Hotline Bling: You Used to Contact Me on the Telephone

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It’s always been a hot debate: is it better to contact a prospect over the phone, or through email? Different companies and projects see varying results in the response rate of phone versus email communication. While there is no right answer, emails do tend to leave out some of the more important aspects of sales: live conversations and building relationships.

While some people have taken to creating more targeted emails for individual prospects, a large majority of sales teams send out general and mass emails – relying more on the quantity of contacts rather than quality of discussions and connections. Going through email means that more people can be reached, and therefore it’s more likely to elicit a response.

In general, emails allow you to asses a prospect’s interest level in a less invasive way. It also gives your prospect ample time to research you and your company before formulating a response. Giving them this time should prompt them to respond with a more thoughtful and planned out answer. It also allows you to more effectively relay value and product information, and gives you ample time to research the account and prospect. However, it’s far harder to address any misunderstandings of a product over email.

For example, a prospect might just respond to you that they are “not interested” – a common email response. On the phone it’s much easier to push the prospect to explain why they aren’t interested, and elaborate on the value of your product. Getting any extra qualitative information is always valuable, and is much easier to grab over the phone. With the prospect who responds “not interested” it’s much harder to get them to open up in an email, especially one that sends such a curt response in the first place! In this case the opportunity of gaining more qualitative information is lost because the medium of communication is email rather than phone.

Sales relationships are built from actively listening to a prospect and offering a solution to address their pains and needs. Understanding the tone that accompanies what they are saying is just as important as what they are actually saying, something that can be easily misconstrued in an email. Furthermore, prospects buy from people that they like and trust. This relationship is created over the phone, when the prospect is able to assess the likability of the caller (again, typically based on the tone). The trend here is that building a relationship starts with a live conversation, and that requires you to pick up the phone and dial away.

Emails allow for more control over the conversation, and empowers members of a sales team to fully think through their response before reaching back out – especially if you don’t have a technical understanding of what you are actually selling. Phone calls cannot be planned out as well as emails, but allow for quick and more natural responses. By picking up the phone, you to stand out. You’re personality and tone allow for your message to command more attention, rather than just relying on a subject line in your email to get noticed.

Emails are a valuable tool when prospecting, but they can’t be the only tool you use. While picking up the phone might be more challenging, in the end a live conversation can yield far more value.


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