, and – oh yeah – pick up the phone and talk to someone.

2) Building Relationships

Symptoms: I am a staunch believer and advocate of the fact that relationships drive sales. I see many salespeople falling into the trap of relying on email to build and maintain relationships. But how well can that work given the sheer volume of email we all get? I was out to dinner with a friend a few weeks ago when he told me about losing one of his biggest clients. The client told the rep that he was not communicating with him. My friend looked at me and said, “I don’t get that. I sent him five emails and he never replied back to me. I don’t know what he is talking about that I don’t communicate.” Hmmmm….

Diagnosis: When you think about your closest relationships, how do you communicate with them today? Is it by email? How many emails have you sent your wife, partner, or kids lately? If you sent your spouse five emails and did not get a reply, would you really think everything was OK in the relationship? Today, we have a vast number of tools to reach out with. We can text, tweet, phone, or use any number of social media messaging platforms, including audio and video. I can’t remember the last time I sent an email to one my closest friends or family. Yet, some sales reps are relying solely on email to manage their best clients.

Treatment: Change things up. Texting is a very personal communications medium and some clients may find it intrusive. But why not ask them if they mind if you text them? In fact, why not go one step further and actually ask them how they prefer you to communicate with them? Some clients may only want email, but your closest relationships may be open to texting and more personal forms of communications.

Email will not be going away anytime soon. It has become too ingrained in the way we work, operate, and communicate. But it’s important to note that email has lost a lot of the shiny, new technology effect and is becoming less important as a sales effectiveness tool. That means you have to step up your game and find the best ways to communicate with your clients and prospects. It may take a little more time, but you’ll be much more effective if you can adapt a variety of strategies and tactics to identify, maintain, and build client relationships.

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