More Appointments With Decision Makers Is Not the Answer

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more. Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers?

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more.

Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers? I’ll bet you’re not.

Rushing into meetings gives your team:

  • Less motivation to hunt
  • Pipeline filled with unclose-able deals
  • More “no decisions” by clients

What it costs to generate a sale matters just as much as revenue. From a business perspective, wasting time on bad leads drives profit down — by driving cost up, profit decreases.

When salespeople rush meetings it decreases productivity. Under-qualified meetings waste reps’ most valuable time — speaking in real-time with prospects.

Because qualification happens purely in meetings. Objections are increased.

Instead, a qualification (screening) system ensures reps spend time on phone/in demos/appointments only with close-able customers.

Qualification is faster.

You Don’t Need More Appointments With Decision Makers

Here’s the rub: Courting un-closeable leads decreases what you want more of — time and money. Instead, field sellers (your closers) need pre-qualified discussions with decision makers most likely to close.

Before you say, “Obviously, Jeff, that’s why we have inside sales/marketing/demand generation people,” think about what you’re doing, right now, to earn more meetings. You’ve probably got a system in place, or are pursuing a systematic way to get more meetings.

Are you also giving reps ways to effectively qualify — to ensure better meetings and demos?

Too often, our “prospecting mindset” is bent on chasing quantity of conversations — at the exclusion of quality.

The lure: More activities put into the system, more sales come out. Naturally, without question. It’s a fact.

That’s what makes systems great, according to “experts.” Systems are controllable. Want more sales? Increase prospecting outreach. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

But is it really that simple? Is more appointments with decision makers the answer?

No and no. Spinning wheels on bad leads costs you. It drives profit down. Perhaps worse, sales people are demotivated.

Because your sales reps’ profit comes in two pieces: Commissions and time spent doing what they enjoy, working less. Or you might say there is a third component — enjoying their work.

Qualifying leads — before investing quality time with them — is vital to success.

The Truth About Systems

There’s a quality component to every system. It what makes one system better than another. Look at motor vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, aircraft engines.

Quality of systems drives quality of output: performance.

Purely? Of course not. Input matters. Quantity of fuel, air … inputs demand proper amount. When quantity and quality are in harmony resulting output is effective and efficient.

It’s the same in sales.

We don’t want more appointments. We want better quality pipeline. More meetings and more close-able opportunities.

Effectiveness Versus Efficiency

The happy marriage I’m describing conflicts with culture and philosophy of sales managers… even boards of directors … who want more, more, more! (promoting effectiveness, demoting efficiency)

Many are calling this model Activity Based Selling (ABS). This strategy (and philosophy) mandates quantity. Minimum number of activities.

ABS requires sellers to make X number of calls, push Y number of emails, share Z numbers of articles on LinkedIn. All good, so long the difference between effectiveness and efficiency is appreciated.

Time for Dictionary.com:

Effective: Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.

Efficient: Functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

In many cases, activities-focused selling is damaging inside/digital and field sellers’ ability to efficiently generate more and better conversations with potential customers.

Don’t care about efficiency? Not a priority? Then you don’t value money nor your time enough.

Scott Channel, a B2B cold calling expert, says “every call not made to the worthless is a call that could be made to the worthy … or lead to finding a prospect that is worthy.”

Don’t waste time. Efficient use of prospecting time drives what you want — and don’t want!

Why Efficiency Is Worth It

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient. Setting more meetings isn’t difficult when you take a meeting with practically anyone. Effectiveness takes less time, effort and communications skills than efficiency. But it’s not worth the trade-off.

People choose getting more meetings over better meetings because they’re too lazy to get the better ones. There, I said it! But this is slowly killing you/your business.

Cold calling expert, Wendy Weiss, recently profiled financial advisor, Jerry Iancangelo. Jerry invested in a quality-driven way to screen out decision makers with lower chances of closing.

Iancangelo says he learned, “How to pre-screen people better so I could stop driving everywhere and meeting just anybody.”

As a result he’s built a $200,000 recurring annual income while doubling his time off.

“With the extra money and time, I can now vacation in Hawaii every year … take better care of myself and have a happier, healthier lifestyle with good food and proper exercise,” says Iancangelo.

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient, but pays benefits.

