The way people utilize email has evolved quickly, and that means sales email techniques need to adapt as well. Just five years ago, a sales rep could write an email to a CEO and say, “You are likely not the right contact for me to be reaching out to, but could you put me in contact with the buying decision maker at your company?” and the CEO might have facilitated an introduction. However, salespeople across the globe now inundate inboxes with unsolicited messages.

This means that if you hold a decision-making position at your company you are likely stuck with the task of wading through a sea of irrelevant email daily. The consequence of this is that decision-makers are highly unlikely to respond to a salesperson’s cookie-cutter email, especially if there’s no phone follow-up.

That being said, email remains a necessary tool for sales communications, and continues to be an important element of any prospecting strategy.

The Epidemic of Mass Email

Aaron Ross, the author of Predictable Revenue, which was published in 2011, introduced automated contact strategies at a time when mass email outreach was still a fairly new technique. Then, the concept of a calculated, volume-driven approach heightened a company’s sales impact significantly. Unfortunately, over the course of five years, consumer demands and expectations have shifted, so much so that click-through rates average around 3 percent today. The amount of time and attention potential customers are willing to spend on marketing and sales emails is rapidly decreasing. 

Now more than ever, sales reps need to understand that prospects’ receptiveness to outreach will be colored by the channel it comes through. Therefore, salespeople must be strategic about when and how to send an email, as well as when it is time to take a different approach.

Salespeople are moving a hundred miles a minute, and the temptation to rely on email essentially comes down to efficiency. They have quotas to meet and assume it is easier met when casting a wide net with mass emails. However, sales is not just a numbers game, it is also about converting prospects into happy customers. Salespeople should email with purpose. If reps have a thoughtful and strategic approach towards emailing prospects, they have a better chance of connecting with a receptive audience.

4 Rules to Make the Most of your Sales Emails:  

1. Personalization: According to Aberdeen Group, personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14 percent and conversions by 10 percent.  As a salesperson, you should never send an email that does not have something tailored and specific to the recipient within the first line. Research your prospect on LinkedIn and Twitter, look at where they work to get a sense of what their needs may be prior to developing an email. From there, create a concise and personal introduction. If you’re lucky enough to have a common connection in your social or professional network, be sure to mention that in the email.

2. Ditch the clichés: Dropping someone’s name into the subject line does not equate to personalization. We have become far too accustomed to templated emails for the prominently inserted name to capture attention. Instead, it is more likely that a prospect will associate a name in the subject line with spam and completely ignore the email. In a similar vein, attempts at being “cute” with follow up techniques; such as asking individuals if they have been trampled by wildebeests to explain their unresponsiveness is worn out and can leave a negative impression.

3. Leverage a multi-channel approach: Utilizing more than one channel is one of the most effective ways to move a deal forward quickly and reliably. Be sure to send emails, but  also follow up with a phone call. It is less likely for a prospect to dismiss a phone call the way they can an email. It is also a more effective way to develop relationships with potential customers. Leveraging both channels in unison further proves to the buyer that there is a real person behind the communication, not just a bot. In fact, a study found that prospects who receive emails have a 16 percent higher chance of being reachable by phone.

4. Establish a cadence: Research has shown the optimal number of times to reach out to a buyer by email for a first connection is five. In order to remain relevant and top of mind for a prospect, those emails should be strategically spaced out, being conscientious not to overwhelm potential buyers. Prospects are busy and often being pulled in different directions, which is why striking a balance between sending initiating contact and hounding them is an art that salespeople must master.  Maintaining the approach of five well-thought-out and timely emails balances being persistent with being respectful.

Email will continue to be a key sales communication tool for the foreseeable future. However, using it effectively is a dynamic art. By sticking to the four rules outlined above when sending emails, sales reps can ensure that they are making the most out of their outreach attempts, while also building valuable relationships.

Nick Hedges is the president and CEO of Velocify and a 15 year veteran of the Internet and software as a service (SaaS) industry. Nick has spent the last seven years at Velocify helping organizations accelerate sales performance and is a widely-recognized thought leader with respect to technology’s transforming impact on the sales profession. For more on Nick visit the Velocify leadership page or follow him on Twitter.