Practical Ecommerce

For selling, the phone is better than email

I’m a huge fan of email marketing. It’s been very helpful for FringeSport. I addressed email marketing, in fact, in my previous two posts: “Lessons on starting an email list” and “How to get your first 1,000 email subscribers.”

However, I’m also a huge fan of the phone.

And that brings me to my main point for this article: Email is for marketing; the phone is for selling. If you’re looking to capture some sales on your website or build rapport with your visitors, use email. But if you’re selling to a specific person or business, the phone is better.

Why the phone?

First, the phone can help your shoppers receive quick, instant answers. Certainly you can answer questions over email. But you can’t actually give shoppers real-time feedback via email, because there’s a time delay. You send an email, they receive it, maybe they respond, and maybe they don’t. Over the phone, it’s instantaneous — you speak, the shopper responds, and vice versa.

You’ve likely been in situations where you were selling, and you sent an email with a minor bit of information. Then you waited a day, or maybe a week. The prospect got back to you with a follow-up question, which you responded to — and then waited a day or a week. Over the phone, this doesn’t happen because you can clarify right away.

Second, the phone is superior to email in helping shoppers gain trust in your company. Via the phone, shoppers get know you or your salesperson. You can convey directly what your style is. To be sure, shoppers are often wary, as they know a salesperson presumably wants to make the sale and get their money. But over the phone you can ease that fear, and let shoppers know that you want what’s best for them.

Third, the phone helps your company get to know your shoppers. They may say that they want this product or that, or this solution or that. But when you speak with them on the phone, you can actually ascertain their deeper desire — what is underneath what they say? They want solution A, but maybe solution B is better. You can discuss it when you’re talking with them.

Next, the phone enables honest and open communication — much more than email. It’s much easier to break down barriers via a voice communication with a single person.

Finally, the phone makes it much easier to address difficult questions:

  • “What other companies are bidding on this business?”
  • “When is your drop-dead close date?”
  • “What is your budget? Is there an absolute dollar figure that you have to hit?”

And, importantly:

  • “If we’re not going to get this deal, are you comfortable enough to tell me that? And tell me why?”

Email is a supplement

I train our salespeople to use email as a supplement to selling. They can use email for a bit of prospecting and broadcasting. But they mainly use it to remain top of mind for their prospects and then transition to the phone when it’s time for actual selling.

One pointer for this is to use an email tracker, such as HubSpot, so you can see when your prospect has opened an email. And when she opens it, wait five minutes and call her, since she is thinking about the deal at that time.

If she says something like, “Oh my goodness, I just opened this email,” we train our salespeople to respond, “Oh, what a coincidence.” Rather than, “I’ve been stalking you!”

Importantly, our phone number is listed on every page of our website. We want visitors to call in, because we love to talk with them, including for sales.

So what do you think? Is the phone better for sales? Or, do you prefer email? Let me know in the comments below.


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  1. Elizabeth Hollingsworth July 13, 2017 Reply

    Definitely the phone as people can connect better with you emotionally, you can have a laugh with them; this doesn’t happen over an email.
    I liked that you listed some of the curlier topics you can get covered fast over a phone call!
    I’ve written a blog post which details why you should use a number of channels to get your event query answered fast:

  2. Patrick Kuehn July 13, 2017 Reply

    Hi Peter, thanks for an interesting article. Phone is always better, the challenge is getting them on the phone! Cold calling is at its least productive in history. As you indicate, emails get you phone calls and, ideally, you can meet people face-to-face. It’s all about the relationship!

  3. Rob Jones July 14, 2017 Reply

    I could not agree more. We used email marketing to announce special offers, software product updates etc.

    When the call to action was a “buy now” link we would achieve a certain level of sales. When a telephone number was included conversion ratios would double, treble or more.

    People call to be confident in you and to ask questions. Many questions are simple and often unexpected so your initial email would never answer them.

    But beware, make sure the person answering the phone is polite and knows the product. The trust which can be built and resulting sale(s) can be destroyed just as easily by the wrong person.

    We are humans. Most of us like talking to each other!

    • Elizabeth Hollingsworth July 14, 2017 Reply

      I so agree Rob! I have been shocked by the lackluster, bored and blase responses I’ve had from some sales assistants answering queries – it’s clearly not their own business as they don’t care.