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 decent probability that the correspondence may be screened by an 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.
Prospecting letters do have their limitations. The biggest challenge with letters is getting opened and read before getting pitched. Many salespeople will 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 do like to use letters prior to calling. If they get an executive's assistant on the phone and the assistant asks, "Who is this, and what is it regarding?," they have an easy response: "This is Dan Taylor of XYZ Software, calling to follow up on my letter dated November 18. Is Steve 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.
Our experience has been that email is the least effective way to make an initial contact in writing. Simply put, if an executive (or their 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.
There are two trends that make text messaging an increasingly valuable prospecting channel:
We talk to strangers on the phone, email strangers, and meet strangers in person, but rarely text strangers. This is why more than any other prospecting channel, familiarity is critical for prospecting via text. The probability of your text message converting – compelling a sales prospect to take further action – increases exponentially if your text comes after prior contact through another channel.
Text messaging works best as an integrated part of a larger prospecting system and strategy rather than a stand-alone channel. According to a marketing study that covered 3.5 million sales lead records from more than 400 companies, a text message sent alone converts to further engagement at approximately 5%. That same message, sent after a phone contact increases the response rate a further 100%+. Why? Once you cross what one expert calls the Familiarity Threshold, your response rate increases very significantly.
You can amplify that impact even further when your text message follows an email contact or social media interaction. You gain even more traction when you text following a positive in-person networking interaction. The better the prospect knows you, the more effective your prospecting text message will be. The less they know you, the more likely you will cause offense. People are averse to getting random text messages from people they don't know – especially salespeople.
Finally, as with all prospecting channels, know your numbers. Track the number of texts you send each day, response rates, and conversions into appointments and, ultimately, sales.