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March 2012

Seven Ways to Improve Your Email Response

NicoleMerrettNicole Merrett is vice president of CRM marketing for Sage North America, a supplier of business management software and services for small and midsize businesses.

 

 

Here are seven suggestions to help you craft more effective email campaigns and get better response rates.

  1. Subject Line
    First impressions are critical in any form of communication. When people receive an email, the first thing they see is the subject line, which has the potential to either gain or lose their interest. Subject lines that include your company’s name as a reference and provide specifics supporting your email topic will typically gain higher open rates. 
  2. “From” Line
    To understand how important this is, think about your own inbox. Would you be more likely to open an email sent from advertising@xyzcorp.com or nicole.merrett@sage.com? People don’t want to open an automated email.
  3. Personalization
    People love seeing their own name. It makes them feel is if the email was written to them personally and not sent to thousands. Online services have simple options to directly insert names from your contact database using a template editor.
  4. Variety
    How often do you send out newsletters, event invites, and updates that aren’t just soliciting a purchase? Are you getting an active response from recipients? If not, try something new. Be conscious about how many emails you send out each week or month. How are individuals interacting with your emails? Are you following up accordingly? How are you engaging the people who seem uninterested? Some email services include click-through analytics that monitor which readers spend time with your emails and forward them along to colleagues.
  5. Quality Content
    When you provide your contacts with quality content, they’re more inclined to read your emails and even forward them to friends. Gain your contacts’ trust by emphasizing quality of communication over quantity. One option is providing information they can use immediately. A seller of gardening supplies might offer a series of horticulture tips; and when a prospect is in need of planting materials, he or she would likely think of the insightful supply-marketer first. The best sources for good content are the questions you get from your customers.
  6. Testing…
    Test the way your email appears, not only through your own email service provider, but through several providers. Test all links in your message to make sure they work. Test your graphics. Pictures are a great way to grab someone’s attention. Remember, however, that pictures don’t always show up in email messages, so test the effectiveness of your email by viewing it in an email client with images turned off and making sure your message remains easy to understand and the call to action is clear. Finally, test your email with a spam check tool before sending. Spam check services review email content to see what might get caught in spam filters.
  7. …And More Testing
    Your email has passed all the tests: it looks good, the Web links work, the images are properly placed, there’s a clear call to action, and it’s made it through the spam check…but it’s not getting the open rates you expected. How come? There are many reasons, including the time of day you send your email, the day of the week on which it’s sent, the frequency with which you send emails, etc.

    So why not test it?

    Test one change at a time. For example, explore what days your recipients are more likely to open your email. Split up your recipient list, and send each set of recipients the same email on different days. Does the open rate stand out more on one day than another?

    A next step could be to determine the time of a particular day people are more willing to open and interact with your email. Again, divide your list and send out the same email at different times of the day. A good starting point is the start of the day and middle of the afternoon. Studies have shown that these are the best times of day to send emails. See if your tests concur.

    When you have a specific day and time recipients are most responsive, examine your content. What sort of subject line gains the highest response? Do your recipients react more to graphics or text? Consider the placement of your call to action. Is one position more effective than another? Do your recipients appreciate lengthy, informational emails, or do they prefer a quick read? Test each element one at a time.

With email marketing, you never need to settle for one formula because you will often have the flexibility to make improvements as you go. So make taking advantage of trends and technology the constant in your digital marketing programs. This will help you achieve more tangible results.

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Here's How to Expand Your Selling AREA

Today I received a letter from Paul Pease, president of the Pease Group. He shared a letter his father wrote to his sister when she entered the sales field on November 25, 1988. What makes this letter so special is that it contains time-tested sales wisdom that hasn't changed to this day.

Letter

Dear Daughter,

Now that you are firmly entrenched in the sales profession, I am submitting the following for you to chew on and digest. I was fortunate enough to work for a man (John A. Sexauer) who was tough, demanding, commanding, and sincere. I worked for him – straight commission – from 1947 to 1979. He had a formula for hiring people, and the formula was reduced to an acronym: AREA.

"A" is for Adaptability – using your talent to rectify errors that occur to the customer through no fault of your own (wrong merchandise shipped, poor quality, or a billing error). The ability to cope personally with the situation, without help from your superiors, is adaptability. While you must be consistent in your selling discipline, you must adapt your selling tactics as times change; experience molds you, and you learn from others. Adaptability on the call and over your career is a prime selling fundamental.

"R" is for responsibility – to yourself, to your company, and to your clientele. "To yourself" is probably the most difficult, since it requires self-discipline. Get up and get out every day. Make commitments (appointments), honor them (show up on time), and offer the customer something of value (to them) that is profitable to your business (sell). "To your company" simply means giving a productive effort for your wages. "To your clientele" is usually reflected by the results of the "to yourself" discipline, because it proves that you are reliable; hence, customer rapport that challenges the competition is established. You can serve a client without being subservient. There is a great distinction between the two: stand 10 feet tall, but remember, you are there to serve and not to surrender.

