So, email prospecting, huh?
If you ever tried googling about it, you probably found yourself on a list of articles with various wonderful claims, such as “Generate warm leads fast”, “Get replies from cold mailing with X easy steps!” or “Do this and that in order to sell with cold emailing!”
But why doesn’t anyone ever tell you what NOT to do?
You know what I mean. You can find a perfect guide and follow it to the letter, but sometimes it will still blow-up in your face. Truth is that not many people like to talk about how they failed at something.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Most guides, hints and tips you can find on google are treasure-troves of good examples and experience and they can be useful, but many people and companies still won’t talk about their failures publically. Who in their right mind would?
Well, I would, and I will. For one simple reason.
Learning. If you are reading this blog, you are most likely in a similar position and state of mind as I am. You want to find out what works, you want to do it fast and you want to become good at it. But first, there are a few important steps you have to get inside your head.
- Research. Know exactly what you are “selling” in your email, or better yet, what the purpose of your email is. The exact purpose.
- Research more. Really know who you are selling to and who your target audience is. (Trust me, it’s 95% likely that you don’t know that one correctly, and that’s OK).
- Rejection. Know that most people will either not respond, or come back at you with a great big NO, in one form or the other. And that’s OK, too.
There are ways to go around that, but I will get to that later – now the failure I promised I’ll share. How I crashed and burned with email-prospecting Swedish and Finnish companies was like this:
I had some experience with cold emailing before, mostly in the B2C sector. So, selling a (what was in my mind) great product to the B2B sector should not be a problem. Every company needs what we have, so everybody should be happy about my email and the offer I’m providing. Right?
Yeah… Right. Here’s how this prospecting campaign went down for me:
- Step 1, research: I did some research, but with the notion that “every company that does sales, needs a sales tool”. Our product is an effective sales automation tool that works better than the ones I’ve used before, and the purpose of my email was to get a “yes, I want to use your product” response. Simple enough.
- Mistake 1 in this step: Competition, there are 100s of CRMs out on the web, with some offering 5% of our features, and others the full 100% in a different package. So do not ever go in thinking that you are the headliner. Ever.
- Mistake 2 in this step: The purpose of my email. The initial message was something in the sense of “We have this, it does that, do you want it?” What actually works way better is: “We have this, which companies from your sector like x y z already use to address a b and c. I figured you are a good match for us. Are you interested?”
- Step 2, who am I selling to. Anybody who has a sales team! Great, so every company that does sales. That was wrong on so many levels.
- Mistake 1 in this step: Company cultures vary a lot, depending on their country and size (and other factors).
- Mistake 2 in this step: I never asked myself “who is the ideal, best-case customer?”. After some time (2 months) we came to realize that our ideal target is not everybody, but instead small to medium companies, who are actively selling to the B2B-B2G sector and are looking for an effective sales management platform or a replacement to their existing one.
- Rejection. I got a lot of replies to my emails. And the numbers grew as I figured out which subject lines work best and how to write a proper body-text. But most of the replies were “No, we are covered”, “Not now, we do other things” or simply “Thanks, but we don’t need it”.
- Mistake 1 in this step: I went with the answers for a while, without having a proper objection-handling document ready. That was a major mistake.
- Mistake 2 in this step: What does really qualify as success in cold-mailing? Any reply, a positive reply, a conversion? My idea of success here was different from my CEO, and others, as well. So, since I did not really have a reference of how bad the replies actually are, I did not really notice that I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Now to the main course. Finland and Sweden.
Ah, the Nordic countries. Visited both, and loved it. Great people, although somewhat reserved and cold at first, lovely cities, beautiful nature and all around, a wonderful experience.
My assumption was:”They have great companies, they sell things, surely they need us.”
But they did not. Companies have to be organised in order to work effectively. In these cases, they were already super organised. I did get a lot of replies, yet most of them let me knew that they are either already covered with a CRM for years and do not plan to change, OR that they have their own. Some even went as far as telling me “we will consider your offer and get back to you in a few months”.
It took me 3-4 weeks to clearly see the whole picture. Selling our SAAS to such a country, without any formal introductions from insiders, is really, really hard. After 7-8 follow-ups (still rolling out) there are some more interested replies, but, all in all, it’s a drop of water in an ocean.
Countries like Poland and Spain, for example, are a completely different story. The general open rate is not as high, but they reply more often. And with more interest. It would seem that the implementation process for a sales CRM in these countries is at a later company maturity stage, when compared to Sweden or Finland.
So, with this information, I am probing, slowly and politely around the countries in Europe, to find which stage the company has to be in in order to match our product and which country is the best fit for us.
Of course there are many other ways I could address this issue, but I take the cold-calling approach once I see that there is interest from the other side.
To sum it up.
- Do your research.
- Never assume. Assumption is the mother of all f….ups.
- Look at the bigger picture, not only what’s in front of you. And by bigger picture I mean get so far away from the picture, that you’re looking at the house where that picture is in. From the outside.