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Using Emails Effectively in B2B Prospecting – Part 1 (The Five Rules)

by Doug Davidoff | Jul 27, 2015 10:00:00 AM

b2b-email-prospecting.jpgEffective prospecting is an important lead generation tactic for any growing company. Whether you’re implementing a defined sales development process or you’re relying on your sales team to prospect, it’s a pretty good bet that emails are going to play a central role in your efforts.

Emails are a double-edged sword for B2B sales organizations. They’re very easy to do, but getting through the noise to stand out in your prospect’s inbox can be incredibly hard. It’s crucial that you don’t take the path of least resistance when developing your email approach.

We recommend that you bring your marketing, sales and (if you have one) sales development teams together to develop clear and effective protocols for how emails should be utilized in your prospecting efforts.  

For purposes of this post (and the follow up one coming later this week on the four types of prospecting emails), I am going assume that you have had no direct contact with the prospect you are emailing. At most, they may downloaded something from your website, but there has not been any connection made as of yet. That said, most of these rules apply to all types of prospecting emails.

Be Clear

From your subject line to every aspect of your email copy, be clear in what you’re saying. The more you sound like a real person, the more likely you’ll be heard.

When we create emails, we typically work first to get our message right. Then the email goes through at least three rewrites, with the goal being to simplify and clarify the email each time.

Don’t Lie or Bullshit

There are a lot of tricks that can increase immediate response rate. If they’re not genuine, true or authentic, stay away from them.

A perfect example is to include “Re:” before the subject line. The idea (and, unfortunately the data backs this up) is that people may think it’s an email from them you’re responding to and they’ll be more likely to look at it. However, it’s also a lie and has a high degree of backfiring in the long run.

Other examples are exaggerating claims, or vaguely referring to capabilities or references you don’t have.

Bottom line is that if you need to rely on such tricks then you’d be far better off working to improve your product/service then you would be prospecting. As the saying goes, the fastest way to destroy a bad product is with good marketing.

Always Create Value

Be sure that your teaching point-of-view is communicated. If I read your email and all it says it “me-me-me” (meaning you-you-you), then it’s highly unlikely I’ll respond positively.

Just last week I got an email like this that I rarely respond to. However, because they followed the next rule and I’m actively looking for the type of service this person sells, I responded to his email, asking him a direct question that would provide me some insight and knowledge.

He responded by saying that while he is unable to respond to my email, he would be happy to set up a time for me to talk to his account manager who could; after, of course, learning more about my situation and needs.

Well, guess what, I don’t have to play those games any more. This prospector was given two chances to create value and failed both times!!  The email was deleted and who knows if I’ll consider the company again in the future. What we do know is that had he created some value I would have certainly considered their product.

Give Multiple Ways to Advance

When prospecting, it’s important to enable your prospect to move forward in whatever means they prefer. If the only options are to call you or respond to your email, you’ll lose a lot of opportunities. When crafting emails be sure to give the reader multiple options to positively advance the process.

I find that salespeople and sales development reps often underestimate the fear and personal investment a prospect makes in talking with them. Their committing time (time that they often don’t have much of) to a conversation with someone they don’t know, and they’re risking that they’re going to get oversold or the salesperson will be difficult.

When someone is not familiar with you or your company giving them the means to easily learn about you is a great way to reduce the level of fear and to demonstrate that a conversation would be worth the investment. It’s for this reason that we recommend that you include links to content you have that align with what you are reaching out to them about, and your teaching point-of-view (referenced above).

Some will advise against this advice and say that anything that gets in the way of a direct conversation with a prospect will decrease response rates. I say that I’m not interested in maximizing response rate – I’m interested in maximizing the sales and revenue created from my prospecting efforts. What I lose in direct response I more than make up in impact, value and insights that allow me to manage the process more effectively.

Track and measure effectiveness

Lastly, be sure that you track and measure everything. Don’t stop at response rate (while that is certainly an important metric). Be sure that you can analyze each email and determine:

  • Response rate
  • Positive response rate
  • What percentage of responses became:
    • SQLs
    • Opportunities
    • New Sales
  • Sales cycle time

We often see that the email or message that has the highest response rate is often not the most effective with other measurements. Understanding all of this enables us to continuously be improving our messages, email rhythms and overall sales approach.

Additionally, as we track a prospect’s actions taken based on our emails (what do they open, what do they click on, etc.), we gain further insights into what’s on their mind. This allows us to further customize our message and approach when prospecting to them.

Following these five rules will accomplish two valuable objectives:

  • You'll enhance the probability of success.
  • You'll minimize the probability of turning off those who don't respond to your emails.

Later this week, I'll share the four types of emails we use in our prospecting efforts.  I'll provide keys to success and some sample language.