An email: Just For Communication? Or A Missed Opportunity to WOW?

Sales Relationship Building 

Heads Up – Eyes Open 

An email: Just For Communication or is an opportunity being missed?

We have all seen funny video clips of people using their smartphones checking messages whilst walking into lamp posts or street signs. The common posture today seems to be head down, hands together “I must read that email or text”! Not really paying attention to their immediate surroundings.

Recently I got an email from an ‘old’ colleague now living in UK that was dealing with this exact topic: Today's distractions and how to get more effectiveness out of marketing dollars spent. After reading the recent article he sent me from UK’S Winning Edge, Sales Must Make a Mark,  I shared it with several people (using my laptop not my smartphone!) asking the questions “any comments, any ideas?”

I got a few ideas back, and then added mine.

Having a long track record in sales, marketing and business development, I have seen firsthand the results bringing all the elements (sales, marketing & business development) together in a different and more collaborative way.

When sales and marketing come together, sometimes the rivalry can get in the way. In my experience, marketing believe that they can sell better than sales and sales believe marketing can create confusion.

A facilitation role or central point that they both connect to has evolved - marketing communications, the department that develops the messaging from the organization to the marketplace…another layer of infrastructure and cost in between sales and marketing - it works, but adds cost.

How could the same customer messaging be achieved without adding additional layers and costs? How can an ROI be achieved?

This is the challenge!

The Role of Sales People

When looking at the role of salesperson, the first thing that comes to mind is that they are the face to the customer - the eyes and ears responsible to gather information and manage relationships. This role today often takes the word Sales out of the conversation and they are know now as Account Managers, Business Development Managers or even "Customer Field Liaison Managers"!

There is no doubt that a preferred method of communication today is email, whether it be from the office on the computer or via a smart phone/tablet when mobile. Today you don’t even have to talk to anyone in person, even if they are in the same office!

Marketing has done a great job adapting to communication trends and has increased the use of email, but they are seldom on target when communicating directly to the customer. They get close, but often times the information is not applicable or of interest to that particular customer, or it is presented in a way that creates either confusion or more work for the recipient. 

Typical Marketing Approach 

RESULT = Delete!

Email is not going away!

Source: CUSTORA E-Commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot | Q2 2013     

Source: CUSTORA E-Commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot | Q2 2013


This looks great, but how can this phenomena be harnessed and how can we use it?

When we look deeper we find that when the two topics came together - email & marketing, the numbers don’t add up.  How could this be? Email use is on the rise but a 6% open rate or a 94% not opened rate proves it’s not working today.  In business, one must always try to think from the perspective of the customer. So what are they thinking? Why aren’t they connecting to our wonderful email marketing? What approach could be taken that would increase the open rate and gain more attention?

Let’s ask the salespeople – a novel approach!

It became apparent that all companies are thinking the same and are on board in a big way - lots of emails are sent to everybody, they are cheap and the job is done quickly- Marketing Nirvana! But emails generated from anonymous sources i.e. The Company or The Marketing Department were found less likely to be opened and even if a friendly name of the sender was used “Hi from Susan in Marketing” it was still an unknown person that’s invading the inbox.

 Email use is on the rise, email marketing has high delete rates.

 As in any times of trouble, the management team is quick to react and say – “let’s drop it on sales to fix, they have the relationship don’t they?” Has management spoken with a salesperson since 1996? One of the biggest complaints from salespeople today is “The customer has not responded to my email.”

What if we put the email marketing into the hands of the salesperson and gave THEM the empowerment to help channel appropriate messaging to THEIR customers?

That won’t work would it?

Looking deeper at how salespeople communicate with their customers, it is apparent that even though modern communication medium is fast and gets the message delivered, little care and effort is taken in crafting emails. They are often confusing or long winded, are sometimes difficult to understand, don’t reflect what the customer NEEDS or worse they are product feature-benefit statements with no added value content…they do not stand out from the many emails  received. Come put your hands up, how many of us have sent an email message like the example below?

Dear Fred
Thank you for the meeting today. Please find listed a summary of the items we discussed today…blah blah blah blah
If you need any further information, please contact me.
Best Regards
I AM Boring


Emails like this are not viewed as they should be which is - An Opportunity to WOW and STAND OUT.

A typical person receives tens (maybe hundreds!) of emails per day, so how can you get your email opened ahead of the crowd? What could be done to grab their attention, make them engage and click on the link or give you a call?

Combining the three elements together (marketing, sales and email) CAN work and results in higher engagement with customers.

Marketing creates appropriate messaging, sales delivers this messaging by understanding what the customer NEEDS and uses email to help develop the B2B relationship!

Professional salespeople are good at building relationships – “people buy off people” and that's what they should focus on. We also know they are creative and become valuable to customers by bringing new ideas.

What if we helped them? Gave them the right words to use? Save them time, help them stand out from the crowd and add value to their customers? 

Allowing them to track emails - who opened it, was it bounced, did the customer engage by clicking a link? This would give them the ability to immediately plan their follow-up activities, whether it be a phone call, visit or sending more information, keeping them in constant appropriate contact giving the customer what they need.

Result  > 70% E Mail Open rates

An approach to all this has been developed where marketing creates suitable and appropriate content and messaging, adds topic related images, and puts it all into a library for sales to access easily, choose the appropriate message to their customer's interests, and deliver it directly to them (while tracking if it has been opened).  Let's call this surgical marketing.

I describe this as, “Replacing the meat you serve to your customer. It goes from spam to ham, or bacon which everyone loves the smell of.”

Email open rates go through the roof! 70 – 80% is not uncommon.  Not much changes, it’s the same messaging, but it’s served in a subtly different way and personalized to help develop the customer relationship. I've heard it said many times in business:

We don't need more customers, we need more friends. 

Why? Because when given a choice we all prefer to buy from those we identify as friends and trust, so let's focus on making more friends.

This approach is not too different to others, it is adapted modern thinking. It takes a little more time than in the past and the relationship becomes less about the immediate sale, more about taking the time to develop the friendship after which the sales will come! 

So what we have is a simple model where we try another approach, combining technology and humanity. Small changes in sales approach, adaptive behavior, and subtle use of imagery and messaging will take you quicker and easier to our dream place, “Sales Shangri-La, to the Promised Land where unicorns live, customers are happy and loyal, and the profits for both are better Trusted partner Ville."

Contributing Authors

Mark Chung is the owner of Lancashire Marketing Solutions Ltd, has over 25 years sales & marketing experience operating in global roles.


Malcolm Evans is based in Atlanta Georgia USA.

My company delivers innovative training and tools for companies of all sizes, I host a popular US radio show for sales and small business people, and write this sales blog “Axentuate” just to get stuff off my mind and onto yours..

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