How Sales People Should Use Email – Part 1

Most of us sales people these days use email a lot. I recently got to sit down with a bloke that knows a lot about how sales people do and should use email.

If you use email and sell, this is well worth a quick read (hint: he even did research!)

That bloke is Matthew Bellows, CEO of Yesware. Here are some questions I asked him and his responses.

NE: Matthew can you tell me a little about “your story”? I know you’ve been in sales and a sales manager and I think it gives a great perspective on what you are up to.

Yes, I’ve been a sales guy and sales manager for about 10 years.  Prior to Yesware, I was the Vice President of Sales and Consumer Strategy at Vivox, the market leader in voice for digital worlds.   One thing I really noticed, as a VP of Sales was how much time was wasted for salespeople on tasks like manual data entry into CRM systems.  Sales people don’t want to spend their time keying in data to a CRM system.  They want to be closing deals; they want to be connecting with prospects.

 There is also a lot of time spent sending out emails, without a lot of data or analysis on how effective those emails really are.  Are your emails reaching your prospects?  Are they being read or forwarded?  How many times are they being opened?  What’s the best time of day, best day of the week to send emails?  What’s your reply rate like – in other words, how often are you getting responses to your emails?  What subject lines are the most effective?

All of this information is invaluable to salespeople who can fine-tune their efforts if they have the information on how their emails are being received, and how and when they should follow up with their prospects.  For sales managers, knowing how their team is performing, and benchmarking individual’s sales performance is also critical to motivating their team, and increasing the company’s overall sales revenues.

The bottom line is salespeople and sales teams want to be much more efficient, they want to close deals as quickly as possible and have better insight into how effective their communications with customers and prospects really are.  So, our team developed Yesware to do things like provide customizable email templates for every stage of the sales process, provide analytics and tracking reports to know how effective their emails are, and easy synchronization to popular CRM systems to eliminate time-consuming, manual entry and ensure that the data in the CRM is activity based, not opinion based.

NE: Matthew you recently conducted a study on sales email. Can you give us an overview on that study?

Sure. Yesware conducted a study on email behavior; we studied 6,000 of our anonymous users during the period of December 8th to 23rd, 2011. Yesware found that the average open rate for sales emails sent via Gmail was 23.9 percent. While this open rate under-reports the number of people who may have opened emails, the sample size for this study of 20,000 emails provided sufficient data on ways business email communication can be improved.

Our overall findings showed:

  • While most people consider the workweek to be the most active time to send and receive email, the data found that more work-related emails were opened on Saturday and Sunday than during the actual workweek, proving that sending email over the weekend actually gives it a better chance of getting read.
  • Response time to prospecting emails is a critical factor in determining success. Yesware found that after an email had been sent, the chances of it being read decreased dramatically after the first hour and then fell incrementally lower from there. After 24 hours, the chance of business email being read is less than one percent. Therefore, salespeople shouldn’t wait for more than one day if they want to move the relationship forward.
  • The longer the email subject line, the less likely it was to be opened. Subject lines longer than three words were opened at below average rates. And while ‘short and sweet’ is important in business email communication, subject lines that provided a promise to add value, gave people more motivation to open the messages.

NE: Is email the new phone? What do you know about sales people’s usage of phone vs. email today? And how has it changed over the years?

Email is certainly a very efficient way to communicate your message, and send to several parties simultaneously.  In fact our study above also showed that having additional people on the recipient list significantly increases the chances of the email being opened.

Email certainly doesn’t replace the phone or that need for a one to one verbal conversation.  But it is a great, efficient tool for getting all of your points across in a clear, concise way, providing links and interesting research to customers and prospects, and giving them a chance to digest that information and ideally forward it to others.

And there are other social media tools like LinkedIn and Twitter that salespeople are certainly using for communication, but email is still critical for salespeople.  I call email the “original social network” and is something even social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn rely on to make sure your message gets to your recipient.

[The second part of this interview to come next week]

5 Responses to How Sales People Should Use Email – Part 1

  1. Chris Helgeson January 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Great questions and awesome answers, I found it very valuable!


    • Nigel Edelshain January 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Thanks Chris. Appreciate it.


  2. Amber King February 15, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    Matt is right. Although e-mail is an efficient way to communicate it does not replaces the telephone. I believe however that these two marketing strategies should work hand in hand in order to maximize the outcome of the campaign.

    Great interview Nigel.

  3. Stuart Wood April 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Great post, I’m curious to know if “salespeople shouldn’t wait for more than one day if they want to move the relationship forward.” means that Matthew suggests salespeople send a follow-up e-mail the next day? And if that e-mail remains unopened, the next day? I can see the benefit of following up quickly, but e-mail after e-mail may seem pushy. Thoughts?

  4. Amos Benning June 1, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Thanks…great to see useful data combined with commonsense.

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