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Does Email Tracking Signal the End of the Cold Call Era?

Does Email Tracking Signal the End of the Cold Call Era?Sometimes the best indicators of where things are headed at the intersection of business and technology are our own evolving habits and processes as employees. As 2013 winds to a close, I’ve noticed a trend: the shrinking number of outbound phone calls in my CRM activity log from month to month.

It wasn’t too long ago–maybe even just a few years–that it was unthinkable that a professional salesperson could be effective at their job without constantly being on the phone. Even today, the status quo for the vast majority of B2B salespeople is “phone first, email follow up”. And while that practice has been generally accepted as a sales strategy for some time, it increasingly seems to be yielding diminishing returns.

With email having all but taken over as the default B2B communication method, especially for pre-sales conversations, phone calls increasingly seem to feel like more hassle than they’re worth. This is especially true for cold calls.

Phone Conversations Still Matter

 

What email has really done is shift when a phone conversation is necessary and appropriate in the sales cycle.

I’m not advocating or implying that sales can or should be done without ever speaking on the phone to a prospect or customer. I think talking to a live human being in real time is just as important today as it has been ever since people started doing business over the phone. It’s more than talking, it’s building a relationship.

However, as online marketing methods and tools become more sophisticated, and with the advent of click tracking, email read notifications, and a variety of other notification systems built into CRM and marketing automation products, the limitations of cold calling a prospect stand out quite starkly.

What email has really done is shift when a phone conversation is necessary and appropriate in the sales cycle.

Email Metrics and Strategic Communication

There are some very serious limitations to how a salesperson can measure the success of a phone call. There’s no way to monitor or be notified if someone listens to a voicemail message, what kind of impression it made on them, or if that person is worth following up with. Really, the only feedback that a salesperson gets from voicemail is if they get a call back; and how often does that happen with cold calls?

With email, there is now a wide variety of tools to assist with monitoring and measuring the impact of the messages you send. At the most basic level, most enterprise CRM systems have some kind of built-in tool for monitoring email opens or “reads”. One caveat is that for tracking to work, emails must be sent in HTML format, not as plain text.

Standalone tools like Yesware and Streak integrate directly with Gmail to enable a host of tracking and engagement metrics that allow salespeople to adjust their messaging in meaningful ways. In addition, marketing automation software like HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot have very sophisticated tracking and reporting tools that allow online marketers to trigger all sorts of custom and automated responses based on different types of email engagement.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

 

What utilizing email tracking really means for a salesperson is helping them prioritize their efforts based on measurable data, which is the way everything is moving these days.

So, what exactly should be done with all this new email functionality? What practical, nuts-and-bolts use can a salesperson get from it? What utilizing email tracking really means for a salesperson is helping them prioritize their efforts based on measurable data, which is the way everything is moving these days.

If a salesperson is looking at two prospects, one to whom they’ve sent a couple email messages with no response, and another who opened one email, and clicked an embedded link and watched a video or read a blog post in another email, the salesperson has a clear indication of which prospect is more engaged.

In addition, a lack of engagement with a salesperson’s emails allows the salesperson to (if they’re smart) adjust the messages they’re sending to be more enticing to a prospect. If email opens are at one or two percent, and responses or clicks are minimal or non-existent, it’s probably a good indicator that the messaging needs to be changed.

By contrast, if a salesperson leaves a hundred voicemails and gets little to no response, there’s no real way to identify the reason for no responses.

A Measured Response

Like any other tool, digital or otherwise, email tracking is something that should be utilized in a thoughtful way. It’s important for salespeople to make sure that prospects that are engaging with the material they’re being sent don’t feel like they’re being tracked and monitored, but rather thoughtfully attended to and valued.

If as salesperson or team can master that fine line, the benefits of having a measurable, flexible, and trackable email program for communicating with prospects may far outweigh those of cold calling.

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