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Email as a sales tool

August 4, 2009

Email strategies are usually seen as the domain of the marketer and are often viewed as a way to enhance a company’s profile over the long term. In many ways however, email marketing is actually more akin to the sales process and should be as integral to the sales team as it is to marketing. In this article we explore some of the ways in which email can be used to enhance selling opportunities and ultimately to increase sales.

What do we mean when we say that email marketing is more like sales than it is marketing? Email marketing is usually compared to direct mail rather than selling, after all there are obvious similarities between a direct mail letter and an email message. A more detailed look at the sales process however throws up some interesting comparisons that are all too often ignored.


The first step in the selling process is targeting a particular market or market sector. It might be an area where the company already does good business or a new sector currently under-served or where competitors are weak. Once a viable sector is established the next stage is to try and talk to the people within the companies identified. Initial discussions should show that budget, time-scales etc are reasonable and negotiations towards the best solution or the right product can commence. The planning and implementation process of an email campaign is just the same: target, identify and be creative.

Intelligence Gathering

Email isn’t just like the sales process though – it can actually make those initial stages of intelligence gathering much easier to complete. For example at Extravision we recently ran a campaign for a financial investment company - the purpose of the exercise was to find out more information about prospects’ interests so that the sales team could offer the right range of products and services (of which they had many). A series of newsletters were planned in advance in consultation with the Sales Director.

The first included three articles about UK, US and European funds, customers usually only clicked on one of the three articles, suggesting that this was their primary interest. The following month’s newsletter was based around high, medium and low risk investment strategies, while the third was based on investment strategies of differing values.

At the end of the third month the company had profiles of its prospects' interests and could segment them very specifically, for example: European, high risk with over £100,000 to invest, or UK, low risk with £10,000 to invest etc. This allowed the sales teams to cut out the time consuming task of getting the information from the customer and enabled them to develop a sales technique that was driven by intelligence rather than guess work.

Information feed

Email marketing doesn’t just help at the beginning of the sales process but should be used throughout as a way to feed a series of messages to educate the customer over time. Combining email with calls from sales staff can be a good way to disguise frequency and to remind the prospective customer of the sales offer without overstepping the mark.

Serial emails are a particularly useful tactic to use in b2b sales, where products tend to be more complicated and the lead-time longer. Serial email campaigns such as the one discussed above can be used to not only to gain intelligence on the customer, but to feed product knowledge to the customer in an easily digestible format.

Optimising the message and timing 

Finally, just as with the sales process, you often have only a small window of opportunity to get your point across – so it had better be the right one. Optimising the message content and delivery time so that the message is opened takes some customer knowledge and some email savvy. Just as the timing of a sales call can make all the difference; the timing of an email is also crucial. What you say and how you say it is also important. Email is a very personal form of communication – too formal a message style will put the prospect off, the more personal, and personalised the better. This month’s article on timing offers some good tips.

Winning the sale 

When led by the marketing department, the success of most email campaigns is measured purely in terms of click-throughs. This means that many companies are missing out on the opportunity to arm their sales teams with a powerful tool. As any sales person knows, there are many points in the process at which a sale can be lost. Properly used, email can enhance the chances of making sure that it is won.

If you need any more information, please email [email protected]sion.com or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Paul Latham

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