Work with sales to create contact lists

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Salespeople—especially those who work on commission—take their contact lists very seriously. It's not surprising, then, that it can be nearly impossible for the marketing department to pry contact information, including e-mail addresses, out of their hands, said Kara Trivunovic, senior director of strategic services for StrongMail Systems, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions. “Sales reps are relatively reluctant to hand over their contacts because the perception is once the [prospect and customer] e-mail addresses make it into the hands of the e-mail marketing team, those people will get bombarded with information,” Trivunovic said. “That can affect relationships.” Still, when the e-mail marketing team works together with the sales team, there is a great opportunity to get the right information into the right hands and help boost conversion rates—no small thing. You can increase the chances of getting those contacts and improve the information you're sending out by following these four steps, suggested by Trivunovic. 1) Be specific about your intentions. When you go to speak with your salesperson, explain exactly what you will be sending out—the frequency, call to action and details of your messaging. You should also provide an opt-out for your sales team if they don't like your plan, Trivunovic said. “If marketing presents something that doesn't seem like it will fit, [the salesperson] needs to feel comfortable speaking up,” she said. “They should say, "That isn't going to work,' and be able to pull the plug.” 2) Keep sales leads separate from your e-mail database, and qualify them first. “One of the biggest challenges is that salespeople go to trade shows, collect business cards and leads from people who are not qualified and who have not expressed any interest,” she said. “If you add them to your database, you're going to see a lesser response overall.” Your first step, of course, is to check your new list against your existing list to make sure you're not duplicating efforts and sending the wrong message to an existing customer. Then you'll want to carefully craft a message that helps ferret out where the prospect is in the sales cycle. 3) Be an extension of the salesperson. Your messages should be a way to help your salesperson look like a trusted resource. To do that, your salesperson should be front and center on your e-mail. For example, if your salesperson met the lead at a recent trade show, you can mention that in your intro, and personalize the “From” field so there's a better chance that the lead will recognize your e-mail's source and feel comfortable responding. “There's no reason that your e-mail shouldn't come from the outbound sales rep,” said Trivunovic. In fact, it keeps that salesperson in the loop. “Your salesperson should feel comfortable that you're not going to just contact the lead and bug them.” 4) Ask for an opt-in. Your e-mail is going to be a one-off message. Maybe you're helping that salesperson provide good messaging around a specific deal or offering. That said, you should provide an opt-in link that will pull the contact into your regular e-mail database, Trivunovic said. “You're asking them to opt in so that you can continue to work with them and that all their information is controlled by the company privacy policy,” she said. —K.J.B. Originally published May 12, 2010
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