What makes a sales app great? Three things: 1) it helps you sell, 2) it’s easy to use, and 3) it costs nothing or next-to-nothing. Using that criteria, it’s obvious why CRM isn’t a great sales tool because while 1) it (arguably) helps you sell, it’s also 2) difficult to use, and 3) can cost you big time in lost opportunity cost, even if you’re using freeware.
Because of that, for the past 15 years, the most valuable sales tool has been LinkedIn. Sales is all about building relationships and that’s impossible without knowing who works inside a company and the role they play in the decision-making. Thus while LinkedIn was designed originally for recruiters, it’s been a total godsend for Sales and Marketing.
However, while LinkedIn has been the king of sales tools since it was launched in 2003, its own email system (InMail) has never caught on as an alternative to regular email. As one of my clients put it a couple of days ago: “I just don’t get many responses when I use it.” And that’s too bad because InMail is theoretically much better than regular email.
Email has become increasing important to sales and marketing because now that most people (especially decision-makers) no longer answer their phones making cold calling obsolete. Today, the only effective form of outbound sales is email marketing which everyone is doing (but most aren’t doing it very well.)
The big challenge with email marketing, however, has always been getting the decision-makers’ email addresses. While you can buy email lists on the open market, the data is often inaccurate or out-of-date. Also, email lists encourage one-to-many email marketing (aka SPAM), which isn’t all that effective.
What IS effective with email marketing is a well-researched personalized email that doesn’t attempt to sell but instead just makes contact and opens up a conversation. I’ve written extensively on how to execute this strategy and helped dozens of companies develop the technique. BTW, if you want to fix your cold emails so that you get geometrically more responses, I’m still available for an hour each week… at least for now.
Once you’ve identified a decision-maker on LinkedIn, the difficult part has always been getting that decision-maker’s real email address (business or, better yet, personal). In the past this involved a online research, guesswork, and even calling the reception desk and asking. None of these approaches were ideal and all consumed a fair amount of time.
Well, no longer, because there are now some very easy-to-use tools that troll through big data on the web and give you the email addresses and even the telephone numbers of the profiles that interest you. I’ve tested several of these tools and have concluded the best is Contact Out, which runs as a Chrome Extension.
Contact Out took me 5 seconds to install and 5 seconds to learn to use (it’s a one-click drop down). To test it, I looked up some of my former editors. Not only did I get their current work emails, I also got personal emails for most of them, and even work telephone numbers. If I’d tried this by hand, it would have taken hours of tedious effort.
Contact Out lets you harvest 50 profiles a day for free, but that’s far more than any salesperson needs if they’re doing personalized emails which, again, is the only form of email marketing that actually works.
I also tried two other Chrome Extensions, Lusha and Hunter, but they didn’t seem to harvest as much data. Hunter was interesting, though, because it got me email addresses associated with a specific website, even if the people in question didn’t have LinkedIn profiles. Since neither tool is expensive, you might want to add them to your tool box, too.