Sales Email Tracking Software: Is It Worth It?

Sales reps are under pressure to track and report: Dials, calls, meetings, email sends and open rate. Not to forget, email clickthrough and download rates. All tracked by sales email tracking software. But is all this tracking worth it?

Sales reps are under pressure to track and report: Dials, calls, meetings, email sends and open rate. Not to forget, email clickthrough and download rates. All tracked by sales email tracking software. But is all this tracking worth it?

If yes, how do we know? Why? Says who?

Certainly software vendors espouse the benefits of knowing X, Y and Z data. Tools like ToutApp, HubSpot, MixMax, Yesware and outreach.io. But what sales outcomes are generated better thanks to sales email tracking software?

More importantly, what behavior does all this measuring encourage among sellers? Is tracking software good for sellers, considering the outcome demanded of them? (sales conversations)

The Problem With Sellers as Marketers

Sales reps are increasingly being held accountable for marketing statistics. This is problematic. Because measuring B2B inside- or field-sellers against marketing outcomes encourages them to write, speak and act like marketers.

Email tracking is a key culprit.

Here’s the rub: Sellers, by definition, need to start conversations with customers. Starting early-stage C and VP level discussions demands superior B2B sales communication skills.

Not marketing skills.

If we’ve learned anything in the last few years it’s this!

Too often our sales-focused communications practice sees reps sending pure marketing-speak within email (and voicemail) messages. Results are close to zero on the sales outcome side.

In the words one client:

“Our Inside Sales team is nothing more than virtual assistants who push marketing messages in hopes of setting meetings for reps. Lead quality is so poor I’m not taking any more appointments from our Inside team.”

This trend gets to the problem with social selling: It’s not. It’s social marketing.

Personal branding. Engaging with insights. Being seen by customers as a thought leader. In theory it sounds great. In practice, sellers are pushing marketing messages at customers. These marketing ideas are hurting sellers’ ability to start conversations with customers.

All because of how sellers communicate with clients.

B2B customers are not on social media waiting to be sold to. And if they are they’re already being marketed to by marketing teams! They know what a marketing message sounds like and don’t need any more of them.

The Truth About Sales Email Tracking

I question the validity of encouraging sellers to write in ways that earn downloads and opens … at the cost of earning replies and client conversations. Sales email tracking software encourages sellers to behave like marketers. This is counter-productive to generating sales outcomes.

Tracking quantitative stats is one of many lousy ideas being foisted upon sellers the last five to 10 years by “experts” who have something “new” to sell.

I’m not saying these tools aren’t good. Yes, they are useful. But the way they’re being applied is wholly irresponsible in many cases.

Like social selling, sales email tracking software tools are discouraging good sellers from trusting their instincts as good communicators. Good communications doesn’t scale very well.

Likewise, this marketing-focused tracking teaches inexperienced sellers to push marketing messages. All in hopes of achieving greater marketing outcomes!

This only hurts reps’ ability to earn replies and start client conversations. If I didn’t see so many sellers and sales organizations struggling to earn conversations with clients I might feel otherwise.

Marketing isn’t evil. It’s just not appropriate in a sales context. There is a difference between sales and marketing automation. Respect it.

The Problem With Sales ‘Campaigns’

Marketing is creeping into sales. Modern, digital (yet under-performing) sales forces create “campaigns.” They use email tracking software to measure opens, clickthrough rates (to links within emails), download rates (offers within emails).

Sales reps send campaign emails that include “opt out” links. Opt out links? Yes. So the customer can opt out of the “campaign.” The campaign?

Trouble is, most outbound sales email sequences feel like campaigns to customers. The moment a rep’s emails feel like part of a mass emailed sequence he/she is done. It’s over. You get marked as spam. Not to mention not getting replied to.

Sales email sequences are reading too much like newsletters potential clients haven’t subscribed to. Clients generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters. But they don’t choose to get cold emails. Thus, marketing-esque email copy ends up feeling like spam.

