December 12, 2017 Ted Bauer

EMail prospecting: How do you do it right?

There’s been lots of conversation in the past three years or so on the value of email prospecting, often around whether emailing has surpassed cold calling as a viable way to reach targets. We’ve always been of the belief that effective email prospecting actually turbo-charges your phone as a sales tool (i.e. the concepts aren’t against each other, but they should work together), but there’s another hurdle we need to clear. We live in the supposed age of data, metrics, analytics, and all that. But a lot of people don’t seem to know what to track with email prospecting. Let’s try to fix that up quickly.

The obvious email prospecting metrics to track

These are the ones that you should have been doing five years ago, so if you’re still not, start with your next one:

Open Rate: Essentially, was your subject line interesting?

Response Rate/Click Rate: Do people want to engage with what you’re putting out there?

Conversion Rate (tied to the CTA of the email): This is where it gets dicey. If your conversion rate resides in the toilet, what is your play now? A lot of thought leadership tells you to A/B test (send different subjects, different content, across different days) for 12 months and see if it gets better. Real talk: in most cases, it doesn’t get substantially better. It becomes awkwardly Darwinian.

Instead, how about trying some new approaches?

Some less obvious email prospecting approaches

If you get replies, what type of replies are they? First: if you never get replies and you word your emails in a way that a reply is possible (i.e. a question is asked), you need to scrap everything. Maybe hire a freelance copywriter or something to punch up that copy. Something ain’t clicking. But if you constantly get “Not interested” (short and to the point), your emails are likely annoying. If you get longer-form “We discussed it internally but not right now,” well, that’s better than (a) ignoring you or (b) “Not interested.” You might have a window there to follow up. At base level: are people giving you reasons and context, or just ignoring you / hitting you with 1-2 words?

Which buyer persona responds most? And do some buyer personas not respond at all? If you don’t track buyer personas, you should — but if you need a quick way to check this, just look at the official professional titles of those who do respond. Are they admins/gate-keepers, or are they actual decision-makers? Also look at who opts out. If true decision-makers — guys who can write checks — are opting out, then you need a new approach from the bottom up.

What objections do you get in your responses? The biggest ones we’ve seen with email prospecting for sales are “Well, we already have/work with a vendor…” This is common, of course. But do you have a reply for that? Do you have one ready? You should honestly consider building a reply to that exact email and storing it in whatever account you respond from (GMail, Outlook, etc.) You can save it as a out of office or a ‘canned response’ and literally hit back a reply in seconds. Now you look super responsive and you’re ready to talk them over to your option. Look at the objections and have something ready for each. That’s the bigger point.

Any forwards? A lot of people forget to check this; it’s usually at the bottom of email prospecting. If someone forwarded it to others, get up with that person. It means, by definition, that they have some degree of interest because they passed it on, probably internally. Worst case scenario: they FWD’ed because they thought it was dumb. But even in that scenario, you’ll learn something about your email prospecting: that it needs to change.

Often you get responses from people you didn’t send an email. Obviously your email got internally forwarded. Do you track that? Is there a pattern? Do CFOs always forward your email to Head of HR? If yes, you should change your target group from CFO to Head of HR and prepare a new email message for this kind of buyer persona (“message-persona-fit”).

What else have you ever tracked with email prospecting?

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