In his brilliant book, Blink
, author Malcolm Gladwell makes a point about “thin-slicing.” That is, the first impression we get about someone and how we make instant judgments, whether we know it or not.
In sales, there is a starting point that signifies the beginning of the process that will hopefully end in an order (and prompt payment of our invoices, if I take this fantasy the whole way!). What’s yours? Do you simply pick up the phone and call? Do you send a letter first? Or perhaps you simply stop by and bang on the door. That’s how we did it in the old days.
Personally, I am a fan of the introductory letter: a well-scripted message on letterhead, signed in blue ink (did you even know there was a right way to sign a letter?), folded properly and put inside a #10 envelope which has been either typewritten or word processed so that it looks like the personalized letter that it is. Oh, and I prefer a stamp over a meter, but that’s just me.
My reasoning is simple: No one sends out letters anymore so yours will stand out. A phone call as your first step is OK, but not enough to stand out from the crowd. Stopping by? That’s for reps who enjoy pulling on locked doors. And emailing? Come on, that’s just SPAM with a “Dear Bill” introduction. What a HORRIBLE first impression. It'll NEVER work!
Or so I thought.
Yesterday I received an email from a Cisco sales rep by the name of Matt Hazlett that changed my mind. It came in at 12:43 p.m., was brief and to the point. He wanted to “share some creative ideas about how you can reduce expenses and increase productivity throughout your organization” and asked me to “Please reply with the best time to reach you.”
It should be noted that the email went into my SPAM filter. I’m not sure if that was because of its content or because of his last name being so close to our industry’s self-promotion king Jeff, but I scanned it and hit “Delete.”
Forty five minutes later, I was relating the story to a Sales Challenge conference call group. During the course of that conversation I wondered out loud, “I’m curious to know what kind of response rate he gets from this approach.” Hanging up on that call, I left a voice message for Matt Hazlett and sure enough, he called me back.
Matt told me he had great success with the email-first approach. Here’s how it works: The email goes out and is typically ignored. Then a few days later he forwards the email back to the prospect with a note on it that says something like, “I am still in interested in speaking with you. What time would be best for us to talk?” I asked him what kind of success he has with that approach. He hummed and hawed and finally offered up, “On a straight cold call list, I get about a 10% positive reply.”
Ten percent? I’d take that!
There are no guarantees or shortcuts, but this certainly seems like a great way to get the attention of the anti-voice mail crowd. Give it a try and get back to me with your results.
For the record, here is his exact email to me:
I am the Cisco WebEx Solutions Specialist responsible for supporting your region.
Are you available this week or next for a brief discussion of your current business objectives?
I would like to share some creative ideas about how you can reduce expenses and increase productivity throughout your organization.
Please reply with the best time to reach you.
PI bloggers Bill Farquharson and Kelly Mallozzi will be delivering a webinar on Wednesday July 21 on the subject of The Secrets to Prospecting. For more information, go to http://www.aspirefor.com/Aspire_For/PI_Webinar.html