Increasingly, poorly executed marketing copywriting — shoved into sales reps’ automated campaign emails–drives customers to mark sellers’ messages as spam. This damages web domain reputations of sending organizations.

Another example: Focusing on tracking tools encourages sellers to sabotage their messages’ deliverability and readability. I cannot tell you how many sellers sabotage themselves by attaching PDF documents to cold email messages.

Sellers push value at customers who don’t ask for it. Reps create calls-to-action when they only serve to repulse customers. And sellers begin to make ill-informed outreach decisions based on data that is, actually, highly unreliable.

Email Open Tracking Is Unreliable

Here’s my biggest beef. Email tracking software is being used by most sales teams to in ways that tempt us to turn bad data into facts that are not facts at all.

Open tracking technology is imperfect; at times wholly unreliable. In theory, knowing if and how often the email is opened is great. But in practice your tracking software may not see “opens” from prospects who have opened. Likewise, many tools report a client “opened” when they have not opened. Technical reasons why include:

1. The recipient isn’t connected to the Internet.

2. Some mobile phones and email clients download images by default. A 1×1 pixel image is used by tracking tools. Consequence: even if the recipient has not opened the message, you will see it as a false positive — “opened.”

3. Some web-based email clients, corporate email clients and Android-powered phones block images by default. Consequence: even if the recipient opens the message, the sender’s server doesn’t count the email message as being opened.

Breaking Away

If all of this email tracking seems common to you, yes, it is. But organizations on the leading edge are quietly breaking away from the pack… training sellers to act like sales people, not marketers.

And they’re reaping rewards.

I get it. We want to fulfill a reasonable urge. We want to know if sending an outbound email message is reaching a recipient or not. But at what point do marketing-rooted desires like this (in aggregate) get in the way of a sales teams’ ability to generate more sales outcomes?

What is your experience lately?

Effective Sales Emails Don’t Use These Techniques in 2018

Trying to start conversations with potential clients using cold email or LinkedIn Inmail? Most sellers are. But are you sabotaging yourself by sending prospects the following?

Mobile emailTrying to start conversations with potential clients using cold sales emails or LinkedIn Inmail? Most sellers are. But are you sabotaging yourself by sending prospects:

  • a template you found while Googling?
  • a subject line starting with RE:?
  • messages with words like hope, love & “looking forward to” in them?
  • follow-ups using words like “bubble up” or “fall through the cracks”?
  • phony complements, automated or artificial intelligence-driven messages?
  • messages starting with questions biased to answers you’re looking for?
  • PDF attachments or videos?

Any of these look familiar? Most of these tactics are failing sellers… or will fail you soon. Simply because they’re not creative.

They lack originality. These tactics scream lazy, un-researched, marketing-style spam.

“Don’t turn your sales reps into mini marketers, please. Sales is context. Sales has to put context around the content,” says sales trainer John Barrows.

“If you’re not you’re no different than marketing … your template email is crap.”

Use phrases like, “Would you like to know more or do you have any questions for us?” at end of your messages.

Tricky or Burnt-out Subject Lines

Cute, tricky or over-used subject lines are the leading cause of sales email failure. Your subject line will fail to provoke curiosity (get opened) if you:

  • try to dupe your reader into opening like: “RE: Did you see this?”
  • use more than five words
  • specify what is inside your email
  • use an obvious subject line that pops into your head

Some of my students do have success tricking clients into opening. I discourage it. Dishonesty is never worthwhile — even if it works near-term.

For example, one student selling trade show services to marketers uses “the artwork” in his cold email subject line… to dupe customers into thinking his message is project-related. It gets him opened. But for how long and at what long-term cost to his (and his company’s) reputation?

Sellers with the strongest email open rates are using 2-3 words maximum. This exploits the nature of a cold email subject line: It should be provocative and vague.

Beware of words that telegraph what you want to talk about with your prospect. Don’t let on to the message inside the email. If you do it will most likely be deleted or put-off until later (a.k.a. never).

Never, ever, ever use an email subject line that just popped into your head. Any idea how many other people like you are doing this? The result is dozens of inbound emails coming at your prospects—most being spammy and looking precisely the same.

