Sales communication is one of the most challenging aspects of business, no matter what type of work you do. (Heck, it’s one of the challenging parts of life, isn’t it?) Whether it’s via email or in person, we don’t always communicate well with each other. We are unclear. People misunderstand. Our tone is off. If you’re a Raleigh or Durham business owner, communication is something you should always strive to improve — especially communication with potential clients and customers.
A Tale of Two Emails
My thoughts on this struck quite recently as I inquired with two companies about installing solar panels on my house. I am planning a home addition in the next year, and I wanted to find out a bit more about the process of adding solar panels. To me, it makes sense to add them while I’m tearing up the place anyway. I have a lot of questions about how it works, whether it would work for our home, how much it costs, and more. After filling out the contact form on two websites, I received the following replies:
Thanks for your interest in solar power, and [company nane]! I took a look at your property (via satellite imagery), and unfortunately, it looks like you have minimal solar exposure or too much shade. Solar works best on a southern roof and yours seems to receive significant shading from the trees to the West of your home.
Imaging systems (Google Earth, Bing Maps, etc.) can be dated at times. Please feel free to contact me if you feel this assessment is inaccurate or if you have cleared your property of trees or obstructing brush in the past 12-18 months. We can take a second look.
Good afternoon Jennifer!
We’d love to get you scheduled for an initial energy consultation to explore how you can benefit from solar energy for your home.
Just a few qualifying questions:
- Do you own your home?
- What is your home address?
- What is your utility provider? How much is your average monthly cost associated?
- What is your availability to schedule an in-home solar analysis?
Thank you for considering solar. We look forward to talking with you soon!
What Do You Think?
How do these sound to you? I’m genuinely curious because each person perceives things slightly differently based on our lenses.
To me, Email A felt like a brush off, as if they are saying, “Thanks but no thanks.” The salesperson didn’t inquire at all about my plans or the reason for my interest. I did not get the chance to explain that my home addition will likely affect the trees. From my point of view, he took less than one minute to eliminate me as a prospect based on what might be outdated information. He even acknowledged the information might not be accurate. That felt rude and lazy. He didn’t even close with a comment or signature.
Maybe I was just in a grumpy mood, but sometimes, your potential customers are going to be grumpy. How do they perceive your message?
By stark contrast, as I read Email B, I felt warmth. Sure, they need to qualify me, and I get that. But the writer was friendly and asked questions, engaging me to get more information.
Creating An Engaging Tone in Sales Communications
“Engaging” is the keyword there. Lately, I’ve been emailing with a sales consultant for a project we’re doing with him and one of our clients. He talks about this engagement and how to teach salespeople to listen. Most of us aren’t very good at it! One of his pieces of advice is to ask open-ended questions without imposing your solutions.
I’d just read some of the consultant’s presentation mere hours before I received the solar panel emails, so it was fresh on my mind. Maybe that’s what was bothering me. The person did not take the time to listen, setting a negative tone for our relationship. And you know what? Now, I don’t want to talk to him. That company just lost me as a potential customer. Meanwhile, the second person asked questions and gave off a vibe of interest and excitement.
Salespeople need to qualify their leads ASAP. Time is money. But there is a better way. And, even if I can’t install solar panels because it won’t work, a friendly and positive approach would have kept their name in a good light in my mind. I might later recommend them to a friend investigating solar. Now? Probably not.
If I were the company that sent Email A, here is one way I might rewrite that message:
Thank you for your interest in solar energy! We’re thrilled to help you learn more about adding panels to your home. To get started, we need a bit more information from you. Can you please tell me:
- Why are you interested in solar panels?
- When are you hoping to install them?
- Is this part of other changes to your home? If so, can you tell us more?
Feel free to call me at [phone number] or email me back. Meanwhile, you might find this FAQ sheet useful. It answers a lot of questions you probably have, such as cost and how it works. Thanks, and we look forward to hearing more.
Is this the perfect sales communication? Probably not. I’m sure sales trainers out there can improve upon this. But in my mind, it’s positive, it’s engaging me and asking me questions while still qualifying whether or not I’m worth their time. Plus, it’s offering helpful information in the form of the FAQ sheet — something their marketing team would have created.
Align Sales and Marketing
We’ve written before about aligning your sales and marketing teams for many reasons, and communication with potential clients is one of the most critical. As a marketer, I want to know what messages your sales team sends and when. That way, if I’m emailing a list of people, I can coordinate with you on timing. (Plus, the software programs used by both can work together to add or subtract from someone’s lead score.)
Marketing crafts and guides your company’s brand based on input from you. We can assist with messaging. We may not write every single sales communication, but we want to work with salespeople on the overall tone and make sure the message is consistent with that on your website and in advertising. As a marketer, I want to ask your sales team about the pain points they see so we can speak to those people in our messaging. I want to write that FAQ sheet, so your sales team has something useful to hand people.
Large companies have internal sales managers and trainers, people who spend hours crafting email and phone scripts based on the expertise of consumer behavior. However, many Raleigh and Durham companies don’t have those people. If you don’t, but you have a marketing team or person, coordinate with him or her as you sell to new prospects. (Here, we’ve shared some lessons about aligning sales and marketing.)
If nothing else, it’s another set of eyes on your sales communications, reading it with a different lens. Then, maybe a potential customer — even if she’s in a grumpy mood — would feel positive about her first interaction with you.