Better Appointments at Scale Is Possible

Constant over-valuation of more meetings is diminishing the value of better meetings. Don’t let this culture poison your prospecting strategy. Invest in scale-able ways to drive more and better appointments with decision makers.

Beware of over-focusing on reps hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to approach C-level decision-makers

We live in a world where sales managers struggle to differentiate between marketing automation and effective sales follow-up. Lines are blurred by the tech tools.

But are they? The best sales and marketing email solutions are working overtime to help sales reps understand—sales qualifies the leads marketing warmed up. I think I know why.

Because buyers of such tools prefer effectiveness (more meetings) over efficiency (better meetings).

More meetings, they believe, requires more activities. Not getting enough deals closed? Simply pull a lever and force reps to make more outbound dials, emails or LinkedIn connections.

But it doesn’t work that way. There is no room for mass emailing messages in sales environments.

Sales is (and always will be) a numbers game. But business growth, profitability and earning more free time is not driven purely by quantity of outbound activities. Excluding quality of conversation from sellers’ strategies is a mistake.

Make sure you and your organization are not over-focusing on hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to engage C-level decision makers.

What has your experience been?

 

5 LinkedIn Best Practices That Don’t Work

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Most LinkedIn best practices for sales reps are not, in fact, best practices. They’re time-wasters. This is one of the most important insights I gleaned in 2014. That’s why I’m offering you five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015.

The 5 Worst LinkedIn Best Practices

  1. Using “Who’s viewed my profile” to drive profile views.
  2. Requesting connections from new prospects.
  3. Sending InMails that ask for appointments and referrals.
  4. Sharing valuable content with your connections.
  5. Adding value in LinkedIn Groups by giving away your best advice.

Instead, follow these five steps to avoid falling down the LinkedIn “best practices” rabbit hole that truly don’t work for sales:

1. Beware of ‘Who’s Viewed Your Profile’
We all like candy and LinkedIn is handing it out. The experience is becoming increasingly Facebookesque. Case-in-point: The “who’s viewed my profile” feature. Beware: for most of us it’s a trap.

I’m not suggesting this feature isn’t handy. It’s just not what we (as sellers) want it to be. It can be a time-suck.

Our instincts to find buyers can overpower rational thought—especially when we’re pressed for time. Mix in some “online candy” and it’s a productivity risk.

Is it good to know who’s viewing your profile? Yes. Can you tell why someone outside of your immediate network is viewing your profile? Not with certainty. You cannot qualify a lead based on them looking at your profile.

A lot of experts claim you can. You cannot. Deep down, you know you cannot. Using software or other techniques to increase your views is not a smart strategy, especially when:

  • LinkedIn encourages random, casual viewing of “people you may know”
  • Many views aren’t views at all (they are momentary, fleeting arrivals at your profile)

LinkedIn wants you to know who’s looking at your profile. I’m cool with that. But when you believe people are viewing your profile for reasons you’re creating from thin air? You’re in trouble.

Spend time making sure arrivals at your profile spark curiosity in you. Invest less time in hope. And please don’t ask visitors you do not know (who view your profile) to connect with you!

2. Don’t Ask for Connections as a First Step
The most deadly—and common—mistake sales reps make on LinkedIn is asking prospects they don’t know to connect.

Be warned: It is against LinkedIn’s terms and conditions to send connection requests to prospects you don’t know. I know, I know. The “experts” all offer invitation personalization tips to earn connections from strangers. Ignore them!

Being banned by LinkedIn for inviting too many people who don’t know you is common. If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

Please don’t try to make first contact with prospects on LinkedIn—unless you use InMail or Groups messages. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but:

  1. You’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted;
  2. you’re taking a risk you don’t need to take; and
  3. the risk isn’t worth it; being connected is better for nurturing (not creating) leads.

3. Don’t Ask for Appointments in InMails, Attract Them
We all want appointments. But trying to get an appointment from “go” is a failing tactic. You will be rejected by 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects according to Sharon Drew Morgen. She would know. She invented the Buying Facilitation method, and she has 20 years of experience to back up the statement.

Here’s why: A majority of buyers don’t know what they need when you email them. Or they are aware of their need, but aren’t ready to buy yet.

