Some number of years ago, as social media took hold, many believed they had found a replacement for the cold call. A small group of friends and I tried to prevent sales organizations from allowing their sales force to avoid using the telephone. A number of proponents were critical, believing we were out of touch, even though our group used social media in addition to all the mediums available for communicating with prospective clients.
Over time, we were proven right, even though no one found any joy in sales organizations failing. Too many sales organizations gave up too much time and had too few opportunities in their pipelines. The sales organizations that followed our advice and required their salespeople to make cold calls did a lot better than those who permitted salespeople to use other mediums.
At the time, some very large tech companies marketed the idea that “the cold call is dead,” and Inbound would replace OutBound, neither of which has proven true.
Email Prospecting Is Dead
Not too long after the rise of social media, marketing technologies began automating marketing messages, as E-Commerce took off and companies wanted to provide more and better communication with their customers. The promise of automation was that it created greater efficiency by allowing a company to write a series of communications that would remove the need for a human being to do anything more than set up a sequence and monitor the results.
Eventually, the marketing technology was used to automate prospecting, with the Chief Marketing Officers writing a sequence of emails that would prevent salespeople from having to make calls or send emails. Some of these programs allowed the salesperson to record a voicemail, removing the need to lose the minute it takes to leave a message.
The cost of an additional email is zero, making it easier to send more emails, believing you are being efficient, even if the thousands of prospecting emails result in no new meetings. As more companies began automating their email prospecting and results waned, companies resorted to brute force attempts to force engagement. One tactic was to paste the first email under the second email as if the recipient was rude for not responding (this is called a performative contradiction, as the person who accuses you of doing something while actually doing what they are accusing you of doing).
Another popular tactic is to “float” the email back to the top of the contacts email box to ensure you see their email. The reason this is necessary is part of the reason email is dead as it pertains to prospecting.
Overwhelmed and Underwhelmed
The average business person receives 127 emails each day and sends 40 emails. Let’s assume on average, it takes you three minutes to read and respond to an email. The email from your client takes you eleven minutes, and the emails that don’t require any action take almost no time at all. At three minutes an email, it would take you 6.3 hours to respond to the 127 emails.
Most people are overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive each day, with most unaddressed and pushed off the first page as another 127 emails flood in behind it each day.
While the contacts who receive emails from salespeople each day are underwhelmed, finding nothing valuable enough to deserve their time and attention. Between the automated emails and the emails salespeople crafted themselves, the sales organization’s would-be prospective clients have built up an immunity to emails— deleting them at will. They won’t be feeling even a tinge of shame after deleting the emails that the platforms haven’t already moved to the contact’s spam folder.
Your Email is Suspect
Whether the email is automated, sent with the loving care of a salesperson with the intention of helping the client improve their business results, or an InMail on LinkedIn, it is immediately suspect and will be greeted by a firm press of the delete button.
The automation and the poor use of email have made it so that salespeople no longer have to send emails to their prospective clients, not because the automation works, but because their contacts no longer care to open the emails.
Yet, there are still sales organizations that believe that sending an email is a prospecting activity, despite the fact that underperforms. At best, the humble email is a way to follow up on a phone call and a voicemail—an indication that you are serious about a meeting and the promise of a conversation the client will find valuable.
The Need to Become a Phone First Sales Force
A phone call is different than an email. It’s not only a richer medium, as it enables synchronous communication and the ability to share the value proposition for a meeting and the request for a meeting. A human being promising value and asking for time is different than an email, a choice one makes if they lack the confidence to interrupt their prospective client.
The salesperson that is One-Up believes they are obligated to interrupt their prospective client, knowing that the time they ask for will benefit the contact and help them improve their perspective through their insights. The phone is the choice of a person who is confident they belong in the room with their prospective client, as they can help them to change, to make an effective decision, and enable them to produce better results.
Email isn’t the right choice for a conversation about changing and improving the client’s outcomes, but insisting that you are a phone-first sales organization provides better results by making it easier to gain meetings.
Email prospecting is dead. It’s lost its effectiveness and now is better thought of as a way to follow up by letting your prospective client know you will be calling them back in the next 48 hours. You should prefer to be told no over not hearing anything at all.