Subject lines get burnt-out fast. So fast!

Using weak subject lines trains customers to delete your message.

All the Wrong Words

Are you writing introductions like this?

“Hi Jeff,

Out of respect for your time, I thought an email might be less disruptive than an unannounced phone call. I was hoping to offer you qualified leads for your sales team to close.”

Or this?

“Hi, Jeff,

I’m a co-founder at XYZ Company. We’re a startup developing a new technology to debug large scale production environments …”

Or this?

“I wanted to find out if you have any design needs at ____ [insert target company]. We can increase sales, engagement, conversions and more through our design strategies. Interested? Email me back. I’d love to chat.”

As a sales coach I see these lazy, failing email messages by the dozens each week.

Here’s the problem: Templates you’ve found on Google. Guess what … everyone has Google. Billions of people. Most sellers are too lazy to get creative. Hence, they use email templates others (falsely) claim work.

Why Your Sales Email Sequence Isn’t Working

The best way to illustrate why your sales email sequence isn’t working is with an example from my inbox.

EmailThe best way to illustrate why your sales email sequence isn’t working is with an example from my inbox. Does this look familiar to you? I’ve disguised the name of the company to protect the innocent.

Email Sequence Touch No. 1

Subject: Quick question

Hi Jeff,

I’d like to introduce ABC, software that helps businesses discover growth opportunities while avoiding risks. ABC helps coaches and their clients discern the “story behind the numbers” that every business’ finances reveal.

Our coaching partners use ABC to offer additional value to businesses like THIS COMPANY and THATCOMPANY, pinpointing where problems might lurk, or where profitable opportunities might appear … based on data, not intuition.

I’d love to answer your questions, but if you’d prefer to learn on your own, here’s a link to ABC to learn more, or you can book an personal online tour.

Talk soon!
Phil

This “first touch” sales email doesn’t work because the:

  • subject line is a lie — the contents don’t contain a quick question!
  • first sentence wants to introduce me to a product (thanks for alerting me so I can delete it!)
  • problem this sender solves is way too generic (growth and reduce risks)
  • sender spends the entire time talking about themselves, not me
  • pushes information about the sender at me and encourages a website visit, rather than asking me a question!

Persistence is vital to success. Thus, a sequence of email messages and voicemail scripts is necessary. This is — and always will be — part of effective sales practices.

Need to set meetings? These days, it’s taking an average of seven touches in a sales cadence to yield an invitation for discussion. My clients report (on average) email No. 4 is where they generate the most response.

However, most sales email sequences don’t work because they:

  • are push-oriented (rather than pull, curiosity-focused)
  • contain an unsubscribe link (always a tip-off that this is NOT personalized)
  • are trying to “add value” rather than provoke a reaction
  • are not being complimented with calls and direct mail

Email Sequence Touch No. 2

Back to my example of typical sales email sequences — and why they fail sellers.

Hi Jeff,

It’s likely that your clients rely on you to advise them. ABC is a tool that helps business coaches with clients like THISCOMPANY to:

  • Increase revenue by modeling cash flow alongside longer term sales projections
  • Manage capital and avoid shortfalls by tracking invoices and bills
  • Track the break-even point by quickly building a powerful, repeating budget
  • Rapidly compile and compare “what if” scenarios to make solid operational decisions

I’d love to walk you through the benefits of ABC for your clients (or for yourself!) in a quick online tour you can schedule at your convenience.
– Phil

This email doesn’t work because the sender:

  • shows me, immediately, “this message is unpersonalized”
  • continues to talk about himself
  • guesses about me rather than proves he’s researched my business
  • keeps “loving” the opportunity to sell me (Phil is desperate)

If you want to fail, this is the way forward. Push. Most of what is causing failure in this case is this element of push, rather than pull. The other element missing is personalization.

Not that fake personalization (“I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you’re my target customer”). Actual knowledge. For example, Phil should stop guessing that my clients rely on me to advise them and take the 5 seconds to say, “Jeff, your clients rely on advice from you to use email more effectively when prospecting. I noticed you work with ABC Client. I also help financial services customers.”

