Not long ago, I advised salespeople to use email as a last resort when doing business-to-business prospecting over the phone. I believed it was too easy for prospects to say no, ask you to remove their names from your list, and brand you as a spammer. But this is the age of the Blackberry and the smart phone. Practically all businesspeople carry their email around with them on their handheld devices. They often respond to emails faster than voicemails. Needless to say, I told people to change their ways. Email is way more powerful than a last resort, so I use it more frequently and sometimes instead of straight phone prospecting. If you’re ready to use email to get more meetings with prospects, here are ten tips to get you there:
ONE: FIND EMAIL STRUCTURES FIRST
If your prospect has a website, it’s usually pretty simple to find email address structures for the company. First, you want to check the About Us, Management, or Contact Us pages on their sites. The more trusting companies sometimes provide their email addresses right in plain sight. If not, you might want to do a little digging. Try finding press releases or news stories and look for the media contact. They usually provide an email addy.
If the company website leaves you stumped, a simple Google search might do the trick. Go to Google and enter *@domainname.com. For example, if your prospect’s website is www.xyzcompany.com, you would type *@xyzcompany.com. It might take a page or two of search results but chances are you’ll find the structure. It might be hidden somewhere in an archived PDF or on a website you wouldn’t think to check.
Another resource to use is website registration sites like Network Solutions. Find the technical or administrative contacts and use this structure for other contacts within the company.
If email structure is new to you, here’s what I mean. If the media contact, for example, has an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org and your prospect’s name is Jack Lewis, chances are his email address is email@example.com.
Enough about structure. Let’s move on.
TWO: CRAFT BETTER SUBJECT LINES
Before your email gets read, it has to be opened. Your email is in competition with hundreds of others the prospect might be getting. Better subject lines get them opened. The best subject lines have one or more of the following elements:
• The prospect’s first name
• The prospect’s company name
• A referrer’s name
• A short but powerful value proposition
• Mention of a previous touch
Here are some examples:
• John Smith Suggested We Speak John…
• Per My Voicemail Susan Regarding Reducing Freight Expenses…
• Per My Call Regarding Saving XYZ Company $50,000 Per Year
I think you get the idea. On to the next topic…
THREE: USE READ RECEIPTS ON ALL EMAILS
Why guess if your prospect opened your email when you can know for sure? When you send emails with read receipts, it lets you know in an instant when your prospect opened it. This eliminates the need to ask the time-wasting question, “Did you get the email I sent you?” It also confirms that your subject lines are working.
Here’s a cool tip I use all the time: As soon as you get a read receipt, pick up the phone and call your prospect. What better time to call than when your name and email is fresh on her mind? Just don’t revert to the dumb question, ““Did you get the email I sent you?”
FOUR: KEEP EMAILS SHORT
People are busy. Nobody has time to read your dissertation supported by three attached PDF files. Make emails succinct and easy to read on a Blackberry or smart phone. How short? Chris Brogan suggests no more than 200 words. Nuff said.
FIVE: EXPECT OBJECTIONS AND BE PREPARED TO OVERCOME THEM
When your prospect reads your email, he’s probably just scanning it, looking for reasons to object. If you get a “no thank you” or “not interested” email, don’t be so quick to back off. (Unless he says take me off your list.) Instead, be prepared to overcome objections. Here are the top five objections you’ll get:
• Not interested
• We have a vendor in place.
• We handle it internally.
• We have no budget.
• I’m the wrong person to speak with.
If you’re not prepared to handle these top five objections, you will not get more meetings with prospects through email. Want to learn the secrets of how to handle each objection? Check out my book “How to Dominate in Cold Calling and Earn Six Figures Doing It.” Okay, I’ll give you one now. It just so happens to be my next topic.
SIX: USE NO THANK YOU EMAILS AS AN EXCUSE TO GET A REFERRAL
When a prospect takes the time to reply to your email with a “no thank you,” consider it a blessing. Many prospects won’t respond at all. Instead of moving on to the next name on the list, respond by first appreciating the email. Ask for his help and let him off the hook. For example, try something like the following response to not interested:
Thank you for taking the time to email me to let me know. Sometimes we start these conversations with either the chief financial officer or the operations director. Who would you suggest I start with instead of you?
Don’t be shocked when you receive the referral but do remember to thank him for it.
SEVEN: FORWARD REFERRAL EMAILS FOR VALIDATION
I’ve lost count of the prospects who’ve called me a liar when I told them someone else at the company referred me. Instead of wasting time defending my good name, I started forwarding the referrer’s email along with my request for a meeting. The liar title soon disappeared. You might also simply cc the referrer on the email you send to your prospect.
EIGHT: USE EMAIL AS A FIRST CONTACT IF NEEDED
Email is rarely my first contact with a prospect. But sometimes I have no choice. This is especially true when gatekeepers won’t let me speak with an executive or even leave a voicemail. And sometimes my research only yields an email address and no other contact information. On those occasions, I use email as a first contact with a prospect.
No so long ago, I cold called the CEO of a billion dollar investment firm. The receptionist would not put my call through to him or his assistant. Instead, he sent me to the vendor line. I don’t know about you but I’m not a vendor line type of guy. I hung up and crafted an email to the CEO with the following subject line:
Per My Call to Your Office Regarding .
Five minutes later, he emails me and gives me the names of two high-level executives to speak with and copies them on his response to me. Needless to say, I booked the meeting.
NINE: CREATE URGENCY WITHOUT BEING PUSHY
Your prospects are busy, but heck, so are you. You don’t have time to wait weeks or sometimes even days to get a response from your prospect. When you need a faster response but don’t want to come off as the pushy salesperson, try this one line at the end of your email:
I’m here until 5:00 PM Eastern today.
Many will read that and think, I’d better email him before he leaves.
TEN: KNOW THAT ONE EMAIL MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had the time to stop and read your email the moment they received it? And wouldn’t it be better if your value prop was every prospect’s panacea? Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. People are busy. They scan emails. They intend to respond to the interesting ones but get called into a meeting or something and just forget.
You can craft the best email in the world but if the prospect is busy, a few reminders may be needed. The key is to be persistent without being annoying. I’ve personally booked more meetings with prospects with second emails than with first ones. Maybe prospects like to test my determination. Perhaps they need to see the messaging more than once to take action. Or maybe they are just too busy. My solution is three emails within a two-to-three week period. Six weeks later, I try again. Persistence is the key.
Five years ago, email was my last resort for contacting prospects. Now I use it just as much and sometimes more than phone prospecting alone in order to book meetings. Hopefully after reading this, you will too.
E.R. Carpenter is the author of the new book “How to Dominate in Cold Calling and Earn Six Figures Doing It” and the owner of the upcoming website ColdCallSensei.com.