Use the first InMail or email like a good cold call: Earn permission for a discussion that can lead to an eventual meeting. Don’t jump the gun. Once you have permission, execute the email conversation in a way that sparks an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Get the prospect so curious about what you have to say they cannot resist acting—asking you for a call.

Just like on a hot date, would you rather ask the other person out—or be asked? Don’t say too much too fast. Attract your prospect. This is one of my most mind-bending (yet effective) LinkedIn InMail tips. It also works on regular email messages.

4. Stop Sharing Valuable Content, Start Provoking Behavior
Sharing valuable content in groups and via LinkedIn updates rarely creates leads for most sellers; mostly because of “expert” tips that don’t work. There is way too little focus placed on how and when to share knowledge in groups.

Most “expert” tips focus on:

  1. gathering (curating) content quickly,
  2. defining what is valuable to buyers and
  3. deciding how often to post.

Instead, focus on how you post. Focus on structure. The design of words. Copywriting.

Defining what’s valuable to your target buyer is vital to know. But it’s worthless unless you know how to provoke customers to call or email you. (Not just comment on your update or share it with others.)

Likewise, knowing how to gather content quickly is important. But if what you share does not intersect with a lead capture system, you’ve squandered the engagement.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But the top 5 percent of LinkedIn sellers know an important fact. Sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. It takes solid social media copywriting.

Instead, start shockingly truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors don’t dare go near. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Then connect what you say to an action your prospect can take (begin the lead nurturing journey).

5. Adding Value in Groups Is Often a Win-Lose
Giving away your best advice in Groups can be a win-lose. The prospects win, you lose. Success depends on your prospects’ curiosity in you. And that depends on how and when you give away specifics. Just like effective InMail/email message writing and sequencing.

You’ll experience more success (requests for appointments, calls, emails) by giving away “just enough” information to be credible … yet not quite complete. The idea is to create an urge and the curiosity to know more.

For example, do you give answers and advice away in ways that create more questions in the mind of your reader? Do you give away just enough to create more curiosity about you that can be connected to what you sell? If not, you’re struggling.

You’re probably giving away too much too fast—smothering the prospect.

Are your posts grabbing customers? Are potential buyers responding—hungry to talk with you about issues, short-cuts or better ways you know about?

If not you’re probably over-focusing on what you are saying. Instead, focus on how you structure words and when you release key bits of information. Are you saying too much too fast?

Again, think of it like a great date. The most attraction occurs when you get “just enough” information about the other person that you become curious. Too much information overwhelms—leaves nothing to the imagination and is often flat out boring.

Once again, relevant content is elementary. The difference between wasting time with LinkedIn prospecting—and generating leads—is sparking buyers’ curiosity in what you can do for them.

Getting them to respond.

Remember, most LinkedIn best practices we read about online are not. They’re time-wasters. They’re edicts written by people who know about LinkedIn but who don’t know enough about sales prospecting. What do you think about my five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015? Are you having any success with these? I’m open to hearing your rebuttals!

A Lie That Keeps You From Success (Part 1 of 3)

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics. What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics.

What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

Get on board, the train is leaving without you! We’ve reinvented sales prospecting and you’re missing out!

But here’s what the gurus (cleverly) don’t tell you: Prospecting best practices remain the same. What works rarely changes. With social selling:

  • your cold calling tactics should evolve a bit—not reinvent themselves
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube don’t replace cold calling—they advance it

Cold calling is alive and thriving. In fact, effective cold call tactics can feed your social selling strategy. Sellers have the chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

“I often wonder … if the advocates to the ‘death of cold calling’ movement have mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it pleasing to the palate,” says Kraig Kleeman in a lucid stream of thought on the Association for Talent Development’s LinkedIn group.

5 Signs Your Social Selling Strategy Is a Ticking Bomb
“The (cold calling is dead) argument appears delicious and intoxicating, but somehow its outcome creates a harmfully poisonous effect,” says Kleeman.

He is right. The tsunami of false claims about cold calling being dead can cause you to believe it is a factual reality—and act accordingly. Therein lies the danger.

