Rhythm and Schmooze: Phone First, Email Later

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  • Call it a cadence. Or call it a sequence. Either way, timing is everything when it comes to prospecting. Your sales call cadence is your secret weapon.
  • Sales pro and bestselling author Jeb Blount’s mantra is “default to the phone.” That’s the best way to communicate with potential clients. Email and social media are secondary.
  • You can use email to your advantage, but your messages must be personalized and provide value.
sales activities

Hey Google, what’s a computer’s favorite beat?

An algo-rhythm

Pardon the dad joke. But this conversation is all about keeping pace –– using technology to help us, but not depending on it to do the work.

On an episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, bestselling author, OutBound co-founder and all-around sales rockstar Jeb Blount digs deep into one of his favorite subjects: prospecting sequences, and the best ways to use them.

He’s passionate about it because he sees so many reps make mistakes that alienate, instead of engage, their prospects. Often, it’s because their rhythm is waaay off.

The good news is that you don’t have to play drums, tap dance, whip, or nae nae. But you do have to pick up the phone. Here’s Jeb’s advice –– it’s about time. 

No excuses: Pick up the damn phone

Nobody talks on the phone. What’s voicemail? 

Those are excuses, Jeb says –– from reps who are “afraid to have conversations with other human beings.”

His not-so-secret “top secret” to sales success? The more people you talk to, human-to-human, the more stuff you’ll sell. 

“Last time I checked, you can’t talk to somebody on an email,” Jeb adds. “And by the way, if you can sell stuff over email, your company doesn’t need you. They can hire a robot to do your job.”

Dial up and break it down

When it comes to cadences, the biggest mistake reps make is beginning a sequence with an email instead of a phone call. 

“And mostly emails that suck,” says Jeb, “rather than just picking up the phone.”

An example: His organization worked with a SaaS startup that, bolstered by a bit of VC money, wanted to pick up its sales pace. The company bought a list of prospects and was using a lead management system to build out its sequences. But those sequences consisted of eight emails. Just emails.

From a prospect’s perspective, by the time you get email number five, it feels like spam and “you’re pretty pissed off,” says Jeb. 

So he recommended a simple but super-effective change: Start with a phone call. 

“Let’s dial first,” he explains. “Then we’ll start running a sequence.”

He had his client’s sales team start with a list of 25 prospects and dial them as fast as they could. Sure enough, they got some people on the line. And when they did, they could capture those prospects. 

The prospects who didn’t answer were worked into a sequence with a multi-pronged approach: email, more phone calls (with voicemails), and social media messages.

Over a 14-day period, the SaaS company’s reps qualified about half of those prospects and added them to their pipeline. The other half went back into the prospect database. 

The next step? Begin again with another batch of 25 prospects. 

Make that hotline bling

good sales cadence

We know what you’re thinking: Who even answers their phone anymore?

“B.S.,” says Jeb. “Nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring. It’s that simple.”

Every day he hears arguments about the demise of the phone call. But in his training boot camps, Jeb disproves those again and again. That holds true for clients that range from military recruiters to manufacturing companies to sports teams and everyone in between.

One of the reasons people answer the phone is because most of us have them in our pockets –– and often, right in our hands. That’s borne out by statistics that suggest more people answer the phone today than they did 20 years ago, says Jeb.

Raise your voice(mail)

But what if most of your calls go to voicemail? 

“Yes, they do. That’s how it works. Suck it up,” Jeb replies. “Most calls went to voicemail in 1990 and most calls go to voicemail today.”

You need to leave a voicemail, he adds. People do listen and respond to them. That’s why he teaches reps how to leave voicemails that are returned.

A few pointers: Today, so many of us translate our voicemails to text. So the quality and clarity of your messages is key. And if you leave a series of voicemail messages, you have a chance to tell your story over time.

Plus, there’s an abundance of spam calls sent to cell phones. If you leave a voicemail, it signals that your call is important. If you don’t, there’s literally no probability of a response.

Like Wayne Gretzky said: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. 

Inbox toolbox

Jeb’s message is clear: Phone first. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get his attention through email. You can, if the email is structured the right way –– and if you understand that it’s a vehicle to start a one-on-one conversation. No convo, no conversion.

He breaks down the three major types of emails salespeople send, and how to make them work for you.

1. Bulk email

Sent from one person to many people, bulk email is typically a marketing effort: a newsletter, an offer, anything “focused on bringing people inbound,” Jeb says. 

Those messages can only do so much. A fraction of them will end up in spam folders or result in unsubscribes. That’s just the nature of messaging en masse.

2. Semi-customized email 

If you’re a sales rep with a big prospect base, making 50 to 100 touches a day, you probably don’t have time to research every single prospect and get to know everything about them. So you make educated guesses about the issues they’re facing. 

“Build an email that’s particular to a marketplace or a vertical,” Jeb advises. “Those require some A/B testing, because you’re not always going to know what will work.”

3. Highly targeted email

These are your “conquest” or “dream” accounts, generally working from a limited database but reaching across a wide array of stakeholders inside a single account. With these, you’re steadily climbing the ladder with every contact, from middle management to top decision-makers. Occasionally, you might start at the top and work down. Either way, you only have a couple of chances to grab someone’s attention. 

That’s why these emails need to be hyper-customized. If you’ve ever sent something like this, you know that personalization and spot-on messaging takes time. Typically, these are large accounts. The stakes are high and a mistake could take you out of the game permanently. 

Jeb says that your emails, especially semi- and fully personalized ones, need two key ingredients:

Cozy up: This is where phone, voicemail, and social media really come into play. If people recognize your name or your company, you’ll see better open rates. That’s why a cadence that includes voicemail and LinkedIn can make a big difference. 

Open hot: The subject line and the first sentence of your email are everything. That’s always been the case, but it’s especially crucial now, since most of us scan our inboxes on small (phone) screens. Craft phrases that are attention-grabbers. And keep the focus on them, not you. 

Put Your Sales Call Cadence to Work

Don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re not picking up the phone. You’ve been given the secret sauce for spicing up your cadence…so no more excuses. Now fire up that sales engagement system, take a deep breath, and dial!

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