Optimizing Email for Better Sales Closes

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The sales process is an art form, and many different brush strokes go into each sales masterpiece: Crafting the right message, making the elevator pitch, building trust, developing relationships, and much more is involved in almost every sale. But perhaps one of the most effective tools a sales artist has on his palette is the follow-up email. This is an art all its own. While persistence is often the key to closing a sale, prospects are bombarded with email, and other tasks frequently compete for their attention. How, then, can reps send the right email that stands out enough to prompt the sales target to respond?

This kind of follow-up is never easy, and it’s not done nearly as often as is necessary—a fact noted by Scott Tousley, growth marketer at digital marketing firm HubSpot. “Forty-four percent of salespeople give up after one follow-up, and 80 percent of sales require five follow-ups,” he says.

“When I discovered these two facts, I was shocked. In other words, 44 percent of salespeople are putting in just one fifth of the effort needed to close the deal. Too often we give up after one follow-up email, despite data proving that multiple follow-ups are required.”

Tousley is talking about close rates in sales, where email is largely used just as a follow-up tool—but what about those cold-call sales offers that only come to consumers through the email channel?

“If you’re using email to conduct your sales, you have to break it down into different elements of the sales process in order to evaluate it for effectiveness,” says Jonathan Brink, vice president of product at LiveHive, which provides sales automation tools for email marketers. “The email passes through different phases of prospecting and lead development, converting these leads to sales and then closing.”

In each email transaction with potential customers, it is advantageous to track the entire end-to-end sales conversation and to identify along the way the best targets in the organization that you’re trying to sell to so you can engage with them directly. This enhances your ability to close the sale.

“In this process, it is great to track the number of emails that you sent out, but it is even more meaningful to see how many actually got opened,” says Jim Dickie, independent research director at CSO Insights. “Let’s say that you sent out 10,000 emails and that you had a 3 percent open rate. From this information, you should be able to score your leads based upon what each prospect did.”

As an example, let’s say that two people respond to your email sales pitch. The first person is new to your product and your company, but the second has already been to a webinar that your company sponsored and is very familiar with your products. The second email respondent has a greater likelihood of leading to a closed sale because he already knows about your company and your products.

“In both situations, the key ingredient is follow-up,” Dickie says. “If you take two weeks to respond to an email, it’s too late. That’s why you have to debug your process first to find what’s wrong and then challenge the status quo.”

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