Believing cold calling is less effective might cause you to rush into social selling and:

  1. Use LinkedIn as a replacement to cold calling—and be banned for using connection requests
  2. Fail to spark conversations with buyers via LinkedIn updates due to misguided tips
  3. Ask for appointments in “first touch” InMail/emails to prospects (big mistake!)
  4. Waste time trying to spark conversations in LinkedIn Groups because of ineffective scripts
  5. Teach ineffective methods to your entire team by hiring a misguided social selling trainer!

Let Social Filter: Trust Your Instincts
What works in cold calling works in social selling. Period. Don’t let any guru tell you otherwise.

An effective cold call produces raw insight on where the buyer is in the decision-making process. If they’re in it at all! It doesn’t set an appointment. It doesn’t ask for a meeting. It is discovery-focused. You’re filtering prospects and placing them in “buckets.”

An effective cold call is brief, blunt and basic. It facilitates to both sides: “Might there be a larger conversation to be had here? Why, when and how?” Done!

The buyer is in control and sets the meeting, demo or call date. Your job is to find the pain—uncover (or confirm) the reason why this prospect might want to talk to you.

Next, your job is to start a journey toward the buyer discovering (for themselves) why they want to talk more. It’s a process, a discipline. That’s why cold calling works so well!

This is the most effective way to approach social selling. First, have a system. Second, focus on the buyer so much they ask you for the next contact—or ask you to stop.

Let social media filter leads for you.

Don’t Do What You’ve Been Told
This may sound crazy, but it’s the best advice I can give. Stop using social media and LinkedIn to:

  • Make initial contact with prospects via LinkedIn connections
  • Send emails/InMails that ask for appointments—overlooking cold call best practices
  • Post updates on LinkedIn without a way to provoke buyers to contact you
  • Comment in LinkedIn groups without a means to spark curiosity in you (get response)
  • Message prospects on LinkedIn using a common group as a reason to speak

If you’re doing any of these, don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Otherwise good people who are looking to ride a wave have given you bad information. Unfortunately, they’re using fear and unbridled enthusiasm as weapons. Just say no.

Boldly Stand-up for the Facts
Kleeman wisely reminds us how the degree of sales productivity can be judged by observing. Take a look at what is going on around you. Notice who is adopting practices based on speculation versus the adoption of fact.

Take a look at the output each group is achieving. (How much money they’re making!)

In other words, are your sales peers being praised as “social selling leaders” simply for “being on” social media? Or are they being financially rewarded based on the facts—how much business they’re winning?

The Best of Both Worlds
Throwing out the old and implementing a very unproven new is hogwash. It’s a lazy strategy based on hot air. Tools like LinkedIn are providing a better way to identify and warm-up cold prospects … and finding “ready to buy” leads. Tons of value there. But …

“Try telling a broker of refurbished airplane parts that raw list cold calling is not a vital activity for revenue capture … try telling a manufacturer of plumbing, HVAC, and home improvement products that cold calling aimed at resellers and end users is ineffective,” says Kleeman.

“You just might need a degree in martial arts or unfettered access to the US military’s drone missile fleet to defend yourself,” he jokes.

Cold calling is alive, thriving and (surprise!) feeding winning social selling strategies. Today is your chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

Forget about reinventing sales prospecting! Make sure your team has a prospecting strategy that exploits what already works using new social tools.

Why You Aren’t Getting Appointments on LinkedIn

Ninety-five percent of sales reps using LinkedIn are getting few—if any—appointments. They’re using premium services, Sales Navigator, sending InMail, joining groups, spiffing up their profiles. And yet they’re chronically underperforming. All because they’re making three easily correctable mistakes when firing up their Web browsers each day.

Ninety-five percent of sales reps using LinkedIn are getting few—if any—appointments. They’re using premium services, Sales Navigator, sending InMail, joining groups, spiffing up their profiles. And yet they’re chronically underperforming. All because they’re making three easily correctable mistakes when firing up their Web browsers each day.

Mistake No. 1: Asking for Connections First
The most deadly—and common—mistake most reps make comes right at the beginning: asking prospects for connection requests. Being connected is useful for nurturing leads—not effective for earning near-term meetings or starting discussions.

Stop asking for connections as a first step.

Outside of InMail or Group messages, don’t try to make initial contact with prospects on LinkedIn. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but you’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted.

Connecting first is not an effective practice. It’s also against LinkedIn’s terms of use and is punishable. You can be banned. Wait until the prospect knows you, and they will be more likely to accept your connection request.

