A Prospecting Power Tool for Our Age

Posted by Everett Hill on Sun, Mar 13, 2016

In my last blog I opined that teaching prospecting skills to individuals who lack “hunter” DNA is a fool’s errand. That said, for the right audience it’s one of the most valuable things I do as a revenue growth consultant. For example, I find that many otherwise passionate business development professionals are failing to seize upon an emerging technology that can revolutionize their prospecting efficiency and shorten their B2B sales cycles: email tracking.

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“Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools and yesterday's concepts.” --Marshall McLuhan

What's new about email tracking

Email tracking technology made its debut in marketing automation software, from integrated solutions such as Marketo and Eloqua down to specialized email campaign tools such as MailChimp and Constant Contact. Analytics are the bread and butter of email campaign management; tracking the percentage of “opens” within a campaign provides the ability to tweak the efficiency of an email in subsequent iterations.

This technology has now made its way into simple add-on applications designed to work with email clients such as Outlook, Gmail, and AppleMail. Now you can get the same tracking visibility for your individual outbound emails that was once reserved for bulk email campaigns.

It’s magic, but with both positive and negative implications

All I know is that it works by embedding a hidden pixel in the outbound email, providing notification to the sender when the email is opened. It’s far more sophisticated and stealthy than the old-fashioned “read receipt”. For one thing, permission isn’t asked--the tracking is automatic and there’s no opting out. Second, the sender can also see whether the recipient clicked on attachments or links. Third, the sender is informed where the recipient was located when they opened the email, and what kind of device (mobile or computer) they were using.

When I first saw the stream of tracking data being generated by my tool of choice, Sidekick (Be in Control! Know Who Opens Your Emails, When, How Many Times and from Where...), I felt like a peeping Tom. Aside from my marketing campaigns, in an average week I send up to a hundred “custom” emails, and the resulting tracking data feels personal. I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate in the relentless assault on privacy that technology affords us, but then I made my peace with it. The genie is out of the bottle; anyone who interacts with a computer/smartphone should know that everything they do can be watched. Besides, with better information I can either bring additional value to my prospects, which is a win/win, or I can respectfully disengage and save us both aggravation.

Why it's a boon to prospecting

My peeping Tom qualms assuaged, I put my Sidekick data stream to work. I’m a proponent of developing and executing standard processes, and prospecting is no exception:

Email Tracking Status Hypothesis Next Action
Unopened Email not received, or subject line isn't compelling enough Follow up email with different subject line after appropriate interval

Opened; no response and no click on attachment or link

Prospect may have need but email's "call to action" was weak Touch prospect again, differently, after appropriate interval
Opened; no response but clicked attachment or link Prospect has need and is open to discussion Phone call to explore need
Response received  Hooray! Interact in a nuanced way depending on send/open/response interval, number of recipient opens, time of day of opens, location, and device of open(s)

As a result of enhancing my prospecting process with this kind of intelligence, I’ve been able to confidently and quickly:

  • Improve “open” rates using more compelling subject lines
  • Develop richer email conversations through timely pacing and more targeted content
  • Gauge interest by observing if (and when) the recipient did their homework before a scheduled call
  • Identify (through multiple opens) that the recipient is struggling with a decision I served up via email
  • Eliminate wasted time by moving prospects without a current need from "active" to “maintenance mode”
  • Identify when my email wasn't received or was overlooked

Choosing your email tracker

In addition to Sidekick, I’ve also had good experience with Yesware, and there are more to choose from. Email trackers bundle bells and whistles like email scheduling, integration with CRM, and template libraries, but for me the majority of the value is in knowing whether and when the prospect opened my email.

I won’t go through features, benefits, and pricing of the various offerings here. The folks at G2 Crowd do an excellent job of facilitating the selection process, although beware, it’s easy for pricing information to become obsolete because this space is evolving fast. Most email tracking tools offer free trials or limited free licenses and are simple to set up. The main thing for you to do as a sales leader or sales professional is to honestly evaluate whether you or your team will constructively put email tracking data to work as part of your prospecting process.

The bottom line

Email tracking is here to stay. Sales professionals can benefit immensely by adopting one of these easy to implement technology tools, particularly if prospecting is a significant part of their role. 

  • What are your thoughts about the privacy aspects of email tracking?
  • What value have you discovered from email tracking that I haven’t?

I look forward to engaging with you on this. 

Everett Hill is a revenue growth consultant to mid-market CEOs. He helps companies grow by insuring a profitable intersection of competitive strategy and customer-facing tactical execution. Prior to founding Catalytic Advisors he built a successful career in manufacturing and distribution companies as a CSO and as a General Manager with significant P&L responsibility. He holds an engineering degree from Princeton University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. 

Tags: business development, sales tools, prospecting