Make this email real to me. Stop cutting and pasting templates. Start talking to me. Use a template but customize it! Take a few seconds to research me, Phil. Prove to me you’re not a machine.

Avoid PDFs in Cold Email Templates. Always.

I’m not going to try to persuade you. Instead, I’ll just share my experience — observing hundreds of successful sellers. If you want to get more conversations started “from cold,” avoid including links and/or PDFs in your “first touch” email. Here’s why and what to do instead.

Customer-First Email MarketingI’m not going to try to persuade you. Instead, I’ll just share my experience — observing hundreds of successful sellers. If you want to get more conversations started “from cold,” avoid including links and/or PDFs in your “first touch” email.

Here’s why and what to do instead.

PDFs Are the Devil

Don’t attach PDFs or any literature to your cold email. I have yet to meet anyone who articulates “the why” behind my recommendation better than Scott Britton, co-founder of Troops, a sales productivity tool. If you’re in marketing … get ready. This might jar you a bit. But keep an open mind.

“A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can. So why send a deck and let a static document do the selling instead of you?” asks Mr. Britton.

Key words here are “within a specific context.” Our job as sales people is to apply content within context. So if you have a white paper, report, infographic, whatever … effective use means applying it in context of the “buying journey.”

This requires your assessment of the context — first. Everything else is just pushing information at someone who doesn’t want it.

Remember: Customers value more what they ask for — less what you offer them. Thus, help the right customers develop an urge to ask.

But here’s the most important reason to not include your PDF — no matter what it contains.

“If they’re not into (motivated by) your offering after reviewing their deck, there is literally no reason to hop on a call with you,” says Mr. Britton.

Need I say more?

As Scott says, “Don’t take yourself out of play, own the sale.”

Because if you rely on that PDF, well, you are all but giving up. You are also just like 95 percent of sales people out there. You’re not at the top of your game.

Don’t Rush: How to Apply Case Studies

It’s common to use case studies in cold emails, as attachments. But the goal of your first email is not to earn purchase consideration, nor a meeting. It is to earn a reply. Period.

Thus, your goal is not to get prospects to read the case study PDF. They don’t want your case. Because they’re not interested in qualifying you (yet). They’re not in a discussion (yet) that would cause them to want to qualify you.

The goal is to get them to talk with you — about how their goals, fears or burning desires. Then assess if they’re interested in qualifying you, at which time you can offer a case.

Be confident. Don’t rush to show. Get them hooked on the provocation. Once they’ve asked you for what’s in your PDF they’ve opened the door. Otherwise you’re just busting through the door saying, “hey, read this!” like every other sellers is.

Think of it like a first date: The more you promote what you want, the less you’ll get it. The more you allow them to respond and discuss, the more you’ll get it.

Get Into the Conversation — Now

Quick example from a client I’m working with: The goal of their first touch email is to get into conversation about potential clients’ trade shows. But many sellers on their team feel urges. They want to rush the conversation by including case study PDFs on first touch.

We developed a provocative approach, asking the potential client, “Are you open to a different way of attracting decision-makers to your booth? I have an idea for you.”

Rather than asking for a meeting, or if they’re interested in talking about an upcoming trade show, we conclude the email with, “How are you currently earning meeting commitments from prospects prior to the event?”

Because this is the conversation we want to be in! This is the “slow go” type of approach I’m referring to. Ask for the discussion — not for the meeting or the qualification (reading your PDF).

But many sellers on my client’s team felt an urge to add:

“I can send you the case study/testimonial of our client who increased their qualified traffic by 90 percent.”

Do you see how this pushes rather than pulls? It promotes. Instead, consider attracting that conversation to you. Tempt the prospect to ask you for the case.

Why do we do this? Why to we rush the conversation? Because you feel you should. Why? Because you’re worried — what you’ve said in the email is not going to be enough. Be confident. Don’t attach PDFs or any literature to your cold email. A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can.

What is your experience? I’m open to hearing it.