Once upon a time, in a prosperous kingdom far, far away, the local monarch’s beautiful daughter, Princess Kylie, was bored with all the marriage proposal letters she received each day from potential suitors in neighbouring lands.
Every morning Gwen, her lady-in-waiting, would leave another pile of 20 or 30 on her bedside table. Princess Kylie would sit back against her pillows, munching a piece of toast and yawning as she peremptorily glanced at and dismissed missive after missive.
“I would be honoured if you would consider being my wife.” wrote Prince Wayne.
“You are the world’s most beautiful and gracious woman.” wrote Prince Kev.
“My heart is yours.” declared Prince Norm.
Princess Kylie’s petulance would rise within her.
“Can’t they just leave me alone?” she sighed.
On the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Princess Kylie awoke to a very different experience. She opened her eyes as she heard, from outside her window, what she believed was the most beautiful sound she had ever encountered – the voice of a young man singing, accompanied by the delicate notes of a lute.
“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. If we marry, I’ll love you … and I’ll sing to you too.”
Princess Kylie was intrigued. She climbed out of bed and moved to the window. In the courtyard below, she saw the familiar figure of Prince Gary, the heir to the throne of another coastal kingdom near to hers. He had ridden overnight to be here at this time.
The princess had seen photos of Prince Gary before, and the words of his song were no more inspired or inspiring than those of the many written proposals she had received. However, his voice was warm and reassuring. His tone was confident and slightly cheeky. She also appreciated the fact that he had taken the trouble to sing to her in person rather than just send a letter …
Despite her practiced negative attitude to suitors, Princess Kylie sensed feelings of genuine affection stirring in her heart.
To cut a long story short, Prince Gary found and used the key to winning both the woman of his dreams and increased riches. He had the courage to engage with Princess Kylie on a personal level rather than simply relying, like all the others, on an impersonal written letter.
When you seek new business, are you like most of your competitors, sending out emails and hoping for the best? Are your customers, like Princess Kylie, not even reading the messages you send? How do you know when sending an email is an effective course of action and when it’s not? How do you know when to give up, and to pick up the telephone and engage your customers in a personal conversation?
When is email a good idea?
Communicating with prospective or existing customers through email is essentially a form of marketing, not selling. It’s a useful tactic that can let customers know your brand exists. It’s a poor selling and relationship-building tool.
Business people often expect their emails to achieve way too much. They want their emails to:
- Introduce customers to their company, products and services
- Persuade customers to give up an hour, or more, of their time to meet with a visiting salesperson
- Demonstrate all the benefits and features of their products or services
- Describe how and why their products or services are different, and better, than those offered by competitors
- Present responses to objections they anticipate customers may have
- Increase any positive feelings that customers may have about them, their company, their brand and their products or services.
This is more work than one humble little email can handle. We’ve all received emails like this. They contain a plethora of information about the sender, including the kitchen sink. We’ve all deleted most of them before reading beyond the opening line.
When you send an email, it should be no more than a teaser or a reminder – something that might simply generate a spark of curiosity. It’s not a viable alternative to a genuine, relationship-building, human conversation. If your email occasionally convinces a customer to hit the reply button to learn a bit more, that’s a wonderful result. You may have the initial spark of a dialogue. In most cases, however, even this is too big an expectation.
Hope for much more and you’ll almost certainly be disappointed.
When should you pick up the phone?
Emailing is useful for marketing, but a conversation (either face-to-face or, more often these days, over the phone) is the real sales tool. Selling begins, and marketing ends, when you have a real conversation with your customer.
Conversations are personal
Engaging over the phone helps you understand your customer’s genuine problems and opportunities. Only then can you legitimately present your solution.
Conversations save time
You can communicate more in a ten-minute phone call than you can in a dozen emails.
Conversations are a two-way exchange
Allows you to engage with a customer in a discussion that considers multiple needs and intentions.
Conversations enable you to hear the real objections
Once you have uncovered the real objections, you have the opportunity to overcome those objections by providing logical, relevant responses to those objections.
Conversations are human.
You can express your unique personality during a phone call in a way that isn’t possible through email. You can also gain an understanding of your customer’s unique personality, motivations, wants and needs.
Conversations enable you to close a sale.
No matter how well written your email may be, it’s unlikely that you’ll convince a customer to commit to a buying decision, particularly if you’re selling high-value products or services.
Conversations enable you to build a real relationship with your customer.
Keeping the love alive
The happy epilogue of our tale is that Prince Gary and Princess Kylie enjoyed a successful, loving royal marriage for many, many years. In fact, in their old age, when they were King Gary and Queen Kylie, their devotion to each other was as intense as it had been on the day of their wedding.
King Gary even told his grandchildren that the secret to his happy relationship with their grandmother was that he continued to sing to his bride every morning. From time to time he would also send romantic love letters to her, but these were secondary to his personal serenade.
Likewise, once you have developed a comfortable business relationship, it’s a mistake to believe your customer will continue to feel the love if you rely on email communication only.
Don’t forget to pick up the phone and call long-term customers
- Ask them if their circumstances have changed.
- Provide an update on your business, your products and your services.
- Inform them of your company’s progress or improvements
- Uncover any other ways you could help them with any of your other products or services.
Developing a personal business relationship doesn’t just help you acquire customers at the beginning – it can also help you retain them over the long term.
Making the call
Email is an important business support tool, but it doesn’t close sales.
Next time you’re tempted to send an email to a customer with whom you’d like to establish, build and maintain a relationship, consider picking up the phone and making that call instead. Connect on a personal level in a way that’s not possible when you rely on the written word only.
Sing into your beloved customer’s ear and, like Prince Gary, win the prosperity that your new relationship will bring.
I really appreciate that you are reading my post. I regularly write about business-to-business selling, lead generation, business communication and trends.
Managing Director, Forrest Marketing Group