I'm Not Reading Your Email. Here's Why.

As I work with dozens of sales teams and hundreds of salespeople each year, one thing is consistently clear: customers aren't reading their emails, and it's pissing them off.

You're frustrated that you took a half hour to bolt together the perfect set of facts. You've tried to personalize it to the customer, conspicuously adding her name at several points in the text. You even made it a little fun and folksy. But then....nothing. Bupkis. Radio silence. It doesn't have to be this way. But before we try to make things better, let's crawl inside the customer's head for a minute.

Not long ago I spoke with a marketer who oversees a lot of ad buying. He told me that he averages about 225 inbound email messages a day from reps and other vendors who want a piece of his time or attention. When I asked how he managed all that, his response was simple: "I just pretty much delete the first two from everybody. Most give up by then." Sure, this is a little cold-blooded, but there's a logic to it.

Frequency. Experts say it takes an average of 9 quality contacts to make a connection with a customer who doesn't already know you. Most reps focus on writing one great email and - if they follow up at all - toss off a bunch of "just making sure you got my email" notes.

Brevity. If they're reading it at all, your customers are reading email on their phones. So why are you writing it for a laptop screen? Imagine the screen of an iPhone as your canvas: very short messages and questions that get right to the point. If they have to scroll down, they'll instead choose to swipe left. And you're done.

Scheduling. As you're planning out your nine smart, short messages to your customer, be sure you switch out your day-parts. First thing in the morning one day...afternoon a couple of days later... then maybe right at the end of the day. And while you're at it, change channels. Toss in a Linked In In-Mail message, a voice mail or two (think of them as your radio spots) and maybe even a handwritten note or something else tangible. A good campaign does not say the same thing the same way at the same time every day.

Lead with Needs. Your headline and the very first line of your messages matter a lot. So given that you've done your homework (wait...you did, right?), reference your learnings to lead with the customer's needs...in the headline and in the opening. Your customer knows you don't really care how their weekend was. So try starting with "I'm writing you today because..." Get to the point. Respect is the new friendship.

What the aforementioned marketer understood was that a salesperson's approach to the customer isn't just a way to start the relationship; it is the start of the relationship. It's where you demonstrate to the customer who you are, what you stand for, and how much you care about his business.

Don't waste that opportunity.