The balance of sales and marketing: how to win at email prospecting

Combining marketing and sales into a seamless process, using data to create targeted, direct, and relevant email prospecting.

Combining marketing and sales into a seamless process, using data to create targeted, direct, and relevant email prospecting.

Since the dawn of business, we’ve treated sales and marketing as fundamentally separate roles. We hire them differently, train them differently, and we expect the people who fill them to have different traits and experience. When marketing makes a lead, they pass it to sales with the basic, “client name, contact details, interested in this.” Their job is done; sales takes over.

Since the dawn of business, we’ve been getting it wrong.

Stopping and starting half way

Even with the data-driven insights that digital marketing offers, we haven’t thought to use marketing for closing the sales cycle.

We leave a gap between attracting prospects and convincing them to buy, because we’re following the “received wisdom” of a business practice that treats sales and marketing like church and state.

But what’s really happening is this: when we market, we stop halfway through; when we sell, we start halfway through.

There is disconnect between how we get someone’s attention, and how we keep it. This should not be so.

Marketing is simply the beginning of the sales process: of getting in front of the right people, with the right information, at the right time. And sales is just the conclusion of that process: of guiding these people to make the best decision for themselves.

How we combine marketing and sales into a single, seamless process

In a word: data.

The world is sitting on such an abundance of data it’s overwhelming. People have no idea what to do with their data. They have no idea how powerful it is. Data is the currency of the future. But here in the present, data gives us sales, marketing and business intelligence—when we know how to extract it.

With the right data, the process of getting in front of the right people, knowing when it’s the right time for them, giving them the right information for their present needs, and then continuing to give them the right information to guide them into a buying decision—it all becomes easy. It goes from being a case of mind-reading and guesswork to being a case of simple data-mining.

But this is all very vague. Let’s look at a real example—what we consider the paradigm case of merging marketing and sales into a seamless process:

Email prospecting

Data is what turns spam into a successful sales process.

Surprising, right? Mass marketers have turned email prospecting into something hateful and annoying, because they’ve not even bothered with the mind-reading and guesswork—they’ve just relied on sheer numbers to reach people. If you send enough emails, eventually someone will respond. (Let’s bracket all the other ethical issues with spam for now, and just talk about mass email that has a legitimate offer, but is sent indiscriminately to people with no prior indications of interest).

Email prospecting is just not something most people have being getting right.

But when email prospecting is done with data, it becomes targeted, direct, and relevant to the consumer. It reflects insights into actual needs, and trends in actual behavior. It creates the most natural, human experience for the people who’ll be engaging with you, because you’ve taken the time to get to know their likes, their needs, and their lifestyles.

There’s no halfway-point entry or exit. You meet them where they’re at, and keep with them as they learn more. You change as they change, working with their needs and desires.

Simply, you follow the data.

How we communicate

We’re all familiar with the old style of sales pitch. We’ve heard it countless times, and maybe even used it ourselves. It’s pretty much the same across all industries.

But this generation cut its teeth on instant gratification and mass-media consumption. They see through this pitch, and they’re tired of it. They immediately notice tactics which find their way around explaining what’s truly relevant to the consumer. They despise messaging that talks at everyone without regard for whether the offering is relevant, or presented in a way they understand.

We need a new sales pitch that speaks to individuals, based on their actual needs. It will be nothing like the old one. It will have to do the job of both sales and marketing: establishing the rapport and guidance of salesmanship using the design and copywriting of marketing. It will communicate as our audience communicates, focusing on what they respond to and what they aspire to. It will take them from initial contact as a lead, and nurture them to sales-readiness, in a way that feels natural, friendly and comfortable.

And it will do it without manual intervention, by leveraging the personal connection inherent in email.

Email is already the most personal form of marketing.

It’s just generally used in an impersonal way. Most commercial mail ranges from boring to tedious to unintelligible to…well, spam. Shooting out the same email to thousands of different people who we know very little about, from different backgrounds, with different needs—it’s never going to end well.

It looks the same. It sounds the same. It’s a waste of our time.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we use data to combine marketing and sales, we can create something entirely new and highly effective. We know this because we do it.

Email prospecting for success

In combining the principles of modern sales with digital marketing, and constantly applying our data insights, we regularly get warm response rates for our clients of 5-7%. We increase the number of their sales, both initially, but also over time as we repeat our prospecting process with their existing customers who, the data shows, have needs beyond those being met.

We’re there with prospective customers through the entire process, aware of what they’re doing and where they are in the buying cycle. We’re also constantly generating new insights from how they engage with various offerings.

Then, we guide them to the decision that’s best for them—and they know it.

All this is straightforward once we forget the received wisdom about the separation of sales and marketing. And, of course, follow the data.