Multiple studies have shown that it typically takes three seconds for prospective clients to decide whether to open a marketing email in their inbox.
“Those three seconds are pretty important,” says Sandra Usleman, senior vice president and chief sales officer at USI Insurance Services. “If you don't have a deep relationship or a strong referral with the prospect, you’ve got to put something compelling in the subject line that causes them to want to open the email.”
In the following interview, Usleman discusses several tried-and-tested methods that sales professionals and consultants at USI are utilizing to help them get in front of prospects.
NUPC: As a salesperson, how do you break through to someone of great importance who is nearly impossible to reach?
Usleman: There has to be some kind of connection that makes the person who is scanning emails stop and pause on the subject line. If there's nothing that appears to be bringing value, no relationship, we find that the e-mails go unopened and the calls go unanswered.
We stress that there must be some kind of connection with that person you’re trying to reach — either a personal connection or a compelling statement that earns you the right to take the time of the busy and important business executive.
NUPC: By connection, do you mean naming a referral, like “someone suggested I get in touch”?
Usleman: Possibly. Some of our new sales professionals don't have the luxury of a Rolodex when they join USI. They don't have the deep relationships that the more established sales professionals may have. The last thing we want is for our producers to make cold calls, so we take advantage of all the research available to us.
We teach our sales professionals to learn about the person we’re trying to reach on a personal level, using tools such as LinkedIn to find such things as their community involvement, their awards and recognitions.
We teach them to learn about the company, gather information that can easily be found on the website such as goals, vision, recent acquisitions or awards.
We show our sales professionals how to take that information and leverage it to earn the interest of the person they want to contact, and our connection rates prove that it works.
In that first sentence of the email, it's critical to deliver something of value to make them continue reading and to believe that you’re someone they want to talk to. Understanding their business issues and how they can be solved with financial impact and examples of where it has been done with companies like theirs is essential. And to close, there must be a call to action.
Don't waste time
NUPC: What other training do you provide to producers before they meet face-to-face with a prospect?
Usleman: First, we supply or supplement our sales professionals with targeted prospects to ensure they’re focused on the right prospects. Then we help them build a dossier on each prospect and train on tools and tactics for both research and warming.
We don't want to waste anybody's time, so we’re thorough upfront in researching the individuals or companies we call on.
To further prepare for a face-to-face meeting we support sales professionals with our “knowledge platform,” called OMNI, which provides access to hundreds of issues, solutions and case studies. From here we’re able to develop the potential financial impact so the meeting is meaningful to the prospect.
Additionally, we “huddle,” bringing together a team that includes the sales professional and key resources to ensure we explore all potential issues and options for the prospect.
NUPC: Overall, what are the other key steps to a solid, effective sales process?
Usleman: We have a defined and proven process around how to approach a particular prospect, and it starts with identifying the issues and challenges we can solve for them. We do a lot of strategizing and prepare a creative approach for each individual and company and a plan to advance each relationship.
There are different strategies, but it's important that the salesperson approach what they do with confidence.
We teach them to thoroughly prepare, leverage the team of resources available, understand the financial impact of our solutions, don't waste the prospect's time and don't give away our intellectual property.
Sales reps extinct?
NUPC: Do you think as technology evolves sales representatives are going to become extinct?
Usleman: I think it depends on the industry. In commodity-driven industries, it is possible you are going to see face-to-face selling go the wayside. But in our world, in the middle market, the customers we are trying to help don't typically have a risk manager on staff.
We are trying to help them address more complicated issues that are having a financial impact on their bottom line, like the Affordable Care Act. There are all kinds of laws and compliance, and executives don't have the time to keep up. So, to our middle market client, we serve a great need and we are seen as partners.