Tips to Keep Your Sales Team’s Emails Landing in Inboxes and Out of Spam Folders

“I’M SENDING YOU AN EMAIL INVITE RIGHT NOW, BUT BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR SPAM FOLDER”

Apple Flush Face

Do your sales reps have to say this to leads over the phone? Hopefully they don’t, but if you run aggressive outbound campaigns, getting your company’s emails into inboxes can be an issue. Not all emails make it to their final destination, sort of like this cat:

giphy

If your SDRs’ emails aren’t getting any love and you think deliverability may be the issue, three questions need to be asked:

  • Has your company spammed in the past? i.e. history of the domain that’s sending the email.
  • Have the servers that send your email been spamming? i.e. history of the IP address the domain is sending from.
  • Are you spamming right now? i.e. content of the email being sent.

Every domain and IP that sends email has a reputation with email service providers. If your marketing team or sales reps have demonstrated a tendency for spamming, it can cause issues with email deliverability for the entire company.

You need to protect your company’s sender reputation, because a few bad campaigns can cause problems for years.

NINE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO KEEP YOUR SALES TEAM’S EMAILS LANDING IN INBOXES:

1. REIGN IN OVERLY AGGRESSIVE REPS THAT COULD CAUSE USERS TO HIT THE SPAM BUTTON

Some reps don’t have enough leads to work, so they go back and work contacts (not prospects, contacts) that are completely unqualified. This can make for a busy-body, nervous-energy induced, nagging feeling of “I need to keep moving or I will die” that leads horrible emails like this:

super spammy sales email to moz

image via Moz

If prospects aren’t opening your emails, viewing your collateral or responding to your calls, why are your reps bothering them again? Eventually, they will be forced to hit the spam button in their email client to silence the inbox assault so they can get some work done. Make sure your most aggressive reps aren’t stepping over the line.

User reported spam is a huge tip off for email service providers that your sending something people do not want to deal with. Rather than harassing people that aren’t going to buy, get your reps some new leads to work.

2. DON’T SEND BIG EMAIL ATTACHMENTS

Your marketing team worked hard on all the high-res sales collateral and sleek pitch decks — but all those big images can add up. Big attachments can cause your reps emails to get denied inbox entry.

If your sales team is sending large attachments in cold emails they could be going right to the spam folder. Instead of using attachments, send your sales documents and presentations with DocSend. Not only will sending DocSend links not risk your deliverability, your team will be able to measure document usage and engagement with prospects.

2. BE CAUTIOUS OF FALSE POSITIVES WITH FULLCONTACT, RAPPORTIVE, SIDEKICK ETC.

There are a lot of tricks for finding someone’s email address. Tools like Rapportive, FullContact and SideKick have become popular with SDRs. But these tools shouldn’t be trusted blindly, they can trigger false positives:

Just because your Chrome extension of choice serves up the correct profile picture, or populates a prospects full name, it does not mean it’s a “direct hit.” You can see a few false positives in the screen grabbed GIF above. After a ton of misfires to nonexistent email addresses your deliverability will suffer.

3. VERIFY A SINGLE EMAIL ADDRESS FOR A ONE-OFF PITCH BY PINGING THE EMAIL SERVER.

One of the best ways to tell if an email address is correct is to ping the mail server by using a service like MailTester.com. But pinging non-existent email addresses from your office IP can hurt your deliverability, especially if you have 100 SDRs doing it on a daily basis. Instead of doing this from your office IP, use a free proxy like hide.me, and then use the proxy to head over to MailTester.com and try out any email address likely to be a hit for a prospect.

Each attempt will be met with green for a match:

mail tester dot com email match

or Red for a non-existent email:

mail tester dot com email look up

4. USE A SERVICE LIKE BRITEVERIFY OR NEVERBOUNCE TO CLEAN LISTS

Avoid sending emails that produce a “hard bounce,” (i.e. sending to email addresses or domains that don’t exist) at all costs. This gif illustrates how an email service provider reacts to one hard bounce from a sender… and then hundreds of hard bounces from the same sender:

bouncing emails and bouncing pugs

If you are buying or creating prospect lists with hundreds of fresh email addresses to feed your SDRs or marketing team, make sure they’ve been cleaned and verified. These third-party services also watch out for honeypot email addresses, which are spam traps – they will decimate your deliverability.

