As an entrepreneur, prospecting emails are my arch nemesis. I was never formally trained as a salesperson and, to be honest, I don’t like to pitch people via email -- particularly when I know people these days feel more bombarded than ever in their inboxes.
Some salespeople, understanding this fact, have developed tactics around optimizing email open rates and timing their follow-up messages. While these strategies are valuable, they are simply not my style. They probably don't resonate that well with other likeminded business owners or salespeople, either, a major reason why sales emails get ignored. My approach is more heavily grounded in empathy -- not the statistical likelihood that a decision maker will open my email. Here is how I’ve generated a close to 100% response rate from busy professionals in my sales emails using a more empathetic approach.
1) I figure out what the email recipient needs.
Rather than blasting a generic ‘intro’ message, I reach out to my audience personally. I take the time to research their company’s strategic initiatives, as well as my email recipients’ movement, growth, and trajectories within their organizations. I closely examine whether that organization is currently using -- or could benefit from using -- services like mine, and I take the time to fully understand any corresponding business models.
Before sending a message to anyone, I take the time to empathize with and understand that person’s pain points -- I put myself in this person’s shoes, and use the information I gather to time when a message would be most beneficial.
I take steps to ensure that my messages will be well-received. If I think that a message will simply annoy the recipient or fall flat, I’ll avoid reaching out to that person and invest my energy elsewhere.
2) I contact decision makers at all organizational levels.
Salespeople have a natural tendency to connect with buyers at the manager, director, and VP levels. But what I’m learning is that organizations are changing dramatically, with areas of leadership concentrated within multiple functions.
When browsing LinkedIn, I’ll often come across people holding CXO, director, or VP titles. But I won’t reach out to these individuals. Instead, I’ll research their direct reports -- who are more likely to have needs and priorities that align with what I’m able to offer. I look for ways to empower that individual in his or her role -- which is especially gratifying when I am reaching out to entry-level professionals who may be managing a budget but are relatively new to the workforce.
3) I offer up something of value immediately.
Here’s where content comes in handy. Whenever possible, I try to share a blog post, story, or whitepaper that may be useful to the person on the other side of the computer screen. I’ll also share observations about what that individual (or company) is currently doing.
All in all, I always strive to deliver exponentially more value than what I expect that company to pay. Sometimes, I give things away for free -- through consulting calls, training sessions, and even content. I treat this step as an introductory handshake to build relationships over the long-term.
4) Whenever possible, I ask for an introduction.
Whenever possible, I look for 2nd-level connections to the people I’m trying to reach -- but I’m very careful when asking for these introductions. I always ask my contacts whether they would feel “comfortable” making a connection, and I’m extremely forthright about why I’d like to get in touch.
These personal and professional relationships add instant credibility to my message, signifying that I am not a stranger; rather, that I am a trusted professional within that person’s network.
5) Use Twitter or other social channels as complements.
I understand that people are buried in emails -- which is why I don’t like to send pointless follow-up messages. What I’ll do instead is build a relationship or simply send that person a head’s up via Twitter, where we can keep communication short and to-the-point. Twitter provides a valuable way to condense information to its simplest components. Rather than sending someone a paragraph-long email, you can send a simple, to-the-point nudge.
As a sales professional, empathy will be your superpower. Instead of trying to ‘outsmart the noise,’ make your communications stand out by being as helpful as possible. Provide value to your audience by giving them information to succeed in their roles. The more you give, the more likely your audience will be to listen.
Originally published Oct 16, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017