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Prospecting 101: why email works better than cold-calling

Conventional wisdom in sales tells us that cold-calling works better than emailing. Conventional wisdom is usually wrong.

There is a good reason that salespeople talk so loudly about cold-calling and this has nothing to do with results. Put simply, a person claiming to make 50 cold-calls per day seems more hard-working than the guy in the next cube who is busy with an email-based process. Cold-calling is loud. Everybody around you will know you are busy. So if you care more about maintaining the perception that you are a hard-worker than you do about delivering results, then by all means you should continue to live in cold-calling hell. But if you are open to a better, easier way to proactively fill your sales pipeline with great opportunities, keep reading.

If you are selling complex, high-value solutions to the enterprise and are trying to get in touch with executive-level decision-makers, then email is the most effective, efficient, and practical way to introduce your product or service. I run a global lead generation agency. We use email exclusively to arrange executive-level introductory calls and on-site meetings for our clients. Here is why our email-only strategy works better than cold-calling:

1) Email is read by everyone, even CEO's (or at least their admins).

2) Email allows you the opportunity to perfect and clarify your message and then repeat that message again and again (cold-calling requires a new performance every time).

3) Email can be easily forwarded to the right person and then responded to without any friction or effort on your part.

4) Email allows your prospect the time to think, whereas cold-calling usually illicits an automatic "no" response.

5) Decision-makers do not answer their phones to unknown numbers. If they do, they see it as a rude disruption.

6) Email allows greater reach more cost-effectively. With the right approach, you can easily reach out to ever decision-maker across your target market every quarter.

7) Cold-calling is usually done by very junior talent. When you have one shot to impress a CEO, do you want a telemarketer in India reading a script? Or would you rather have your top account executive taking a scheduled and confirmed call?

Email works. But just because email is the most effective medium for outbound prospecting, that doesn't mean it always works for everybody. Success in outbound prospecting is all about strategy and execution. You need the right message delivered to the right person in the right way. Here some of the variables you will have to perfect for success in email prospecting:

Strategy:

  • You need to identify the right target market for your products or solutions and then build a list of every company that meets your criteria (a target account list)
  • You need to understand which titles within the organization are most likely to buy and go after them
  • You need a message that distinguishes you from the hundreds of other messages in your prospect's inbox

Execution:

  • Even when you have the right strategy, you need to achieve the right volume. Successful outbound prospecting campaigns will result in introductory meetings with between 10% to 20% of your target accounts each quarter. I have seen this to be the case across industries. So if you want 10 - 20 new introductory phone calls from outbound prospecting, you go after 100 accounts. If you aren't able to achieve this result, then something is wrong with your strategy or execution.
  • You need to turn prospecting into a machine. You have to research the right contacts to build list, send emails to a set number of new accounts each week, and follow-up with second-round emails the following week in the case of non-response. You need to manage responses to that you know which accounts to continue with and which accounts to put on hold. You need to chase down referrals and lukewarm prospects week after week until they agree to a meeting. You need a system. Effective prospecting is a well-oiled machine.
  • When the introductory call finally does happen, you need the right talent on that call to establish credibility and advance the deal forward. The point of prospecting is to close deals. You (or your organization) should be able to close 1 - 3 deals out of 10 introductory calls or else you are doing something wrong in the sales process.

A world-class sales organization is one in which all of these pieces are working smoothly. In my experience working with dozens of companies to implement successful prospecting campaigns, very few organizations are getting all of these pieces right. Even when they are, they aren't consistent enough and they often aren't able to replicate results across geographies.

Check back for updates on how to craft the perfect prospecting email. In future posts, I will also share some of the specifics about how we run these highly-effective campaigns for clients worldwide. 

Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

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