Check Your Email

By Peter L DeHaan

How do you regard email? Is it something that you can’t live without, a necessary evil, or somewhere in between? Recently I sent out an email to 156 salespeople to update and verify some information that they had submitted. This information was to be printed in a listing that would help connect potential buyers with my customers. There was no charge for the listing.

Several of those messages bounced back immediately, with varying types of unresolvable error messages. Several more came back after four days of trying. To their credit, some people responded immediately or the next day. After a week, I sent a follow-up email to those who I hadn’t heard from yet. A few additional addresses were undeliverable with this second round.

With both mailings, I received many “out-of-office” messages. Few of them were of the “out on a sales call” variety, but rather, they were the “on vacation for two weeks” type. This would not be alarming, if not for the fact that I had sent my message to email addresses that had been posted for sales inquires.

The end result was that of 156 originally contacts, thirteen (8.3%) were bad email addresses, eighty (51.3%) were apparently good, working email addresses, but no one bothered to respond, and only sixty-three answered, either to confirm or update their listing. Remember, this was not a list that I bought or harvested, but rather the result of self-submitted email addresses from people who wanted to be contacted. This was an astoundingly poor 40.4% response rate.

Can you imagine if someone were that apathetic about their telephone number? The analogy would be that on 8% of call attempts the caller would receive a “nonworking number” recording or a busy signal, 51% would ring but never be answered, and only a scant 40% would be answered by a person and responded to. With a track record like that, how long do you think a company could stay in business?

Before you criticize me for implying that email is a comparably critical comparison to the telephone, I need to point out that email is the default communication channel for an increasing number of people – especially the younger generation, who are rapidly becoming the decision makers at your prospects’ offices.

If you desire more sales for your company, the simple solution might be to check your email.

Start with Your Website: Firstly, you need a Website. I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again, if your company doesn’t have a Website you won’t be taken seriously. Once you have a site, check it periodically to make sure it is still there and working. Sites can go down (usually temporarily, sometimes permanently), pages can get deleted, links break, domain names become pointed to the wrong place – or to nowhere – and on and on.

Keep Track of Your Email Addresses: You need to assign an email administrator who keeps track of all email addresses that your company uses. This includes both the ones to individuals (such as Peter@PeterDeHaan.com), as well as general purpose ones (for example, Webmaster@PeterDeHaan.com). When an employee leaves, don’t just deactivate their email address, but have it forwarded to the email administrator so that important messages can be received and routed to the proper person.

Test Your Email Addresses: Once you’ve accounted for all your email addresses, they must be periodically checked to make sure they are working. This is especially true of department and company-wide addresses. Also, carefully test all of those email addresses that have an auto-response message or are forwarded to another mailbox. Both of these situations are prime areas for problems to occur – and can easily remain undetected for a long time.  The most critical email addresses to check are those that are published. This includes those listed on your Website; printed in ads, directories, and listings; and posted online on other Websites. These should be tested daily. This testing can be automated – just make sure someone is faithfully checking the logs to ensure the program is running and the errors are being addressed.

Develop a Vacation Policy: A policy needs to be established for staff email when they are on vacation. Short of having employees check their email while gone (a requirement that I would discourage), an auto-response message is the minimal expectation. This message must provide the name, number, and email address of a qualified alternate contact. A preferred approach would be to not inconvenience the client or prospect and simply have someone check the vacationing staff’s email account for time critical and urgent communiqués. (This is an excellent reason to keep business and personal email separate. Just as you don’t want personal email encroaching on the business hours, it is wise to keep business email from detracting from personal time.)

Heighten the Importance of Email: With any mission critical technology, there are backup options, contingency plans, notification procedures, and escalation steps. The same needs to occur with email.

Verify Your Sales Staff: Up until now, I have addressed the technical side of email. The human side, however, should not be discounted. Left unchecked, salespeople can become lackadaisical, forget to check email, or merely delete any lead that doesn’t sound like a sure thing. This is only remedied through diligent monitoring and verification.

So the answer to the commonly asked question, “How can I get more sales”? may be as simple as “Check your email!”

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