4 Email Strategies for B2B Sales

4 Email Strategies for B2B Sales

I worked on an email strategy with a salesperson we’ll call Jack. Jack sold enterprise software to financial institutions.

Jack was great in a meeting. He knew his solution backward and forward. He almost did as well as the sales support staff. In some cases, he was better because he knew how to read a room. He had great people skills.

His problem? Not enough meetings.

If Jack got a meeting, he did a great job converting. His conversion rates were quite high – especially compared to his team. But he had a hard time getting a first meeting.

I asked Jack how he got the few meetings he did get and they were through connections or partner channels, but almost never directly. He tried cold calling into his prospects, but it wasn’t working well.

I asked about email strategies. He said he sent introductory emails, but he admitted he didn’t have much of an email strategy.

That’s not much of a surprise; many sales coaches note the poor use of email. There are a lot of things we can do to improve our email strategy – like Jaime Slutzky’s post on her 4 recommendations.

4 Email Strategies

I walked Jack through the four basic email strategies for B2B sales. They break down across two dimensions: effort and content.

Effort: Some emails are crafted by hand. You write them yourself, and even if you include some boilerplate copy, you make sure the overall content fits the recipient and you control the timing and content personally. These are manual emails. Automated emails, are of course, mass mailed and although they may contain some basic personalization like name, they are generally sent to a group of recipients.

Content: Emails that are not focused on a particular sales offer, but simply build a relationship or educate a prospect are at the “soft” end of the content scale. When your email contains a specific offer and call-to-action, they are “hard” content, or sales offers.

These two dimensions create four basic email strategies.

  • “Care and Feeding”: automated and relationship based.
  • “Qualified Call-To-Action”: automated and sales-oriented.
  • “Networking”: manual and relationship based.
  • “Direct Outreach”: manual and sales-oriented.

To be clear, I’m not addressing the use of email for regular correspondence, such as negotiating contract terms, scheduling meetings, or such logistics. I’m focusing on email strategies as sales tools. There are a number of other tactics you can use to achieve sales traction. I address them here in my LinkedIn article.

In addition, I refer to email automation, but don’t address that here directly. Here is a good source for some thoughts on automation.

Care and Feeding Email Strategy

Your sales approach needs an email strategy to handle early stage, and unqualified leads. Here, by unqualified, I mean you haven’t identified a particular sales opportunity yet enough to craft a proposal.

These prospects need a weekly (at least) communication from your company that teaches them what they need to know about the problem you solve – and the problem you suspect they have. Not your solution; their problem.

These emails should not mention your solution except in passing. These emails generally fall into a few basis categories:

  • Information about the relevant business environment
  • Answers to questions a typical prospect might have
  • Case studies and testimonials that demonstrate end value (not how great you are, but how much better off the customer is)
  • General interest announcements like events you are holding or important company news
  • Educational material focused on making your prospects job/life easier

Don’t be tempted to throw in a hard sale line in these emails. They should be pure value.

And of course, because they are simply building relationships over time, they’re not important enough for you to craft for your prospects individually. This should be automated and sent out to a general group of prospects who have opted in to receive news and information from you.

If you want to employ an advanced “care and feeding” email strategy, create an multi-part educational course and deliver it via email.

Qualified Call-To-Action Email Strategy

The qualified call-to-action email strategy is an automated email which contains a specific call-to-action to generate sales activity. It doesn’t have to (and often won’t) be your “big sale.”  These emails should come no more than monthly and are directed to mid-stage, qualified prospects.

The qualified call-to-action should entice a specific action that moves the sales process along for the prospect. If you have a simple sales process, this may be the same for everyone. But it’s best to have a segmented email list and send out different actions for different types of prospects.

For example, often in B2B sales, we do a needs analysis before a proposal. For those prospects that haven’t had a needs analysis, the call-to-action might be for them to complete that step. If you provide client education as part of the process, your call-to-action might be for the prospect to have a workshop with you.

Here are some ideas for B2B calls-to-action:

  • Educational workshop held at the client site
  • Complimentary needs analysis
  • Purchase of a white paper or e-book
  • Customized software demonstration
  • Free consultation with subject matter experts

In any case, it’s critical for good email strategies that you define your next best action with prospect segments and present the call-to-action that fits.

Important Note: In both of the above email strategies, the prospect has explicitly given permission for you to mass email them. These email strategies are not for prospects who you might have a relationship with (e.g. you have their business card), but have not opted-in to an email campaign.

Networking Email Strategy

Networking email strategies are for those prospects who are unqualified prospects with whom you have some relationship. For example, this category would include colleagues you met at a conference or potential leads you picked up at a trade show. These emails are “soft”, relationship-building content and are manually crafted and personalized for each recipient.

In these cases, you have not yet identified whether or not there is a sales opportunity and you are in the relationship building stage.

Michael Port’s New York Times #1 best-selling book Book Yourself Solid has some great ideas on creating a networking email strategy. Michael suggests you create a group of 90 with whom you should network. He suggests half be prospective customers and half be other professional colleagues. Email several of these group each day. The content of the emails should vary. Here are some of Michael’s suggestions:

  • Introduce two people in your network who do not know each other, but should.
  • Share content you find across the web that may be of interest to someone in your network.
  • Congratulate someone for the work they have done, something they wrote, or an award they won.
  • Just say thank you.

The trick to having an effective networking email strategy is consistency. We often implement this email strategy, but don’t do it often enough to see the benefits. If you have a network of 90, and you email 3 – 5 a day, each person should be contacted roughly monthly.

Direct Outreach Email Strategy

Reaching out to a prospect via email with a well-crafted sales message can be a powerful tool. It can also easily be ignored.

The Direct Outreach email strategy is a hand-written email with a strong sales orientation for early-stage, but qualified leads. To keep your direct outreach email from being ignored, follow these simple rules:

  • Do not “over-contact” the prospect. Probably, no more than monthly for early-stage B2B sales.
  • Individualize each email with information that demonstrates you know something about the prospect.
  • Include a strong “What’s In It For Me” message, tailored to the individual conditions and problems of the prospect.
  • End with a compelling call-to-action, with authentic urgency, to encourage the prospect to take action on the email.

In order to execute this email strategy correctly, you will have to do serious research on each prospect before writing the email. The more you can connect it to specific events in the business, the more likely you will be able to get the prospect’s attention.

Craft a value proposition that delivers on your one big result in language that connects with the prospect’s urgent needs. Then, unless there’s another good option, close to a phone call with your prospect so you can continue with the sales process.

Executing on These Email Strategies

I cover these email strategies, and much more in my Re-Launch strategic program. In 90-days, we cover the entire four-module course and then go to work on the issues we’ve surfaced. My strategy clients experience significant revenue growth in the first year by addressing messaging, product, marketing, and sale execution. Click here for more information about the Re-Launch strategic program.