"E" is for enthusiasm – for which there is no substitute! Without this element, life is an abyss. No salesperson can afford to ignore it. It is the spark that ignites attention faster than any other medium of salesmanship. You cannot expect to sell something unless you are sold on it yourself, hence the reason for genuine sincerity in your presentation. When you have convinced the client that you are providing value, then price becomes secondary.

Like a good cook, add ingredients to boost the flavor, such as consideration and integrity. Consideration is necessary when you are about to close the deal and the client suddenly has an emergency that delays the order. You have to be considerate of the circumstances. Integrity can come only with time – time for the client to judge your character for honesty. Integrity is a priceless ingredient for any transaction. Your word is your bond, and never forget it.

"A" is for ambition – not only for the money, but it certainly does not discount it. Ambition seems to be inherent; either you have it or you don't. It cannot be taught. If it must be taught, then it is no longer ambition but simply obedience to the teacher. Salespeople who lack ambition are merely order takers because they have no spark.

Hope this helps you out. Nothing moves in the entire world until a sale is made. And if the day comes that you think you know it all, shoot yourself.

Love you,

Dad 

 

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How to Be Great at Sales (and Enjoy Yourself)

Ryan c lowe
Today's guest post is by Ryan C. Lowe, author of
Get off Your Attitude! 

Sales can be frustrating and complicated, or it can be very simple. Now when I say “simple,” I don’t mean that it is not difficult. Selling is difficult. However, once we take out some of the complications you’ll be able to sell more, and, hopefully, enjoy yourself.

I know the frustrations. I remember when I first got into sales, I thought it was going to be easy. I thought that all I had to do is be a good talker, have a nice smile, knock on doors, and the sales would start coming in. I learned the hard way -- after being fired from one of my sales jobs -- that success in sales required much more. I learned that it is an art; to be great at sales, you have to work on yourself as much as you work on the job.

First, you must have a positive attitude. If you wake up dreading your job and hate what you do, it will be almost impossible to sell anything and your potential customers will see right through you. You must carry yourself in a positive way, and have the confidence in yourself, product and the company you work for.

Second, develop personal and production goals. The important step to achieving any type of goal is to write it down. If you don’t write the goal down, I consider it a wish, not a goal. You must know what you’re aiming for. You can wish for how many sales you will have for the year, or how much money you will make. After writing them down, you must look at them on a daily basis.

Third, prospect. This is the time you must go out and add qualified customers to your inventory. There are several ways to prospect. You can do it the hard way -- by going out and cold calling -- or you can be smarter about it. Ask the customers you already have, and the people you know, for referrals. Did you catch that last phrase? You not only can ask, but you should ask for referrals. A woman once told me, after one of my seminars, that cold calling is a way of God punishing us for not asking for referrals. I loved that comment! Referrals are the best way to get business.

Fourth, know your presentation. Do you know that 76% of all sales people wing their presentation? That is why those same salespeople fail. They don’t present their product in a professional manner. They are simply all over the place and the customer gets confused and gets scared … and doesn’t buy! Your goal is to know your presentation backwards and forwards. The only way you can do this is practice. Practice!

Fifth, ask for the sale. The number one reason sales professionals fail is because they never ask for the business, or they get to the end of their presentation, and ask a question, such as, “What do you think?” The customer will reply, “Let me think it over.” You don’t want to ever get that answer. This is one of the most -- if not the -- most important steps, because this where you either go back to the office with a sale or with nothing. Learn several closing techniques and make them part of your presentation. I promise, you will see great results.

If you follow these five tips and build on them, you’ll be more confident and successful, and you’ll enjoy your life in sales much more. 

 


Are Profits for Your Company and Salespeople Aligned?

Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, the industry leader in sales compensation automation.

 

Many sales organizations get challenged when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. Some do well; others do not. Regardless, significant growth events—mergers, gigantic new accounts or game-changing product releases—almost always jolt companies into making major process changes.

When a major supplier to the Orthotics & Prosthetics (O&P) industry acquired another company, it doubled its sales force overnight. Because the leadership decided to make one radical change, they increased sales performance and greatly reduced their administrative burden—while increasing Salesforce user adoption. (Read Cascade’s story.)

Another company made a similar decision following a multi-billion dollar acquisition. It now motivates strategic sales behaviors based on revenues, margins and units across 8 regions and 500 sales people. Sales leaders assess the effectiveness of their sophisticated sales plan with valuable analytics and reports, generated in minutes. (Read Carestream Health’s story.)

What did Cascade and Carestream Health knew that some others don’t is that sales performance hinges on the tenets of human behavioral science—that humans instinctively behave in certain ways when they have the right incentive to do so. This is why the radical change that both companies made was to automate their incentive compensation management processes.

To further illustrate the concept of motivation, think about what happens when a well-known high roller visits a swanky club. Why does the staff treat him so well? Because they know his black AmEx means he’s likely to spend more and leave a generous tip.

