Although it may seem this blog post is not entirely connected to the eCommerce world StuntCoders lives in, this could not be further from the truth. Our customers often sell to their B2B customers, and you could too, regardless of what kind of online store you are running. B2B sales help form predictable revenue. Even if it is for your online store.
Defining your niche/market
This is a hard job, make no mistake. It might look easy defining to who you wish to sell to, but try defining that properly and you will soon see how easy it is to get into the trap of having too many potential customers.
However hard it may seem, this is the most important job you will ever have when it comes to sales. Define too broad and you will end up spending your time on communicating with irrelevant people. Define wrongly, and you will end up wasting your time again.
Properly defined target group is something that will save you time and in the end, will make you money. So, before you say: “our target group are small businesses that want to sell online”, try something like: “our target group are companies between X and Y employees, working in Z industry, with yearly turnover between A and B million USD, that are already selling online using platform N.”
Before proceeding, think about countries you want your customers to be in. Do you wish to sell only in the domestic market? Do you wish to sell abroad? If you wish to sell abroad, ask yourself following questions:
- Do you know the market?
- Do you know legal aspects of doing business in that country?
- Will language be the barrier?
- Will different time zone be something that will potentially reflect negatively to our cooperation?
Prospecting (How finding 1000 right emails is hard)
Once you have target group and the desired country, it is time to compile the list of companies you want to reach out to.
This is where proper tools come in hand. Depending on the market, you can use D-U-N-S standalone, or through Salesforce. Furthermore, if you have your office registered in the country you want to do business in (or plan to do so in the future), feel free to reach out to the Chamber of commerce. They are usually more helpful than you can imagine.
Again, different markets may require different tools, but practices we used proved to be more than useful for Europe and US.
Once you have the list of companies, you will need to learn about them. Yes, each and every one of them. The more you know, the better your decision will be. Visit their website, learn about technologies they are using. This is where Chrome plugins like BuiltWith may come in hand.
Filter down and narrow your list. For me, I had to reject about 4 out of 5 companies once I realized they are not a great fit for us.
Once you know values you are providing, you are in a good place. You can and should use those when putting together your outreach emails. You do want to inform your potential customers about all the benefits they will enjoy if they decide to start working with you.
For example, StuntCoders’s key assets are extraordinary customer support (which is proactive, not only reactive), and great quality software development (which is also working at great speed and with automated quality assurance).
Our value added services include:
- Our extremely popular Magento tutorials
- General business tutorials
- Great quality newsletter
Our services start at low rates and we are so confident of our quality that we offer 100% money back guarantee. In fact, our retention rate over 5 year period is 100%. So, you get the idea of all the things you might say.
But, before you proceed, keep in mind that you must plan carefully and avoid overwhelming your potential customers with long sales emails. Nobody has time for that. See “how to deal with busy people 101”.
Depending on the company size, you should also make a decision on who you should reach out to. If the company has up to 20 employees, you probably want to reach out to CEO directly. If a company is larger than that, you do want to identify proper decision maker.
This is where a short reach out to CEO may come in hand. Send the CEO email asking them who their decision maker for X is. They will probably reply and it will also help you establish credibility when contacting the right person, as CEO told you to do so. You can even CC CEO in your initial email to the decision maker. This has proven to be a great tactic, as it really boosts positive reply rates.
With all this in mind, we have put down one short intro and three follow up emails. All the emails were sent through my personal email which ensured no automation, greater attention to detail, and we were “flying under the radar” for all SPAM laws.
Don’t get “no” personally
You will get lots of negative replies. Some people will genuinely be uninterested, some might have a bad day, some will find you as a replacement for a punching bag. It will be hard. Hearing negative answers never comes easy, especially when people are rude, but you should keep your eyes on the prize, as one “yes” can make your whole week. :)
One really positive sentence was: nobody succeeded because they didn’t want to bother other people.
Worth mentioning here is that we have managed to convert some of the “no” answers to our paying customers.
When to send you emails?
It depends on who you send your emails to. It turns out CEO’s are more likely to reply outside of working hours. So, we optimized for sending them after 6pm and before 7am. It worked like a charm.
Others, employees, tend to reply most likely on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 11am and 4pm worked for us.
Additionally, the weather made the difference too. A big one! If it was a rainy day, we would get more negative answers than on sunny days. So, if it is possible, check the local weather before hitting “send” button.
Many people find comfort in sending 1000 emails at once. As if there ever was safety in numbers. Some people even tend to write such emails, that they wouldn’t ever write to their friends. Do not do that. Genuinely written emails, the ones that took the time to write, get a higher opening and reply rates.
Furthermore, sending large amounts of emails at once may result in a large number of replies. The question here is – can you handle the incoming emails with various questions, comments, and requests for the proposal? For sure you can not do it on your own. So, make sure to send between 40 and 50 emails a week.
With follow up emails, you will easily get to a point where you have 120 emails sent and are trying to juggle replies. Avoid that so you can pay attention to each and every on of your potential customers. Dedication pays off.
What was the outcome?
- The total number of contacts we have decided to reach out to was 1.000.
- The total number of emails sent 2.935.
- About 30 “maybe later” replies.
- I got about 60 “fuck off” emails.
- I got about 70 “not interested”. A nicer version of the previous reply.
- I started 75 conversations.
- We signed 21 new deal.
What I learned
- Statistics don’t mean a thing (you got “replied” as a successful metric, and it can be very negative).
- It takes time to build a relationship. Don’t expect to sign the deal immediately. It took us three months on average.
- I got most of the positive replies on my second email.
- I got replies even after months of following up with what we considered a cold lead.
- Be careful not to send all at once (don’t send more than 50 a week). Avalanche of replies will literally crush you.
- Don’t send on Fridays, nobody replies.
- If possible, send on sunny days (of your recipient). We got most positive replies on sunny days and most negative on rainy/cold days.
- Spend time prospecting. If you have a name and an email, it doesn’t mean you should waste it. If the contact is not right you will spend too much energy. Both yours and of the person you have reached out to.
- Keep in mind that nobody succeeded because they didn’t want to bother anybody. (Also read the book “To Sell is Human”, it is very good and is modern enough).
- Don’t be lazy. Send emails yourself. Nobody else will do it as good as you.
- Reply to every email. I didn’t learn this, I just consider it polite. Somebody spent time replying to you, thank them no matter the outcome.
Applications to use:
Books to read:
- To Sell is Human – book by Daniel H. Pin
- Predictable revenue – book by Aaron Ross
- Crossing the Chasm – book by Geoffrey A. Moore
That is it. If you find this article useful or have a suggestion, feel free to leave a comment.