Written correspondence prior to making phone contact can dramatically increase your chances of getting through on the phone and uncovering new opportunities. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Shorter is better. Any prospecting letter longer than one page is not going to be read by many prospects.
Early in the correspondence, it is critical to get the buyer’s attention. This can be accomplished by offering a menu of potential goals or problems.
Minimize hype and opinions that start the buyer in the direction of concluding that the message is too “salesy.”
A prospecting letter is not a place to get the buyer to understand very much about your company. Focus instead on generating curiosity. If you achieve this short-term objective and the buyer becomes interested, he or she will want to know more about your company.
Understand that there is a high probability that the correspondence will be screened by the executive’s assistant.
Aim high (maybe higher than your targeted title), because if the executive is interested, you may be referred to a lower level.
Our experience has been that email is the least effective way to make an initial contact in writing. Simply put, if an executive (or assistant) doesn’t recognize the email address of the sender, the chances that the message will be opened and read are small. The title of the email becomes extremely important: It must be scripted very tightly to generate enough interest, perhaps even indicating that some research about the target company has been done, although space is limited.
Prospecting letters also have their limitations. As with direct mail, their biggest challenge is getting opened and read before getting pitched. Many salespeople hand-write addresses on envelopes and use a stamp rather than a postage meter to increase the odds that their prospecting correspondence will get read.
Many salespeople like to use letters prior to calling, because when they get the assistant on the phone and the assistant asks, “Who is this, and what is it regarding?,” they have an easy response: “This is Dan Ahrens of XYZ Software, calling to follow up on my letter dated November 18. Is Joe available?”
This sounds like a good tactic, but in fact, of the possible responses, most are not favorable. The options, starting with the only good one:
The assistant agrees to put you right through.
The assistant doesn’t recall your letter.
The assistant threw your letter out.
The letter has been misplaced.
The assistant read the letter and concluded it was not of interest.
The assistant brushes you off: “I’m sure he’s read it. We’ll get back to you if we are interested.”
So although letters can be effective, they face multiple barriers: getting opened, read, passed along, saved, and so on. Letter campaigns take time, can incur expense in processing and tracking, and usually involve a delay before follow-ups can be done.
For these and other reasons, faxes offer several advantages. First, consider what has happened to the volume of faxes you receive. With the advent of email, scanning, and attaching documents to emails, the number of faxes being received has dramatically decreased. We see that as an advantage. Faxes aren’t in envelopes that may be “round-filed” before being opened. Faxes sent in the morning can be followed up the very same day. Consider the fax shown in Figure 10-1, which seeks to gain mind space for our product (Customer Focused Selling techniques) in the mind of one Ben Zoldan.
In the interview posted on your Web site, you stated a goal of having XYZ Company double its revenues in the next 3 years. To achieve this objective, do you believe Sales and Tactical Marketing will have to work in concert? If so, here are some areas that may be important to achieving your goal:
Marketing campaigns should generate interest at targeted decision-maker levels.
When calling at executive levels, salespeople should lead with high- probability business issues, rather than your offerings.
When evaluating pipeline, sales managers need a consistent grading system, so they can disqualify low-probability opportunities.
On an ongoing basis, sales managers should be able to assess their salespeople on six individual skills to identify deficiencies, and they should be able to help their salespeople improve in these areas.
When making calls, salespeople should consistently position offerings specific to title/industry and business goals via Sales-Ready Messaging.
Customer Focused Selling helps clients define and implement sales processes to address these and other issues. I would like to schedule 15 minutes to discuss your sales environment, and mutually determine if further investigation is warranted.
I’ll call this afternoon at 4:30. I look forward to talking with you. of the advantages of this approach is that if the executive’s assistant sees the fax, he or she gets a clear idea of what you would like to discuss. If the assistant feels some of the items are of interest, the fax provides Sales-Ready Messaging to help him or her explain why a phone conversation may be warranted.