When I started in sales I had a Dictaphone. I dictated sales letters and memos into a handheld microphone. They were recorded on a floppy plastic belt. Alexander Graham Bell invented the technology and owned the company, also named Dictaphone. It was founded in 1879.
American salespeople have been communicating with prospects since the turn of the century. I can still remember typewriters and carbon paper, but only vaguely.
Today we use email and texts, instant communication with spell check. Who knows what we will use in 50 years — maybe telepathy. That’s scary. Here are some ideas about using email more effectively, both for your own time management and as a communication tool.
First, email can drive your life. Salespeople get many emails, and it can be both a distraction and an excuse not to do more difficult and important things.
So one rule you should follow, if you can, is to read an email once and act on it. The reasons are obvious. Going back takes time, filing takes time, searching later to respond or act takes time. You will be surprised how much time you save with this rule: “Read once and act.”
A second tip is to forget about personal folders. They are time-consuming and unnecessary. They are old school, with few exceptions. Rely on searching for research or follow-up. It is quicker and more efficient. By the way, searching can be done using so much more than just a name. Learn all the searches possible on your email system and use them.
Another idea is time blocking. Customer service demands that we respond quickly. However, ask yourself if an instant response is required or if a one-hour, eight-hour or 24-hour response is adequate.
The national average for salespeople is 34 percent of our time is spent in front of or on the phone with prospects. One of the reasons is that most of us are reading and answering our emails. I turned off the sound on my email notification. I try to wait two hours minimum between checking email or texts. If the subject line tells me it can wait, I do not open it until day’s end. Every possible minute between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. should be spent with prospects, not writing or answering emails.
Finally, delegate and delete whenever possible. This means forward emails to the responsible party (they can read; they do not need an explanation). Delete spam and irrelevant emails immediately. Why even open them?
These tips may add up to a couple of hours a week, maybe more. Just ask yourself, “What is my time worth?”
On the other side, we mercilessly send emails out to our prospects. Here are some things I would recommend. Touch prospects by email like you would want to be touched. The golden rule works here as well. Follow this rule: “Be attentive, do not be a pest.”
Use the subject line wisely. It is the first thing we see, so it better grab our attention. Really give it some thought before you send it. By the same token, the first line should grab your prospect’s attention. Come straight to the point. Do not ask meaningless questions. Overall, be as direct as possible.
The above rules really apply if your email is to someone you have never met. Blind emails work, but only if you follow the above rules and you have a compelling message.
As sales professionals, we must use email. In 2015, commit to be the best user of email on the planet. It is a fantastic tool for the serious professional.