Initiate contact first—then connect on LinkedIn to nurture the conversation forward. This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids the risk of being restricted).

Mistake No. 2: Forgetting to Slow Prospects Down
Customers are busy and getting busier. So our first job is to help them take a breath for a second. Literally. That’s where your first couple of email or InMail messages come into play.

These very brief, blunt and basic messages should disarm the customer—not ask them for an appointment. Don’t ask them to direct you to the right decision makers. Don’t ask them to have a demo with you. These are all extremely common mistakes. Don’t ask them for anything other than a reply!

Get out of the ninety-five percent of underperformers and into the top 5 percent of LinkedIn users.

Yes, you must grab a prospect’s attention and hold it. But your first message must shock the prospect by putting them in control of the contact with you. Because once prospects feel control the good ones will in a better position to discover something:

They want to talk to you. Or, they want to take action on making a change.

Mistake No. 3: Not Letting Them Ask You for the Meeting
Most likely, you are asking for the meeting too often and too early. Instead, let them ask you.

“When do we succeed? When we don’t need the sale,” says sales trainer Mia Doucet of CrackTheSalesCode.com. She would know. She’s helped her clients generate hundreds of millions in new customer sales.

Doucet says our instinctual need for validation (as humans) often causes confusion. We often let our weak, selfish need to get the deal sabotage our own effort.

For example, we sometimes ask for a meeting too soon. Instead, we should be more confident: “attracting” the meeting to us.

Let’s assume you can grab a prospect’s attention and hold it with your first email or InMail message. Reality is, you have a chance to earn their request for a meeting. Sure, you can ask them for the meeting. But what you really want is for them to ask you for it.

Don’t act like you need the sale so badly. You want the prospect to be attracted to you. They already know you are attracted to them. You just sent them an email, after all!

It’s Like a Date
At one time, you were probably on a hot date. Maybe you had one last night. Either way, when you’ve decided “I want to attract this person to me” you can go about getting what you want (the next step, the next date or phone call) in one of two ways: Asking for it or being asked.

Which do you like better? We all like being asked for the next step; it signals attraction on the other side.

Do you have prospects who are not yet aware that your solution exists? If so, they are probably happy with what they have in place. Or maybe your prospects are too scared to abandon or switch from what they have in place.

Or they may just plain not care about making any change whatsoever. It’s not worth the risk. In these cases you’re forced to attract customers in a “pull” manner.

Plan for What You Want: Curiosity
Attracting clients to you is mostly about deciding in advance what details to hold back (that the other side wants the most). Then, alluding to it in a seductive or provocative (yet credible) way. It’s this structuring of how you “say what you say” that sparks customers’ curiosity.

Often times clients want “the how.” So by letting out just a little of your very best stuff each time it’s your turn to speak you create more questions about yourself … or your thing (what you sell).

This keeps the other side asking you rather than the other way around. This ultimately creates a moment in time where the potential buyer realizes, hey, you are worth a larger time investment.

Just like that first date: You’ll get asked for your phone number or to meet again. But none of this happens without having a plan.

What do you think? What’s your plan?

Writing Effective InMail and Sales Emails: Don’t Ask for the Appointment

Here’s my best tip on writing effective sales emails or LinkedIn InMail messages: Don’t ask for the appointment. Instead, earn permission for a discussion. Then, execute it (via email) in a way that creates an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment. Sound crazy? Sound too difficult? It’s not. I’ll even give you a template.

Here’s my best tip on writing effective sales emails or LinkedIn InMail messages: Don’t ask for the appointment. Instead, earn permission for a discussion. Then, execute it (via email) in a way that creates an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Sound crazy? Sound too difficult? It’s not. I’ll even give you a template.

Asking for Appointments Destroys Response Rates
“Any time you begin your sale with an attempt to get an appointment, you are being rejected by approximately 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects,” said Sharon Drew Morgen, inventor of the Buying Facilitation method.

That’s because most buyers don’t know exactly what they need. Or they do have a need but aren’t ready to buy yet. Other buyers have not yet assembled the decision-making team.

Setting an appointment with a seller will happen—but not with you.

Because you asked for it (too early).

