Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Email is the New Phone

Of all the things changing in the business world, one of the most influential is the use of technology, particularly email, to facilitate the sales process. It wasn't that long ago that most of us used the telephone or called on clients in person to make sales. Now we prospect with email, and may even have some clients who prefer that the entire communication be electronic. Kendra Lee of KLA Group explains how you can evolve with the times and make more sales.

"If you're like I was, you believe email should be answered after hours when you are not on the phone or in customer meetings," says Lee. "This is how I handle proposals. They can't be written during valuable customer "face" time, but should be saved for that time of day when customers are not available."

"But, expectations and how email is used have changed," continues Lee. "Many customers now expect you to hold whole conversations via email, sometimes with emails flying within minutes of each other, just as if they were instant messages or a phone call. With these changes email is now as important as face-to-face meetings and phone calls."

Here are some tips to consider when making email a primary customer interaction tool:

---View email as a new prospecting tool. After you leave a voicemail, follow-up with an email, giving prospects two easy ways to respond. Remember, your goal is to connect with the person. Even if they respond "No", you have connected and can respond.

---Keep the sales process moving forward using email to ask requirements, gather questions, get referrals, make recommendations, and provide updates.

---Respond to all emails with action items promptly. You return phone calls within 1 to 24 hours. The expectation now is that you'll return emails within 30 minutes to 12 hours. If you can't respond completely, send an email setting expectations about when you will send a full response.


---Think, and proof, before you send. Sometimes it's best to draft a response, then wait 30 minutes before sending. You may choose to soften, shorten, or otherwise change your response.


---You may need a hand-held device such as a Blackberry to keep up. Consider what tools you need to add this new customer interaction approach and make the investment.

---Schedule daily time on your calendar to respond to emails. Consider this equal to customer meeting time. If you are holding complete customer conversations via email, you really are holding a meeting. Give it equal time for a well thought out response with a request for next steps.

"There are many benefits that can be realized by using email," says Lee. "This includes ease of connection and a better way to communicate in certain circumstances. Be prepared and you’ll soon find yourself reducing your sales cycle and closing opportunities via email!"

Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group helps companies rapidly penetrate new markets, break into new accounts and shorten time to revenue with new products. For more information, visit www.klagroup.com.

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