I recently read a post on bmmagazine.com. Although I tend to agree with much of the stuff I read around internet marketing; in this case, not so much! The basic premise of the post is this: If you are sending emails to keep in touch with a prospective customer, DON’T! You should call them. If you want to read the full post it is here The fundamental issue I have is that the post is looking at the subject from the salesman’s point of view (what is the best solution for him) rather than the customer’s perspective. Although I agree that simply using email as a way to move follow ups out of your inbox is not a good scenario, neither is going through your list of leads and blindly calling them. I feel the post is misguided on 2 points:
- It assumes that it is the salesman’s job alone to turn prospects into customers
- It suggests that the process is a seamless pipeline with leads going in at one end, being processed and coming out the other end as customers
In my opinion, neither of these is true! These days customers are much more inclined to buy from suppliers they know and trust. They will also buy when they are ready. The idea of a sales person calling a prospect on their own schedule and picking up business there and then is much less likely than it used to be. The process of generating leads and turning them into customers is a team effort including everyone in the organisation, and one in which both email and the sales team have valuable parts to play – not to mention marketing, customer service etc, etc. If this process is working well, a new prospect would start to receive regular appropriate, joined-up communications that build the profile of your organisation & enhance its value in the eyes of your potential customer. Hopefully they will see this value and when they are ready to buy, you should be at the top of their list of potential suppliers. In some instances this communication will be low cost (to both you and the customer), and will generate a ‘platform of awareness‘ that ensures that the prospect does not forget you, and builds your reputation (email newsletters are a great example of this). At other times, where appropriate, contact will be the high cost, high value intervention of a salesperson. Coming back to the scenario in the article, and the question “should a salesperson use email to communicate with prospects”? The answer in my opinion is “Sometimes YES/Sometimes NO”. Salesmen are targeted on delivering sales and their organisation should ensure that they have the tools to deliver this. Company Managers should understand the business development process of which they are a part. In this context, salesmen should be able to look at a prospect and decide whether to pick up the phone, send a personalised email, or simply drop the lead back into the system for on going low level communication. This way they can ensure that their skills are being are being used as effectively and efficiently as possible to deliver best value for both the organisation and the prospect. No professional salesperson who rally understands the business development process, would simply send an email when there is value for all parties in a phone call or visit. But they need to know that when this value is not there in the short term, that there are process to ensure that the prospect does not get forgotten.