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How Coaching Can Elevate Your Team’s Outbound Emails

Much has been written about the art of crafting great outbound prospecting emails and the importance of cadences and email open rates. More often than not, these articles are critiques of emails received by prospects looking at their lack of personalization, thought, or justification.

Unfortunately, all too often – I find sales reps apply the broken method of ‘throw enough and sooner or later one will stick’ to their email prospecting efforts. A combination of not knowing when to take a step back and change things up with a lack of coaching can create a sales workforce of ‘email marketing spammers’.

Here are five ways to help you get a better ROI from your team’s outbound prospecting:

Review, Review, Review

How often do you actually review the emails being sent out by your sales reps? More to the point, how often do your sales reps actually review their OWN emails? As managers, we may happily spend time riding along on calls or ‘overhearing’ a live demo in the office in order to debrief and provide feedback.

But as emailing is a much more discreet ‘behind the scenes’ strategy – we can become ignorant to how these are being constructed. Invest time in reviewing a couple of emails per rep per week.

An effective outbound email should be no more than five sentences. It will therefore only take somewhere between 30 seconds to a minute to read. This is not a huge time swallower, and the benefits of doing so can be significant. 30 seconds could be the difference between getting positive responses to their email and having it thrown into the trash.

Look beyond your open rates!

“We have different templates and track open rates” So what?! Open rates at the end of the day are only a percentage – and that’s all they are. As managers we can get so hung up on KPI’s and statistics that we fail to really look at the source of problems. Open rates are often only an indication to how powerful the subject line of an email is. And believe it or not, sometimes prospects will open emails not because they are interested in what you have to say, but purely because they are intrigued by who you are!

Surely a more important metric, which often gets forgotten about, is the ‘response rate’ – the true indicator as to how effective our outbound emails are. I’ve found that my most successful response rates are not the ones with the most appealing subject line, but the ones which in plain terms link product value to the real reason you are contacting that person.

Give better feedback by breaking emails down

“I like the main pointers in your email but found it a bit too long winded”. I would consign this kind of feedback to the ‘pretty useless’ folder. It’s generic, ambiguous, and not at all helpful. Sales managers need to become more effective coaches, and part of this is giving reps the feedback they crave. In fact, studies have shown that millennials crave feedback significantly more frequently than non-millennials.

Coaching is by no means an inherent skill, but by breaking down emails into ‘coachable’ chunks it will become easier to communicate feedback to your reps in a format that will be received as manageable and understandable. A good guide here is to use a structure I call SlOBS:

            Sl: Subject Line

            O: Opening gambit

            B: Body

            S: Sign Off

Think of it as providing 4 pieces of feedback against each element of the email. I have demonstrated how this could be done with a recent prospect email sent to me by a vendor:

{Sl} Refract & (vendor name)

Hi Richard, 

[O] I noticed that you are responsible for New Business as well as growing the inside sales team at Refract. Similar b2b SaaS teams have set 2-3x more appointments after implementing (vendor name).

[B] Simply put, our platform allows your inside sales team to execute their daily workflow from a single pane of glass, streamlining their email, phone, and social touch points while automatically logging these tasks into your CRM.

[S] When are you available to connect so you can determine if this could be valuable to your sales team?

Take Care,

(Reps Name)

Suggested SlOBS Feedback

{Sl} – I think we can put some more thought into this subject line. Simply putting ‘Refract + our company’s name’ feels very generic and ‘templated’. Can we find anything that this prospect has written on his blog or social media pages which we could reference. E.g. ‘Your blog about writing more effective emails’

{O} Your opening gambit is clearly based on reviewing the job title of the prospect on LinkedIn. This may be perceived as very limited research by the prospect. Good job on bringing some relevance to the prospect quickly afterwards however by quoting ‘similar b2b SaaS teams’. Perhaps name some examples for added influence?

{B} I think you communicate our products value in a concise, succinct, and powerful manner. Great job! We should share this with others on the team!

{S} Well done on linking back to the prospects situation (i.e. ‘valuable to your sales team’). Next time  – try and form a stronger connection between your sign off and the initial reason for contact. ‘When can we connect to discuss how we can help your inside sales team get better results from their email prospecting’?

Embrace peer reviews

Some reps are great at crafting clever subject lines, which can draw a prospect in. Some are better at writing great engaging opening lines. Others are more skilled at encapsulating a products value within a handful of words.

The reality is, each of our team members carry different levels of experience and skill, and unfortunately, given the competitive nature of sales, there is often a reluctance for reps to provide ideas, suggestions, and praise with their peers. It’s time, however, that we change our mind-set, and recognize that learning from each other can be one of the most effective means to raise performance levels and get a sales team firing on all cylinders.

Peer reviews can bring the following key benefits:

Peer learning is sticky – Studies by the Sales Leadership council discovered that peer-to-peer learning resulted in a 2% increase in ‘stickiness’ of sales knowledge application. This helps achieve stronger ROI on training and a greater confidence of reps applying what they learn in their day-to-day activities.

Sales reps are comrades Sales reps, through their camaraderie with their fellow team members, acknowledge they are living the same whirlwind sales ups and downs day in, day out. Although reps can be a competitive bunch, and sometimes feel reticent sharing all of their tips and tricks- they gain comfort in discussing the common objections, challenges, and frustrations they suffer with those who have the same experiences. Feedback from peers can therefore be seen much less imposing than if they were to get this from their boss.

Less pressure on sales managers – By learning from peers, the burden placed on sales managers to provide frequent feedback and coaching on things such as email performance is reduced.

Furthermore, try creating internal ‘player coach’ roles for the higher performers in your team. Reps can adopt these positions if they want to prove themselves as future coaches or managers. You’ll find that they will love the kudos of a more senior position whilst inadvertently building their skills for personal development and progression.

Share Best Practice

Sounds simple right? But ask yourself the question- how often do you find a fantastic prospecting email written by a rep, and one of the first things you do is share it with the rest of the team? I mean – why wouldn’t you want your whole team replicating high performance? Sharing best practice achieves two massively powerful things:

1. You can showcase a desired benchmark and model of success – challenging your team to strive for greater standards.

2. It’s great for morale. Think how one of your reps would feel if you really screamed and shouted about how fantastic their latest outbound email was!

Ensure that you don’t lose great emails on page 97 of your inbox. Try building best practice libraries of great emails. These could become reference points and ‘on-demand’ learning for your sales reps to access whenever they like.

Furthermore, break these libraries into searchable elements. For instance– have different great examples of the four elements of ‘SlOBS’. You will find that as you build these libraries, you also create an unbelievable on-boarding resource for new hires.

If you are anxious at putting all five of these into practice for your team, try implementing one at a time gradually, and most importantly, always measure success.

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