Despite What You May Think, A Perfectly Crafted Email Can Actually Close A Deal.
In most cases, you'll want to close deals either in person or on the telephone. It's more personal and more likely to work. And you'll know, right away, whether you've got the business or not. Even so, it's sometimes more convenient to ask for the business via email. Here's a simple seven-step process for writing an email that can actually close:
- Step #1. Define the problem, need or goal. In one to two sentences, show the prospect that you understand the business situation, based upon your original research, and previous conversations with the prospect. Example: "You have shared with us that excess inventory at your Sheboygan plant is reducing the profitability of wholesale operations. However, our research indicates that the plant in question shares many characteristics of your competitors' most successful operations."
- Step #2: Define the desired outcome. In one to three sentences, explain what will be different when that problem is solved, that need is fulfilled, or that goal is achieved. Focus on the customer and the advantages the customer will gain from implementing your as-yet-undescribed solution. Example: "Based upon our best understanding of industry norms, improving inventory control at Sheybogan will decrease the cost of goods in the range of 20 to 25 percent, adding a yearly increase in net profit of roughly $25 million."
- Step #3: Define the solution. In two to three sentences, provide a BRIEF overview of the solution you're proposing, tying the solution back the customer's problems, needs or goals (as defined in Step #1) AND to the desired outcome (as defined in Step #2). Avoid jargon and biz-blab. Instead use words that a non-technical, decision-maker can understand. Example: "We can customize our control software to allow you to more quickly use your existing inventory, thereby saving $10 million per year in floor-space rental."
- Step #4: Position for the close. In one to two sentences, provide a key factor that differentiate you as a vendor and that makes you the right company for the prospect to choose. Example: "Our inventory control solution was recognized in the annual report of Acme Corp. as being responsible for their increased profitability and we're certain that we can do the same for your firm. We look forward to working with you."
- Step #5: Ask for the next step. In one final sentence, describe the next step that will make the opportunity real (i.e. the close). Example: "Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or simply send a return email and we'll put the customization work on our schedule."
- Step #6: Compose your subject line. Based on what you wrote in Step #2, write a crisp summary of the desired outcome. Example: "Profitability Increase at the Sheybogan Plant"
- Step #7: Structure the email. Put the subject line from Step 6 in the subject line of the email (duh!). Everything else goes into the body of the email, in the exact order (Steps #1 through #5) in which you wrote them. Don't forget to sign your name at the bottom.
Just as important as what you DO put in the email is what you DON'T. Here's what you MUST leave out:
- Your corporate history, motto, values, etc.
- Technical details about the solution.
- The price (!!!!)
The reason is simple. If you're going to CLOSE via email, you must have already worked out all of that with the prospect ahead of time. An email that CLOSES must build upon an already-existing relationship, where there's already been a fundamental meeting of the mind.
Key concept: If you're still talking technical details and price, you're not ready to close.
NOTE: The above is adapted from a conversation I had with the amazing Tom Sant, author of Persuasive Business Proposals (Amacom, 2003), tempered by my own extensive experience of closing business using email. (One guess, how I closed the deal on this writing gig...)
Geoffrey James is an award-winning journalist and author of Inc.com's Sales Source column. Previously, he wrote Sales Machine, the world's most-visited sales-oriented blog. James has written hundreds of articles on sales and marketing for publications like Technology Marketing and SellingPower, and has helped dozens of sales training and technology vendors communicate more effectively with their customers. James' new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling is set to hit shelves in early December.
Thanks to Geoffrey James / Inc. / Mansueto Ventures LLC.
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