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7 Pitfalls of Using Email to Sell

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Are you sending e-mails to prospects instead of calling them?

Is e-mail your selling medium of choice because it lets you avoid the rejection that you dread when you make real cold calls?

Do you wait and wait for return e-mails from prospects that will give you the green light to move the sales process forward?

Sad but true, these days most people who sell for a living spend 80% of their time trying to communicate with prospects via e-mail instead of actually picking up the phone and speaking with them. Are you one of those people? If so, you aren't alone...but do you understand why you've turned to e-mail instead of personal contact? I think there are 2 core reasons that underlie this unfortunate trend:

  • Fear of rejection. The sheer negative force of anticipating rejection makes people turn to e-mail to generate new prospect relationships because it hurts less to not get a reply than to hear that verbal "no."
  • Getting blocked by gatekeepers andvoicemail. When salespeople don't know how to break through the barriers of gatekeepers and voicemail, they start thinking, "Forget it -- it's not worth the aggravation, and it takes too much energy. I'll just e-mail instead."

However, when you try to use e-mail to offer your product or service to someone who doesn't know you, you can't possibly establish the natural dialogue between two people that allows the trust level to reach the level necessary for a healthy, long-term relationship.

We all know how much everyone hates e-mail spam, but even so, many salespeople are still sending introductory e-mails to decisionmakers. They feel that, because they're from a credible organization, they won't be associated with the negative image of a spam solicitor.

However, these introductory e-mails typically contain the traditional three-part sales pitch -- the introduction, a mini-presentation about the products and services being offered, and a call to action -- and this traditional selling approach instantly tells the recipient of the e-mail that your only goal is to sell your product or service so you can attain your goals, andnot theirs.

If you're still using email to sell, watch out for these 7 pitfalls:

  • Avoid sales pitches. If you feel you must use e-mail to start a new relationship, make your message about issues and problems that you believe your prospects are having, but d on't say anything to indicate that you're assuming that both of you are a match.
  • Stop thinking that e-mail is the best way to get to decisionmakers. Traditional selling has become so ineffective that salespeople have run out of options for creating conversation, both over the phone and in person. However, it's best to view e-mail as a backup option only, not as a way to create new relationships. Try to use it primarily for sending information and documents after you've developeda relationship with a prospect.
  • Remove your company name from the subject line. Whenever you put your company and solution first, you create the impression that you can't wait to give a presentation about your product and services. Your subject line shouldbe a humble reference to issues that you may be able to help prospects solve.
  • Stop conditioning your prospects to hide behinde-mail. When you e-mail prospects, it's easy for them to avoid you by not responding. Also, they get used to never picking up the phone and having a conversation with you -- and they may want to avoid you because they're afraid that, if they show interest in what you have to offer, you'll try to close them. This creates sales pressure -- the root of all selling woes. This avoidance becomes a vicious circle. If you learn to create pressure-free conversations, you'll find that you'll start getting phone calls from prospects who aren't afraidto call you.
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Brian Price, executive director of marketing

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