Are email sequences dead? No, but kill these bad practices now

If you’re like me, you start work by scanning your email and…

Delete, delete, delete.

Anything that’s not pertinent to me at that moment gets deleted. 

I make that decision solely on the subject line and maybe the first sentence:

  • ” I was just following up…” delete.
  • “I haven’t heard from you so I…” delete
  • “We work with companies to do (something that doesn’t make sense for my business and if they’d taken two minutes to look me up, they would know that)…” delete. 

It’s no different for your prospects, and intuitively, you know this. 

So why then is my daily inbox still filled with this irrelevant dribble?

My guesses are:

  1. Salespeople have gotten lazy and don’t put the work into researching their targets and choosing proper fit accounts (where they have lead intelligence).
  2. They’re getting pressure from their managers to make more calls and send more emails because they believe that by throwing more hooks in the water, they’ll inevitably catch more fish. 

Everyone is looking for that perfect email template that’s going to make it rain.  

But there isn’t one.

Because sales cycles are longer, buying committees are larger, and more competition for attention is reaching the inbox, you have to customize all communication to high-value targets and convey “what’s in it for them” and “why now” to get engagement.  

And persist. 

Leave One-to-Many to Marketing

Prospecting for sales is difficult and inefficient, even when combined with marketing automation and inbound lead generation.

These tools are helpful when used as prompts for productivity and account selection–identify leads you should be spending time nurturing and prompting you with the appropriate next steps. 

But they won’t do your job for you. 

Salespeople got addicted to spray-and-pray results that worked five years ago when inboxes were less crowded and sequencing tools had just hit the market.    

Now those tools are ubiquitous, which is why we all get these irrelevant emails in our inboxes every day.

It’s not even worth responding with “not interested” or “unsubscribe.” 

There’s too many of them. So…

Delete, delete, delete. 

Especially now (post-Corona crisis) where all communications must be contextual and relevant, email sequence templates are going the way of the cold call–they may occasionally work, but they’re so inefficient that it’s a recipe for burnout. 

And let’s face it. It’s lazy, and it will never scale. 

As a salesperson, your job is to build relationships with prospects that you can help. So blasting out as many email sequences at scale could also be doing more harm than good. 

Because if you annoy me, I don’t care how good your products and services are–I’m not going to do business with you.

So let’s leave the job of inbound lead generation at scale to marketing. 

Your job in sales is to use the valuable insights marketing has created to connect the dots for your prospect.

Choosing the right accounts

It all starts with researching appropriate targets before reaching out so you can do the most to personalize and contextualize your outreach.

Here are some things to look for:

  1. Does the company meet your ideal prospect profile? (i.e. revenue, number of employees, industry, territory, etc.)
  2. Can you easily get connected with typical buyer titles? For example, is there a 2nd-degree connection on Linkedin that can make an introduction or referral?
  3. Has the person downloaded a key asset on your website that demonstrates they have a problem you can solve? (Inbound)
  4. Can you find industry information or specific company information that you can use to start a conversation? 
  5. Can you eyeball their website, set a google alert, or find news about them that shows they might have a problem you can help them solve? 

Hubspot has a great list of potential buying triggers that you can look for in your research. 

And keep in mind, that this is the same process sellers use in the real world where we could probe for pain. 

Remember in-person meetings?

The difference is that online we use content to probe for pain and email/phone/social outreach to demonstrate context and relevance. 

The bottom line is that if you can identify a problem that must be solved, it has an exponentially greater chance of becoming a sales conversation.

How to write sales email cadences that get opened

So how do you personalize and contextualize your email outreach to increase your chances of success? 

The answer is to do your research, develop a strategy, and organize your outreach.

Research: See above

Strategy: How are you going to use that information to convey relevance? Ideally, you’re working with marketing frequently on this. 

Outreach: How are you going to achieve the number of touches it requires to get engagement? For example:

  1. Day one – I’m going to send an email and call them to let them know it’s coming.
  2. Day three – Call and email a follow-up with more relevant information.
  3. Day five – Try connecting on Linkedin (to put a face with a name and show you’re not a robot) and follow up via email and phone with a relevant piece of content.
  4. Day seven – Call and email with a final piece.

And if no response, nurture.

If you have a CRM like Hubspot, you can track engagement throughout this process–so if they’re opening your emails and clicking on your content, they take priority. 

Don’t try to be cheesy or folksy–get to the point. Why do I care? 

Develop short emails that are skimmable. 

And here’s the piece of information that will change everything:

One or two touches ain’t gonna cut it. 

Hubspot shows that overwhelmingly, people won’t respond until the 3rd or 4th call. 

Notice I said call, not email. 

Most salespeople are giving up too early. So if you’re consistently conveying knowledge, context, and it’s not about your transaction but rather about their pain, prospects are more likely to respond, even if it’s a no for now–but call me in three months. 

Building momentum the right way

If this all seems like a lot of grunt work, it is. But it’s necessary, and over time you will build the proper muscles for business development the right way. 

Filling a sales funnel (much like starting a business) is like pushing a huge boulder down a hill–it takes a lot of energy and leverage to get it rolling, but once it does, it (hopefully) builds on its momentum and rolls on its own.

That’s the Holy Grail of prospecting–where the majority of leads are coming to you–what Hubspot calls the Flywheel.

The leverage comes from a constant collaboration with marketing where you frequently talk about what you’re hearing in your sales conversations, strategizing best-fit opportunities, identify buying triggers, developing relevant content, and tracking engagement. 

And please, leave the features, functions, and benefits to your website and middle-of-the-funnel conversations, because nobody cares about you and your services in the beginning.

They care about a problem they have that must be solved. 

Prospecting this is about tapping into that pain–whether you do it in person or with content online. The better you can home in on that, the more doors you’ll open for sales conversations. 

And keep in mind, the art of prospecting really isn’t even really selling– it’s about gaining permission to sell in the first place. 

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