LeadJen is in today’s issue of B2B Ask the Expert.

E-mail is a very effective tool in outbound prospecting. Sending an e-mail to a prospect before making a phone call can double the response rate, but only if it’s done right.

An outbound prospecting e-mail has a “shelf life” of only one business day, so using e-mail as the first contact in a lead-generation program is effective only if the prospect is called the same day the e-mail is delivered. Because most prospecting e-mails are unrequested, they tend to be viewed and then either tossed or buried in the prospect’s cluttered e-mail box.

Our metrics show that appointments don’t typically result from e-mail; they come from the follow-up call. However, using an e-mail before calling has several advantages.

An e-mail warms up the conversation, making it easier for callers to refer to the e-mail rather than diving into a complicated script. An e-mail also gives prospects information to refer to while on the call. Finally, callers are more likely to get past gatekeepers if they mention that they are calling to follow up on information sent earlier that day.

If using introductory e-mails, make sure you follow a few rules:

  • Make e-mails look like they are individualized. Text-based, not HTML, e-mails accomplish this.
  • Start the e-mail with a line that will get the prospect to read it, such as “For your reference.” This opening line works because it appears the e-mail is something the recipient requested, but it is not deceiving.
  • Make e-mail content credible by including links to information the prospect can click on, such as a case study, white paper, analyst report, or a short video or demo.

Finally, an e-mail can be used to follow up with a prospect after callers have left several voice mail messages, providing another channel to which the prospect can respond. However, outbound prospectors need to be careful not to spam contacts.

Jenny Vance is president of LeadJen (www.leadjen.com), a b-2-b lead generation company.