Salespeople don’t listen to your emails?

As B2B marketers, our primary audience really is our salespeople, right? You’d think every email we sent to them would be treated as a precious treasure to aid them in their success.

Of course we are humbled–or more likely irate–when we find out that they aren’t even reading the emails.

I thought making friendly sales-info videos was a way to make sure salespeople were paying attention, but if they were just setting-aside my emails, they never even knew about the video.

This column, When too much information harms the office, from Lucy Kellaway helps explain this behavior:

“She has noticed that her staff are responding to the information overload not by digesting too much of it, but by stopping to digest anything at all. She tells me that, in her company, the written word has lost almost all its power. No one reads e-mails any more – with the exception of those from the boss. Messages from anyone else are either deleted unread or given a cursory glance and then ignored.”

Sure, that makes sense. The emails that we require actual reading get set aside until the recipient has time and is mentally prepared. And, unfortunately gets buried.

Lucy goes on to opine that this is potentially a good thing:

“The trouble with the information age is that there are so many people talking simultaneously. Leaders surely need to do not more listening but more ignoring. More than ever, the good leader surely needs to learn how to become selectively deaf.”

There is a lot written about being better managers of our inboxes, and a lot about breaking thru the inbox as a direct marketer, but how do we as communicators of important information make sure our emails are opened, read, and comprehended regularly?

The easiest strategy based on the first quote is to be the boss. But marketers are not the boss of the salespeople. And sometimes even the sales manager isn’t listening.

Personally, I think what needs to occur is more personal (phone or in-person) talking to salespeople to make them aware of the value of what we are sending. Sounds stupid to call people and ask them ‘did you get my email’, but that may be what you need to do.  Not everyone every time, but just on a regular basis of some sort.

What ideas do you have? What has worked for you?

14 Replies to “Salespeople don’t listen to your emails?”

  1. This is one where I can say, If we discover the answer, we’ll get rich. The volume of email requires applying filters and making decisions about how much time is spent where. One can spend many hours in after-hours catching up with email, or avoid and delete to stay caught up.
    BTW, I’m digging the new WordPress site.

  2. This is one where I can say, If we discover the answer, we’ll get rich. The volume of email requires applying filters and making decisions about how much time is spent where. One can spend many hours in after-hours catching up with email, or avoid and delete to stay caught up.
    BTW, I’m digging the new WordPress site.

  3. If they’re listening to the boss, you need the boss to be on the same page as you are. Put another way, when you get sales & marketing together with common lead definitions, common goals and a “together” strategy that requires each other to be successful, then sales management, by definition, wants what you want.

    The next priority is to get on their agenda. Rather than creating and sending separate emails, get into their regular communication channels – meetings, emails, intranet updates, etc. In the past, when I was in-house and now as a consultant, I’ve had a regular spot on weekly and quarterly sales calls/meetings to discuss marketing. Because the sales managers are on the same page as us, they not only freely give us that time but also ensure the team is listening, paying attention and following what we give them.

    It’s never an us vs. them. It’s always a partnership. If you can get to that level, your messages are far more likely to be received and followed, to your mutual success & results.

  4. If they’re listening to the boss, you need the boss to be on the same page as you are. Put another way, when you get sales & marketing together with common lead definitions, common goals and a “together” strategy that requires each other to be successful, then sales management, by definition, wants what you want.

    The next priority is to get on their agenda. Rather than creating and sending separate emails, get into their regular communication channels – meetings, emails, intranet updates, etc. In the past, when I was in-house and now as a consultant, I’ve had a regular spot on weekly and quarterly sales calls/meetings to discuss marketing. Because the sales managers are on the same page as us, they not only freely give us that time but also ensure the team is listening, paying attention and following what we give them.

    It’s never an us vs. them. It’s always a partnership. If you can get to that level, your messages are far more likely to be received and followed, to your mutual success & results.

  5. Thanks Larry and Matt for chiming in. I was going to say that maybe I should consider the 80/20 rule, but really, my emails are probably are mostly beneficial. Matt, the emails that seem to get lost aren’t so strategic, but ‘updates’. Yes there is a lot going on here at ‘corporate’ that we think is important, that our manufacturer’s reps don’t really care about, and shouldn’t. Their ‘regular communication channel’ is the telephone. So what I’ve also attempted is to plug-in with the inside guys, and let them support my communications.

    Part of the problem is that informational emails aren’t time sensitive. It’s info that they need or is beneficial at some abstract point in the future–salespeople don’t think that way.

  6. Thanks Larry and Matt for chiming in. I was going to say that maybe I should consider the 80/20 rule, but really, my emails are probably are mostly beneficial. Matt, the emails that seem to get lost aren’t so strategic, but ‘updates’. Yes there is a lot going on here at ‘corporate’ that we think is important, that our manufacturer’s reps don’t really care about, and shouldn’t. Their ‘regular communication channel’ is the telephone. So what I’ve also attempted is to plug-in with the inside guys, and let them support my communications.

    Part of the problem is that informational emails aren’t time sensitive. It’s info that they need or is beneficial at some abstract point in the future–salespeople don’t think that way.

  7. Explaining behaviour does not justify it. As such, I was quite disappointed in Lucy Kellaway’s take on information overload. If her staff is truly responding to the overload, “not by digesting too much of it, but by stopping to digest anything at all”, I would suggest she take a long look at her staff. This is, obviously, a group lacking in motivation, consideration and potential.