The Goal of Your Email or InMail Is Permission
The goal of your “first touch” message is to earn the right to have a discussion. Nothing else. It’s exactly like an effective cold call.

It’s a LinkedIn InMail best practice most sales reps don’t know about. It also works with standard email and is surprisingly simple.

Start writing in a way that gets buyers

  1. affirming (“yes, I will be acting on this”) and eventually
  2. inquiring (“can you tell me more about that?”)

The goal of your email or InMail is to earn the right to step up to the plate—not swing for the wall.

Slow Down Your ‘First Touch’
I recently diagnosed and treated an ineffective InMail message example on recent DMIQ Brunch & Learn webinar, “How to Write Effective Email and LinkedIn Messages that Boost Response.”

In the message, the sales rep is going for the kill. Big mistake. He sent me an InMail message asking me to:

  • Validate the idea of a discussion about his solution
  • Invest time in learning about his service
  • Understand his competitive advantage
  • Refer him to the best decision-maker
  • Consider a “free analysis” (a proposal for his services)
  • Invest time on the phone with him

This is a common (yet ineffective) approach to writing LinkedIn InMail messages.

A Better Approach
The goal of an effective InMail message is NOT to get a meeting or any of the above bullets. If you try to force these you’ll fail. This is what kills your LinkedIn InMail response rate.

Instead, use an InMail message to provoke a “Can you tell me more?” response from a potential buyer. Use the chance to push on a pain—or surface an unknown fact—that the entire decision-making team will applaud you for.

Get on the radar of all decision-makers by asking for permission to facilitate, not discuss need.

Remember, the idea is to present information (content) that helps groups of decision-makers set aside differences, identifies common ground and prioritizes next steps (in the decision-making process).

An Effective InMail Template Example
Here is an effective InMail template for you to try. Let me know how it works for you? Seriously, let me know. Get in touch in comments or email me.

Hi, Sam.

How are you adding new capability to your ______________ [insert area of business your product/services addresses] at any time soon or in future? I work with organizations like ____ [prospect’s business] to make sure ________ [goal].

Would you like to quickly explore, via email, if a larger conversation makes sense? Please let me know what you decide, Sam?

Thanks for considering,
Jeff

Remember, be creative. You don’t need to stick with this template verbatim. Make the tone sound like you. Adjust it. Please get in touch in comments or email me with the results this approach produces for you!

Why SMS Will Be Your Mobile Workhorse and 5 Ideas to Get You Started

We’ve talked about the importance of a mobile-friendly Web presence and mobile-optimized email for your small business. But there is one mobile tool that your small business should be leveraging that will be a key puzzle piece to the success of your mobile strategy. Some might argue that SMS is the most effective mobile channel that exists, when it comes to ROI.

We’ve talked about the importance of a mobile-friendly Web presence and mobile-optimized email for your small business. But there is one mobile tool that your small business should be leveraging that will be a key puzzle piece to the success of your mobile strategy.

Some might argue that SMS is the most effective mobile channel that exists, when it comes to ROI.

There is a reason it continues to be the workhorse within the mobile strategies of brands like Coca-Cola, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Target, jcpenney and many more.

5 reasons SMS will be the workhorse in your mobile strategy.

Instant Deliverability: SMS messages offer one of the most immediate marketing channels for businesses. More than 97 percent of messages are read within four minutes of receipt. So if you have a message that is time sensitive, there is no better way to connect with your customer.

Everyone’s Reachable: Nearly 100 percent of the handsets on the market can send and receive text messages. I don’t care that we’ve surpassed 50 percent smartphone penetration in the USA. I don’t care that that will continue to grow. You’re missing out on 40 percent to 50 percent of your audience right now by catering to smartphone-only customers.

Just because my 65-year-old dad has an iPhone now doesn’t mean he will use it the way I do. But you know what … he sure sends a whole lot more text messages to me.

Highest-Possible Visibility: Remember how I said that 97 percent of SMS messages are read within four minutes? Well, that means that 97 percent of your SMS messages are being read—period. When was the last time your email open rate was over 90 percent? I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

Now I’m not saying “Stop using email.” Email is super powerful and has its place. But SMS offers you a new, quick, high-converting way to connect with your customers that no channel can match.

