In our last vendor cheatsheet, we talked about the reasons why you might stop hearing from your customers during a prospective sale.
We promised that our next Vendor Cheatsheet would give some tips about how to break through the silence and get a response to your email. See below for guidance sourced from communications best practices.
1. WIIFM Messaging
To have a better chance of your contact or potential contact opening your email, consider what might appeal to them. Messaging is more likely to resonate if it speaks to the recipient and their needs – in communications theory, this is called “what’s in it for me” or WIIFM messaging. If you are trying to reach someone in IT, your messaging will therefore have a different tone than if you’re writing to someone who leads a KM department, or if you’re writing directly to a lawyer.
Consider your audience, and tailor the content of your email and especially your subject heading accordingly. It should go without saying but simple rules include:
- Make sure your email contains the right name for your contact
- No bulk emails – it takes longer, but personalizing your emails makes a real difference
- No sales-y type headlines, or gimmicks like “One last chance!” or “Final offer” subject headings – these won’t get traction, and may get you blacklisted.
Instead, think about what someone in the position of your contact may wish to hear. Rather than subject headings requiring things of them, think of subject headings that indicate you’re going out of your way to give something to them. Consider thoughtful subject headings like:
- “Making sure you saw this”
- “Updating you and your team”
- “Wanted to let you know”
Make sure you follow up this kind of subject heading with messaging in your email that follows through – in other words, provide that roadmap update, or give them news that is relevant to them.
You can always ask for a short call at the end of the email, which you can then use to get the update you need; but starting by providing information that is relevant to them is a better way to get their attention.
2. Build a Relationship
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in this game. Subject headings will get you only so far.
The legal industry is built on relationships. Although digital marketing efforts can enhance word-of-mouth referrals, most legal work at law firms is won through relationships and repeat work.
The world of legaltech sales to law firms is not much different. The sales cycle at law firms is so long that vendors need to develop relationships with stakeholders in order to stay in the loop throughout the process. If you don’t have a relationship with relevant contacts at a prospective customer firm, it’s less likely that your email will stand out from any of the others they receive, or that they will be motivated to respond to it.
Spending the time to develop authentic relationships with stakeholders on the buyer side will pay dividends later. That means that even when a sale is not on the table, you should be in touch regularly, with friendly check-ins, invitations, comments. Ideally, you want your contact to connect your name with their social world as well as their work world. You want them to see your emails as different from the others that flood your inbox because you are not a faceless salesperson but a friend, or at least a valued member of their professional circle.
If you have a genuine relationship with your contact at a firm, they are far more likely to respond to your email and even take the initiative to tell you where your prospective sale is up to. Indeed, you may end up having the benefit of a number of different methods to get in touch with your contact rather than just email – you may even have their cell number (tip: if you do, don't abuse it! Use it only to further the relationship).
3. Send Digestible, Useful Content
If all you ever send are emails following up to your previous questions, or check-ins on the status of a sale, it’s no wonder that some of your emails go unanswered.
Instead, consider sending emails attaching or linking to real content, or information that’s useful to the people who receive it. If you come across an article that might be useful to a segment of your buyers, send it to them – “saw this, thought you might find it interesting”. If there is an award you think one of your buyer contacts could submit for, suggest that to them – “looked at this and thought of you and your team”.
Even better, if your company produces valuable thought leadership pieces and white papers on topics relevant to your buyers, distribute those to your contacts with a personal note. If the public needs to pay for access to one of your company’s reports, see if you can get permission to distribute a free version to your key contacts.
If you become a source of genuine, relevant content for your contacts, it’s much more likely that your emails will be read and answered.
4. Invite them out
Instead of sending an email asking for a response, send an email asking your contact for coffee, lunch or drinks when you’re next in town.
If your company is holding an event, invite them and make them feel like a special guest by giving them advance notice of the event. Instead of the usual cocktails, consider inviting your most critical contacts to join you for a night at the theatre, a cooking class, or for an activity like bowling or axe throwing.
The recipients of these types of invitations will remember the time they spent with you and start to think of you differently, making it more likely they will respond to you when you need to reach them for work.
5. Offer to Buy Them a Virtual Lunch
If you can’t travel to see your contacts on a regular basis, invite them to buy lunch on you – from a local restaurant of their choice. Then set a Zoom meeting during which you can have lunch together.
Give them the options of Uber Eats or Seamless, and ask them to pick some menu items from a restaurant, so you can order it ahead of time and make sure it arrives prior to your meeting.
There’s no need for your contact to actually eat on screen, but the offer of a free lunch delivered to their home or office may well get you the “in” you need to schedule a meeting.
6. Become an Expert
Easier said than done, but if you or someone on your team can develop genuine insight and expertise on a key aspect of the market that impacts your contacts at firms, they will be eager to hear from you and get the inside scoop.
If you have tracked, for example, the number of firms with 1000 lawyers or more who license a certain type of technology and use it in a certain practice group, your customers and prospective customer may be interested in getting market updates from you. They may even want you to speak to their team so you can convey the update.
If your company is big enough to have insights across a spectrum of the market, consider putting quarterly meetings in your contacts’ calendars, to provide them with real-time intelligence and data in which they have a vested interest. This will also go towards building a relationship, and will help you and your company develop credibility.
7. Ask them to Speak
If your company runs webinars or podcasts, or is affiliated with an organization or association that does so, reach out to your key contacts with speaking opportunities.
Flattering your contacts by asking them to join you in thought leadership efforts will help them see that the relationship is a two-way street. They will see that you are helping them build a profile, and that you understand and respect their expertise.
Having one of your senior leaders interview your contacts on a webinar that is then shared across social media is a good way to cement a relationship. This also goes for podcasts, or for writing opportunities – ask them for quotes that are published in your company’s white papers, ask them to collaborate on a blog. Any situation that you can manifest where you are working together with your contact will help ensure that you have consistent and ongoing communication with them.
8. Get Someone Senior to Send the Email
If you don’t have the relationship you need to get a response form a key stakeholder, think about who in your organization might have that relationship.
A senior leader on an innovation team may not respond to an email from a salesperson at a company (which can be a challenge especially if you’re new to the team), but if she has a personal relationship with the CEO or head of sales, she will probably respond to an email sent by them.
This is not a tactic to overuse, but if you’ve been trying to get in contact with someone for a while without success, having this in your back pocket as a last resort is useful.
Watch out for our next Vendor Cheatsheet, which will kick off our Law Firm Procurement Series: breaking down the procurement process and identifying the relevant personnel involved.