Salepeople are no different. They do more of what they know will benefit them and less of what doesn’t. That’s why real-time access to performance data improves employee behaviors and performance.

When sales data is easy to access and easy to use, sales reps can see in real-time how they will be compensated for selling the things the company wants them to sell, such as higher-margin products.

They can even run “what-if” scenarios to determine how to structure a sale for maximum payout of commissions, bonuses and special incentives.

Meanwhile, sales leaders can break down what their teams’ success is made of and achieve detailed visibility into what’s working in their sales compensation and what’s not—what has been sold, to whom, at what margins, through which channels, in which regions and at what price.

The key here is good, clean data. For many, post-sales information is scattered across a variety of systems, including ERP, HR and payroll. Often, it’s bound up in spreadsheets.

More and more companies retire those error-laden spreadsheets and centralize post-sales data into a single sales compensation management system. Xactly’s customers pull this information from as many as 30 places and everything is still seamless.

This radically changes the landscape for post-sales data, just as CRM optimized the sales pipeline.

Data allows companies to target incentives to get more of what they want from reps. Just ask Cascade and Carestream Health.

To learn more about The Science of Motivating Reps, join Christopher Cabrera at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Monday, April 2.

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My Thoughts from the Sales Management 2.0 Conference

At the Sales Management 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia, I talked a lot about how automating the sales process can drive higher revenues faster and more efficiently. In fact, I continue to be amazed at the number of Sales 2.0 tools and solutions that continue to emerge to make life easier for B2B sales teams. 

I firmly believe that, to succeed, sales leaders need to constantly be experimenting with and adopting new tools for their sales teams. But do tools alone create better sales teams? Of course not. Why? Because salespeople continue to fall into the same old traps:

  • They talk all about themselves and their products and fail to uncover customer needs. 
  • They run from one opportunity to the next without consulting with their sales manager or tapping intelligence that already exists within the sales organization. 
  • They reinvent the wheel every time they need to write a proposal or reach out to a prospect. 

Inevitably the sales organizations that provide the best sales tools to make teams more effective are the ones that win more. They continually train their salespeople and help them seamlessly integrate process with technology.

At the same time, these sales leaders never lose sight of the need to train and coach sales reps on the ground-level selling skills.

No other department in any company can do what sales does; the value of its function is unique. The sales team has the rare ability to build rapport, to create relationships where none existed, and to persuade executives to make the changes and decisions that will help them run a better business.

All paths related to the sales cycle -- technology, process, selling skills -- lead to one final destination: the customer. The customer is the reason we are in business. They dictate our actions and reactions. They drive the conversation and tell us where we need to go next. 

Yet, as I told the audience on Monday at the Sales Management 2.0 Conference, only 13% of customers believe a typical salesperson can demonstrate an understanding of their business issues and solve them. This number should make every sales leader sit up and take notice. What is the level of customer understanding at your company? And what actions will you take to make sure you're in synch with their needs? 

This Thursday during a live webinar, I'll be talking about one area sales leaders can leverage to build a better sales organization: CRM. I'm excited to share ideas that can help you put the customer back where they belong: at the heart of your selling strategy. I invite you to register now for this webinar and join the conversation.

And I hope you'll consider joining me on April 2-3 in San Francisco, where I'll host the next Sales 2.0 Conference. For my money, there is no better investment of your time than to take the time to network with other sales leaders. Everyone needs consistent exposure to new ideas that can help them meet the challenges and realities of selling to today's customer. That is why I continue to dedicate my time to these events -- there's nothing I enjoy more than bouncing ideas off of other top-notch sales leaders and industry experts. There is always something new to learn about how to make a better customer experience in a digital age. 


Revamp Your Sales Pitch Today (You Might Win Big)

If you've recently attended a Sales 2.0 Event, you might remember me saying that salespeople need to "ditch the pitch!"

This is my shorthand way of saying that the audience for your sales pitch (or elevator pitch) has changed. We are currently living in a conversation economy. Buyers today don't want to talk with someone who knows nothing about their needs. The challenge for sales professionals is to find engaging ways to explain who they are, what they do, and how they can help customers and prospects -- without launching into a dull monologue or overenthusiastic babbling. 

The world of selling is moving toward collaboration and co-creation. It's time to ditch the flat, scripted sales pitch. Just as you routinely update technology, hire new and better sales reps, and renovate your sales process, you also want to give attention to your personal and professional messaging.

If you think you've got a strong sales pitch, put it to the test. Record a 60-second video in the next two days and enter to win the 2012 iMeet/Sales 2.0 Sales Pitch Contest. Winners will be announced live on Monday at the Sales Management 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia (which I'll be hosting). Prizes include an iPad2, and more.

Revamp your sales pitch today and get ready to join the conversation economy. 

BONUS: Watch this video for some of my quick tips on how you can use emotion to captivate and persuade your audience.