This week I contacted a few agencies to help me with a family project. I sent an email describing our situation and asking two questions:
- How would you work with us on this?
- Roughly what would it cost
All up, my email was about 60 words.
The first agency to write back copied and pasted about 500 words from somewhere else and made that their email. I know it was copied and pasted because my name at the top and their sign off were in a different colour and font from the body of the email.
They also attached three documents.
In total, there were about 2,000 words to read. That's between six and 10 minutes of reading. Some of it answered the question about cost; the rest was irrelevant.
Very efficient for them. A waste of time for me.
Contrast that with the second agency to reply, which sent a welcoming email suggesting we talk through it on the phone.
The seductive call of efficiency
I work in a service business too, so I know all about tyre kickers. I can see how attractive it must be to reply to every initial enquiry with a random assortment of boilerplate and file attachments. Kapow! That'll sort the wheat from the chaff. Those who are serious will write back afterwards.
But what if they won't?
What if your competitors have done better?
How to get more sales by being less efficient
Periodically I'm tempted by technology that promises the sort of efficiency the first agency was aiming for. Gmail, for instance, offers "canned responses": certain keywords trigger an automatic response. There are many scenarios in my business where I'm tempted to use them, but I realise how many great clients I'd have missed if I'd asked Google to guess their value from a first email.
Here's what I try to remember
- Treat every enquiry like it might result in a sale and a referral
- After drafting a reply check:
- Have you answered all the questions?
- Are you being consistent with your brand promise? (If you talk about being helpful and friendly, have you been?)
- Have you put yourself in the customer’s shoes? This might be everyday for you, but it might not be for them. If your customers are often confused, scared or frustrated, bear that in mind when you're writing to them.
- Is your spelling and formatting in order? Some of us care.
- Is the quantity of your reply consistent with the question? To me, 2,000 words spread across an email and three file attachments was out of proportion with my initial enquiry in this case.
- If you're using boilerplate, have you adapted it appropriately to the customer and the specific enquiry?
I'm not saying I get it right every time, but this is my aim.
The enquiry stage is your first impression. This is where business can be won or lost. With careful attention to your messaging, you could get a lot more sales
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