5. IF ATTEMPTING HYPER-GROWTH, SCALE OUTBOUND EMAIL VOLUME AT A REASONABLE RATE

Just because you want to 100X your run rate doesn’t mean you should 100X your outbound email volume. You need to build up your reputation with email service providers and warm up your IP address first.

dipping your toes in a pool of water

If you are an established company and dipping your toes in the outbound pool, start sending outbound emails gradually and test everything you can. Figure out which subject lines work and ditch the ones that don’t as fast as you can. Even if your company needs to grow at light speed, you want to gradually ease into higher volume outbound email. If you go from sending 2000 new emails a week to 20,000 new emails a week, you will be growing at a suspiciously fast rate in the eyes of ESPs.

6. BE TECHNICALLY AUTHENTIC

This robot is both technical *and* authentic

Gmail cites authentication as one of their top recommendations for helping get your email delivered to their users’ inboxes. By publishing your Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record, Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) policy, and signing messages with DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM),  the inboxes you’re sending to will have some verifiable information to determine if your email deserves to end up in an inbox, or if it should be sequestered to the spam folder. If you’ve never heard of any of this stuff, ask your engineering team to make sure it’s set up ASAP.

7. DON’T SEND EMAILS WITH TONS OF IMAGES

Spam filters can only process text and code, not images, so spammers love sending big images that contain their spammy messaging to try and bypass email filters. If you look at the top 10 reasons emails end up in spam filters, six of them have to do with sending too many images.

This can be especially tricky for SaaS sales, if you are sending large animated gifs in your emails to help explain your product you may be shooting yourself in the foot.

8. DON’T MAKE OVER THE TOP OR SPAMMY SOUNDING CLAIMS IN YOUR PITCH

hucksters making spammy and over the top claims

We have nothing against Dr. McLaughlin’s Electric Belt, but it’s unlikely he’d make it past the Gmail spam filter with this type of cold pitch. MailChimp recommends avoiding the following when drafting an email:

  • Spammy phrases like “Click here!” “Once in a lifetime opportunity!” or
  • Excessive exclamation points!!!!!!!!!
  • USING ALL CAPS (especially in the subject line).

9. SET UP GOOGLE POSTMASTER TOOLS TO MEASURE YOUR EMAIL DELIVERABILITY

google post master tools

Google Postmaster Tools helps senders analyze their email deliverability. The dashboard provides a baseline of how your email is performing in terms of deliverability and will let you know if your company has any outstanding deliverability issues. If you start having problems with making it into inboxes, Postmaster Tools can help you figure out what’s going on.

If you want to take a deep dive and learn the ins-and-outs of Postmaster Tools, Return Path has an awesome guide.

Following these best practices, your emails should be hitting their targets.

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The second email deliverability starts hurting, so does your growth. With these tips, you’re better armed to get your emails to their proper final destination.

image credits: bertknotDavid MorrisGSGCHans SplinterindiamosGIPHY, 4GIFS.TUMBLR.COM

How to create competitive sales battle cards using social proof

Battle cards are a staple of sales teams. These cheat sheets provide concise breakdowns of a competitor’s marketing strategy, key sales messages, product info, positioning, and unique value propositions to use when selling against competitors. Here’s an example battle card from CloudLinux:

Battle Card Template
Image via CloudLinux

With the right information, these documents can be huge helps for reps. The Forte Consultancy Group provides a solid outline for developing a battle card and provides a concise breakdown of all the topic areas that should be included:

  1. Marketplace Conditions – All the basic information a rep needs about a market or market segment in order to sell to it effectively.
  2. Target Customer Segments and Opportunities – Information about the ideal customer profile and the pain points they experience that lead them to purchasing your solution.
  3. Product Features and Promotions – A breakdown of product and feature specs as they compare to your offering as well as big discounts or promotional offers.
  4. Competitive Analysis – An honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a competitor’s product in relation to the product your reps are selling.
  5. Customer Segment-specific Propositions – The unique selling proposition that speaks directly to your ideal customer profile and persuades them to purchase your offering. A lot of the time these are intangible – i.e. the “ultimate driving machine”
  6.  Possible Customer Issues with Product – A breakdown of all perceived issues (price, stability, support etc.) with your offering  that a prospect will ask about during the sales process along with advice on how to properly navigate and answer their questions.
  7. Golden Questions – These are the most important questions that your reps ask prospects. They are designed to help prospects self-identify as the ideal fit for your product and remove all other competitors. i.e. how important are advanced security features to prevent dat breaches, like 2 factor authentication?
  8. Sample Benefits and Success Stories – Solid testimonials from current customers. There should be testimonials for every use case and vertical that you are targeting.
  9. Additional Information – Any other tidbits of intel that help your reps win deals.

WHAT MAKES A SALES BATTLE CARD EFFECTIVE AND HOW CAN REPS USE THEM?

