It's a modern sales dilemma: Do you let (or even make) your sales reps send cold emails? It's a legitimate question. Email is an easy way to reach A LOT of people in a very short period of time. Especially today with the proliferation of marketing automation tools and sales lead generators, it's an enticing option to be able to communicate en masse to potential leads.

It happens to me countless times each week. I get an unsolicited email from somebody that works for a legitimate company that's trying to sell me something. I'm sure it happens to you too. What's the big deal if I just ignore the message and go about my day? Even if one out of every 100 recipients responds, that's not bad, right? Especially when you're playing a numbers game.

It must work, right? Why would people continue doing something that has such a high likelihood of pissing off so many people if it didn't work?

First, that argument will never hold water. People continue doing things that don't work all the time. They're either too lazy to do it the right way or to go through the trouble of measuring the results of their efforts and testing multiple approaches to continuously improve. Second, how we define what "works" is extremely important.

The numbers game is a very short-sighted outlook on the ramifications of this approach. Let's just pretend that the one-in-100 number is correct for now (in reality, I feel like it's probably even less, but this is just an exercise). If you think that number is pretty good, let's assume you're a growing company with a great new product. For every 1,000 emails you send to qualified candidates, you gain 10 new clients. With the tools available to us today that's a pretty easy mark to hit as long as you can keep feeding the pipeline.

Unfortunately, a 1% conversion rate is (generally speaking) terrible. Once churn starts to set in, it's going to be hard to feed that pipeline with new, qualified leads.

But the real damage is what you did to the other 99%. Think about what really happens when I (and 98 of my counterparts) get your cold sales email. It doesn't just get passed by and forgotten. I have to sift through hundreds of emails a day as it is and have a hard enough time responding to the ones that are important, let alone deal with ones from people I don't know nor trust. Do I want to take the chance that I have to sort through all of your automated follow-up emails too? Report spam, block sender ... every time.

Now, not only did I report the spam, but I'm also never going to get any of your emails again. Let's say something happens a year later and I come across your product/service/company on my own or through one of your marketing efforts. I submit a request for a demo and you send me an email that goes straight into my spam folder and gets lost forever. That promising lead is now gone because you (apparently) never thought it was important enough to follow up on.

And that's not to mention the domain blacklist potential of this approach that will get ALL of your company's emails marked as spam.

Email has changed a lot over the years. Most people use email the same way they use a chat platform these days. It's caused a huge increase in the volume of email we receive while at the same time decreasing the quality of each of those emails. Add in massive amounts of spam and unsolicited emails like your cold sales emails and you can how the value proposition of email has declined over the years.

So what is a sales organization to do? Be creative! Cold email is lazy and your prospects know it. Once we have a relationship established it's a convenient way to communicate, but until then, find a way to engage me.

Putting aside some of the content marketing and social media marketing tactics that are available to bring customers to you and looking at a strict outside sales approach, there are a lot of things you can try. Our sales reps mail out articles and phsyical letters to prospects that are relevant to their industry to break the ice and get them to take a phone call.

One of the most creative approaches I've seen recently was a rep that shipped me a large RC helicopter with no controller. Inside was a custom printed note that said he would bring the control unit to our first meeting if I could give him 15 minutes to see if our businesses were a good fit. I liked the approach so much I had him come in just to see the rest of his presentation and find out what I could learn from him!

Be creative, be aggressive, be persistent yet professional, and realize that a rep with a 10% conversion rate that only has time to contact 10 people is better than a rep with a 1% conversion rate that reaches 100 because the former leaves 90 qualified leads for the organization to convert.

Photo: Flickr | Michael Hicks

Chris Searles is President of Searles Media and specializes in helping small businesses maximize their available resources to market themselves effectively using a wide variety of media. Visit Website

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