Sales Development Reps: You’ve Got Mail

This piece is part of our series on sales development, by sales development reps.

SUBJECT: Chips, Broncos and … Beer?

Step 1: Acceptance

The biggest obstacle as an inside sales development rep is being accepted, plain and simple. And no, I’m not referring to being accepted for who you are as a person. This isn’t that kind of post.

I’m referring to getting your emails opened, calls answered, InMails accepted and so on. You know, the important stuff. The stuff we live and breathe. 

Pro tip numero uno: Do not feel entitled. There is absolutely no obligation for a VP or other decision-maker to even entertain the thought of opening your sales email, as it’s like one of 100 in their inbox at any given time.

Disclaimer: I’m not the “pro.” I just heard these things from a guy that knows a guy that claims to be a pro.

Ultimately, in order to gain acceptance, it’s crucial that your approach is unique and, quite honestly, a little weird. The subject line that kicked this whole thing off is an actual subject that I used for an email to a VP. Did it work? Absolutely.

The lead happened to be a graduate of Central Michigan University, whose alumni are referred to as Chippewas — or more colloquially, Chips. Their chief rivals are the Western Michigan University Broncos. And beer? Well, it is college football. The point is, these are things that she cares about and that are relevant to her. So she responded.

Step 2: Approvalyou've got mail

Okay, so you’re in. You’re feeling good. Yesware and Salesforce are telling you that your prospect already opened your email multiple times. Happy ears set in. Refreshing your email every 10 seconds. Maybe nothing else gets done for hours because you’re so consumed with the possibility of receiving a response to your cleverly crafted subject line.

Don’t do that. Your boss won’t be happy with you for being unproductive or me for enabling you.

Most importantly, understand that while it’s a crucial piece of successful outreach, your job has only just begun.

First instinct tells you that as long as you can get in the door, they’re likely going to invite you to stay for dinner. Wrong. Once you’re in, don’t sell right away. No one honestly likes a salesman, and I say that as a salesperson, myself.

Build off what gained their attention in the first place. They went to a school that you’re familiar with — have friends that went there, too? Mutual connections at all? Simply have knowledge of the topic that you’re referencing? Expand on that. Show them that you’ve spent time researching their role, interests outside of work and past history, as it’s available to you.

Pro tip numero dos: Stick to what you can find on LinkedIn or their company website. Twitter can also be acceptable if you’re getting the vibe that they like to post about their career. Facebook is likely off limits for references in outreach, as it’s a bit more personal and intrusive to speak on that. Don’t be creepy.

The intent of the first few sentences in your email should be used to gain their approval. Show them you care. Show them you spent time on them. Show them they matter. Their approval is vital in getting to the third step.

Step 3: Conversion

I bet you thought all three of these steps would start with an “A,” didn’t you? Of course they don’t, because that’s way too cliché and that’s the exact opposite approach that I’m trying to get you to take with your outreach. I practice what I preach.

So you’ve accomplished steps one and two. You’re friends now. You’re in the door and eating dinner. It’s a good one, too. Nothing is gluten free. So many carbs, because carbs are awesome. Breadsticks from Olive Garden, salad from a good salad place, some top-notch pasta with a perfectly cooked filet on the side.

I hope I got that point across effectively, and you’re hungry now.

Dinner is great, but the real goal is to get invited back again. In the sales world, this would be getting that discovery set up, proposal sent out, demo scheduled, or whatever else your role aspires to accomplish.

This is all done during table talk at dinner. In order to convert this new friend of yours into something more meaningful, you MUST… and I repeat MUST… bring value to the table. Tell them how your other friends (AKA clients) have flourished since becoming “friends” with you. Throw in some numbers. Success stories. Data. Statistics. People love numbers, despite how much they tell you that they hate math.

Everyone hates math.

Pro tip numero tres: Keep the email concise and to the point, similar to this pro tip.

Drumroll please…

Step 4: Close

You’ve made it this far and let me tell you: I’m impressed. Now close out your email with a simple one liner and call-to-action.

“Are you available to connect next Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.?” will suffice.

Last, but certainly not least, hit the send button and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Sales changes rapidly as new social platforms and methods of outreach are introduced. It’s easy to fall into the habit of using boring templates and standard outreach and, well, maybe that works for you. Do you.

I could write all day about the benefits of being personal, creative, taking risks and most importantly, keeping your messaging weird to get attention. Unfortunately, our marketing team told me that I only get 1,000 words.

Sales development reps and leaders, I’ll leave you with this: Be weird. Be creative. Gain attention. Keep attention. Provide value. Sell stuff. It’s really that simple.

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