    In my experience, a good sales rep will look for every edge and consider any piece of information that will give him or her a leg up on a competitor. A rep for my former company once proudly announced in a very public venue that he never bothered reading e-mails from Marketing. That unfortunate soul was crucified in a very public way so that there would be no misunderstanding about the company’s expectations or this rep’s future.

    To say “leaders surely need to do not more listening but more ignoring” is, frankly not useful either to you or to anybody in a leadership position. A good leader is not just open to information, but actively seeks it. The wisdom comes in deciding what to do with that information.

    I would, therefore, suggest you consider Ms. Kellaway’s comments as anecdotally interesting but not strategically helpful.

    I have been in your position, as have my staff, in the past and do have a number of suggestions.

    – Matt Heinz has it absolutely right. There must be alignment between Marketing and Sales in terms of strategy, priority and the management and measurement of expectations. There should not be an “us” and “them”. This alignment should be cultivated over time and reinforced by senior management fiat.

    – The launch of a new product or program should be done formally, most advantageously at a regularly scheduled sales meeting to which the key marketing folk are invited. The whys, whats, hows and whens would all be carefully laid out to ensure full understanding and buy-in. Subsequent communications should be minimal, important and useful and accompanied by a note from Sales Management.

    – Rogue activity should not be tolerated. You have a team with a common play book and a singular goal to achieve. Anyone who does not get that belongs on the sidelines.

    – A final note. Phone calls are indeed the weapon of choice for sales reps. They take care of the urgent and important in a way e-mails cannot. But beware, reps can ‘manage’ the phone even better than they can manage e-mails. In the end, it all comes down to what the rep is committed to.

    Nothing new there.

  8. Explaining behaviour does not justify it. As such, I was quite disappointed in Lucy Kellaway’s take on information overload. If her staff is truly responding to the overload, “not by digesting too much of it, but by stopping to digest anything at all”, I would suggest she take a long look at her staff. This is, obviously, a group lacking in motivation, consideration and potential.

    In my experience, a good sales rep will look for every edge and consider any piece of information that will give him or her a leg up on a competitor. A rep for my former company once proudly announced in a very public venue that he never bothered reading e-mails from Marketing. That unfortunate soul was crucified in a very public way so that there would be no misunderstanding about the company’s expectations or this rep’s future.

    To say “leaders surely need to do not more listening but more ignoring” is, frankly not useful either to you or to anybody in a leadership position. A good leader is not just open to information, but actively seeks it. The wisdom comes in deciding what to do with that information.

    I would, therefore, suggest you consider Ms. Kellaway’s comments as anecdotally interesting but not strategically helpful.

    I have been in your position, as have my staff, in the past and do have a number of suggestions.

    – Matt Heinz has it absolutely right. There must be alignment between Marketing and Sales in terms of strategy, priority and the management and measurement of expectations. There should not be an “us” and “them”. This alignment should be cultivated over time and reinforced by senior management fiat.

    – The launch of a new product or program should be done formally, most advantageously at a regularly scheduled sales meeting to which the key marketing folk are invited. The whys, whats, hows and whens would all be carefully laid out to ensure full understanding and buy-in. Subsequent communications should be minimal, important and useful and accompanied by a note from Sales Management.

    – Rogue activity should not be tolerated. You have a team with a common play book and a singular goal to achieve. Anyone who does not get that belongs on the sidelines.

    – A final note. Phone calls are indeed the weapon of choice for sales reps. They take care of the urgent and important in a way e-mails cannot. But beware, reps can ‘manage’ the phone even better than they can manage e-mails. In the end, it all comes down to what the rep is committed to.

    Nothing new there.

  9. Murray, your list is useful. Especially the fact about the formal launch, which is something I need to work on, as new products and initiatives seem to be more in vogue these days.

    My engineering-brained president is pushing salespeople toward the ‘I said it once, don’t make me babysit you’ communication style that forces the salespeople to put their cowboy hats on their laps. My style is more carrot than stick, but I guess I should make the carrot as big as possible.

  10. Murray, your list is useful. Especially the fact about the formal launch, which is something I need to work on, as new products and initiatives seem to be more in vogue these days.

    My engineering-brained president is pushing salespeople toward the ‘I said it once, don’t make me babysit you’ communication style that forces the salespeople to put their cowboy hats on their laps. My style is more carrot than stick, but I guess I should make the carrot as big as possible.

  11. An added idea for you to consider: I have found that bringing in one or more reps to work on the development of promotional material (even if it is just as an official sounding board) goes a long way in ensuring Sales buy-in. For each project, get the Regional Sales Manager to recommend a collaborator from his team. More involvement, more commitment.

  12. An added idea for you to consider: I have found that bringing in one or more reps to work on the development of promotional material (even if it is just as an official sounding board) goes a long way in ensuring Sales buy-in. For each project, get the Regional Sales Manager to recommend a collaborator from his team. More involvement, more commitment.

  13. Yes, because your emails to them will be their guide of what they are about to say to your clients. If you need to remind your salesperson on something, you can email him right away.

  14. Yes, because your emails to them will be their guide of what they are about to say to your clients. If you need to remind your salesperson on something, you can email him right away.

Comments are closed.