Highly Targeted: Because buying lists is a no-no when it comes to SMS, you have to build your database of loyal customers. Being a permission-based marketing vehicle, your customers have to opt in to receiving these messages from you.

Yes, that means they essentially raised their hands and said, “I’d like you to connect with me on my most personal device.” The next best thing in my mind is if your customer invites you over for dinner. Mmmmm …

Cost Effective, Considering the Return: For all you marketing folk, this means Return on Investment (ROI).

SMS is way more affordable than you think. Many of you still spend a good part of your budget on direct mail. Again, it has its place in your marketing mix. But look at some of the costs associated with direct mail: You have postage, shipping, mailing lists, printing, packaging/fulfillment etc.

Direct mail depends on your volume. But, at the end of the day, you could be spending 20 cents to more than a dollar per piece. SMS could cost you pennies per message.

As a small business, a Yellow Pages ad could cost you up to $4,000 per year. Yes, people (especially older demographics) do still reach for their Yellow Pages when they need a business in a hurry, but it offers little to no engagement or tracking.

Depending on the size of your small businesses, incorporating SMS into your monthly budget could run you $25 to a few hundred bucks a month. The level of return will far outweigh your older, traditional media vehicles.

OK, so you’re sold on adding mobile to your marketing mix. Congratulations, it was a wise decision, trust me.

Here are 5 ideas for you to get started with SMS this year.

Mobilize Your Loyalty Program: Begin building your list of mobile numbers and send timely, relevant messaging to your customers. This can include special mobile-only offers, promotion opportunities, sales, new product or service offerings.

The more you can personalize these messages, the better. Many of you may already have some sort of loyalty program in place. I’m not asking you to do something totally new. Just add SMS as a component of the loyalty program to bring loyal customers back with relevant, high-value messaging.

Mobilize Your Coupons: Target, jcpenney and Bed Bath & Beyond are great examples of this. Each and every week, these businesses send mobile coupons to their mobile databases. It’s fast, cost effective and convenient for the customers who prefer to receive these offers to their phones. They just bring their phones to the store and redeem their mobile coupons at the point of purchase.

Eliminate No-Shows: Does your businesses depend on filling appointment slots? Doctors, Lawyers, Salons, etc. rely on filling appointments, but what happens when your customer misses an appointment?

Let me guess, you don’t charge for no-shows? Some estimates state that missed appointments for a single physician can be as much as $150,000 in lost revenue and additional labor costs. Multi-physician offices are even more drastic, estimating no-shows in a single year resulting in losses of over $1 million.

So how can SMS eliminate no-shows?

Why not send an appointment reminder via SMS within an hour or two prior to the appointment? Include a number for those who have to cancel. Better yet, let them reply to the message so that it updates your appointment software.

Oh no, someone canceled! Send out a message to your database to fill that last-minute appointment.

If you’re a salon, restaurant or massage therapist, you can send a message to your customer SMS list offering a savings opportunity to the one that fills that appointment slot.

Add SMS and stop losing money due to no-shows.

Engage Customers With Giveaways: Sweepstakes and giveaways have been great ways to build your SMS list in the early stages.

Offer up one big prize and let your customers text in to enter. Give away a monthly prize and give customers a reason to stay on your list.

Not only do sweepstakes entice customers to opt-in, but everyone loves winning prizes. Is giving away one or two free services a month worth generating hundreds of new opt-ins to communicate with moving forward?

Learn About Your Customers With Polls and Surveys: Did one of your loyal customers just purchase from you? A quick SMS message could let them provide valuable feedback on their experience.

SMS is a two-way interactive tool that lets customers provide feedback just by replying to your messages.

Are you thinking about releasing a new product or service? Are you a restaurant and looking to add a new menu item? Poll your audience to get their feedback to help make smarter decisions.

Bonus point: Tie a sweepstakes to your survey and award a lucky customer with a prize of some sort to encourage participation.

Now it’s on you.

These are just a few ways you could quickly begin to incorporate SMS marketing into your business. It’s important to remember that SMS without a strategy or goal will lead to poor results.

Make sure you understand why you’re adding SMS and determine measurements for success to continually optimize your efforts.

The trick is to not re-invent the wheel. You should look to mobilize initiatives you already have in place.

You don’t need to create a separate marketing initiative. You’re already doing what you need to do. Now mobilize it.