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I hate long e-mails. They take too long to read and typically include action items I just don't have time for. No doubt you've experienced it, too. Your customers are no different and it's impacting your ability to close sales.

Sure, you carefully word your e-mail, expanding your questions to avoid being misunderstood, or outlining a great recommendation. You format it with underlining and bolding to call attention to critical details. You use bullets to make it simple to read. You're friendly throughout, sometimes even using a pretty colour instead of boring black or blue.

And what happened? No response.

Neither your prospects nor your customers appreciate the effort you put into that perfectly crafted 434 word e-mail.

You thought your detailed sentences would streamline the sales process, simplifying your prospect's effort. You tried to help your client avoid another meeting by sending your list of questions through e-mail instead.

But it didn't work. You received no response because it was felt too time consuming and difficult to do. Use these tips to make your e-mails actionable.

Consider who you're emailing. If you're selling to small- and mid-size companies, the decision-maker you're working with is frequently the owner or a top executive with multiple responsibilities across the company from performing work to setting the business strategy. Several company presidents I work with sell, install, manage technical consultants, and plan the direction of the company all in a normal day's work. If you're selling to enterprises, your key contact is most likely a manager with too many assignments on his plate, acquired as the company downsized, as well as multiple vendor contacts. They're all very busy people wearing too many hats.

Recognize that e-mail is an interruption that they typically haven't allotted time to manage into their day like they would a scheduled meeting. You can't expect to get all the answers you would during a meeting, in the course of one e-mail.

If you have a lot of information to share or gather, consider a different approach than e-mail. It may be more effective to convey a project update in a project status report and ask just two questions in the e-mail. Or, to present a recommendation in a proposal document and tell your contact in the e-mail that you've included a great idea in the third paragraph on page one.

Start a conversation. Limit how much you ask or share. Keep your e-mails brief so they're a quick read and simple to respond to. Keep in mind that e-mail can be a conversation. It's okay to ask for clarification, or ask the next question. 434 words, no matter how well organized, are still a lot to read, absorb and reply to. If possible, try to stay under 175 words.

Write your e-mails to look fast. The faster it looks to handle, the better your chance of getting a quick response. Vary your paragraph lengths. Avoid long paragraphs. Use bulleted lists, limiting the number of items to five or less. Keep your signature short. Long signatures give the appearance of long e-mails.

Make it simple to reply. Ask only two or three questions at once. Questions become action items when sent via e-mail. Your objective is to reduce the number of to-dos you place on your contact to speed their ability to reply. If you have ten questions, consider scheduling a meeting.

Make your e-mails easy to respond to and you'll discover that both customers and prospects you're working with will respond more promptly and keep your sales process moving forward.

About the Author:

 

Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, author of the award winning book Selling Against the Goal and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Ms. Lee is a frequent speaker at national sales meetings and association events.



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