Battle Cards provide reps with a sales-ready response to critical and common prospect questions. A rep may be able to field questions about their specific offering, but positioning a product against a competitor’s can be tricky if they aren’t a heavy user themselves.

By providing your team with an effective and well-researched competitive battle card, you are giving them a framework to sell in a uniform manner that aligns with existing and proven marketing messages.

A framework for sales

The proper positioning comes from extensive research from competitor websites, interviewing experienced reps, loyal customers that abandoned competitors, channel partners, and any competitor marketing material you can get your hands on.

A key differentiator between a strong battle card and a not-so-good one is social proof. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people conform to the actions or beliefs of others under the assumption that those actions or beliefs are the correct choice. One person stating something negative they’ve heard about a product is hearsay and it can easily be ignored, but twenty people… that’s a trend.  If you are going to back up your product as the correct choice for a prospect against an enterprise competitor, social proof can help seal the deal. Glassdoor.com can provide a gold mine of social proof and detailed competitive intelligence that can be used to turn a doubtful prospect into a committed buyer.

COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE PROVIDED BY GLASSDOOR:

Here’s a post form an employee of an infrastructure company that uses security as a selling point:

Infrastructure company glassdor review for battlecard post

This employee review was written by a Security Admin and it gives us a few pieces of competitive intel:

  • Security department is being outsourced to a third party.
  • Employees do not pay attention to customer support tickets.
  • Most tickets are mishandled, sometimes disastrously.
  • Raising prices while offering lower quality support.

Let’s say you get an email from a prospect telling you they are going with Competitor X.You know that your product is a better fit and that the prospect cares deeply about security since they have a ton at stake. Armed with this information from Glassdoor, you can call them up and say:

Seller: Hey, I read your last email. I know you’re thinking of going with Competitor X, but I wanted let you know that even if you don’t go with us, I think you would benefit from reconsidering your options and looking at another partner. You told me on our first call that you take security seriously. In the last year Competitor X has started outsourcing security to a third-party firm and laying off their internal security teams.

Prospect: I didn’t hear or read anything about that, how do you know about this?

Seller: All of it’s on their Glassdoor, it looks like the changes may have ruffled some feathers there. Let me send you a few links that will bring some other issues to light.

HACK TO FIND GLASSDOOR REVIEWS BY KEYWORD OR TOPIC

If you are looking for specific issues in a company to build up your battle card, do a site: search in Google using the following query:

site:www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-[Companyname] AND “keyword”

So if i wanted to look up Hooli, and search for product issues, I would search for:

site:www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Hooli product issues

Reviews of Hooli on Glassdoor

WHAT INDUSTRIES OR COMPANIES DOES THIS TACTIC WORK BEST FOR?

This tactic works best when going up against single product companies, but it can work for many different industries.

Remember: Glassdoor can be filled with embellished stories from former employees, but there is often legitimate competitive intelligence buried in these reviews. We’ve blurred out the titles to focus on the relevant info:

Fast growing business operations software company:

  • The product is being worked on and updated frequently… but it feels rushed and incomplete.
  • Product roll outs and updates to customers are not communicated effectively.
  • Support does not have answers to commonly asked questions from customers.
 Presentation Software:

customer success does not respond

  • It’s a hard product to sell, and their team will sell to anyone who will listen.
  • Implementation is oversold and underdelivers.
  • Customer success doesn’t adequately onboard new clients or properly support existing ones.

product features not getting rolled out

  • Product development is slow and has been stagnating for years.
  • New features that no one asked for get rolled out, but rarely improved.
  • Features that customers ask for don’t get prioritized.
Point of Sale Software:

issues with enterprise roll outs

  • Product can work well for SMBs.
  • Company has issues with implementation on enterprise accounts.

mom and pop vs enterprise issues

  • Clients don’t tend to stick with the product long, and churn has been increasing
  • Company wants to focus on the Enterprise
  • Pricing changes regularly / company may not have found a sustainable pricing model yet.

A WORD OF WARNING

A strong sales battle card is designed to shift perspective, not tear down and trash talk. Companies overcome obstacles and challenges. They grow and adapt over time. If you are going to use this tactic for competitive intelligence, it’s crucial that you use recent reviews to minimize the risk of presenting outdated information to prospects.

Reviews from Glassdoor can give a ‘no holds barred’ look at a company from the trenches. However, when building your sales battle card, you need to be certain the issues you cite are trends on their Glassdoor and not just a few ex-employees with a grudge. If it’s one or two reviews that say “support had issues” — well, whose support team doesn’t hit the occasional snag? But if there are consistent patterns and recurring themes that appear to be systematic, you may be able to use that information.

Image Credits: Markus GrossalberRobert Clemens