Sales Tips and Out-of-Office E-Mails

The next time you get an out-of-office e-mail, don’t just hit delete. It may be a data gold mine. Len Feltoon, EO Philadelphia member and chief executive of Countrywide Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., gets hundreds of the automated notes every month— and he says they’re a great source of sales leads.

The notes usually come with contact information for someone else at the company, which “has provided us an additional lead source and has led us to the decision maker, which has allowed us to close more business,” he says.

“Closing a deal is all about finding the right person and the decision maker,” Mr. Feltoon says. The automatic notes provide “real-time information and are 99% accurate.”

Mr. Feltoon says the strategy accounts for 6% of new business annually for his firm, which provides group legal-services plans to employees of companies. For instance, he once got an out-of-office note saying the human-resources manager at a hospital had left the company. He got in touch with her successor, whose contact information was cited in the e-mail, “to introduce ourselves and continue the client relationship,” he says.

And, through networking with other service vendors, Mr. Feltoon found out where the former manager was working and signed up her new employer as a client, he says.

Still, some experts say you should use a light touch when searching for new leads this way. “You need to approach a prospective client carefully and diplomatically because you risk losing access even to your existing client,” says Quinn Jalli, a vice president at Epsilon Data Management LLC, a marketing-services firm based in Dallas. What’s more, “if your new prospect complains to the IT people, then the IT people can block your incoming emails to both existing clients and prospects.”

He says marketers should ensure that promotional emails are sent to recipients who have either opted to receive them or are likely to want them. Beyond that, he advises taking steps such as removing recipients from distribution lists if they don’t open the notes.

This article was previously published in The Wall Street Journal on 16 May 2011. Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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