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Sales Call or Sales Email? When to Use Each

4 min read
Updated Aug. 25, 2021
Published May. 2, 2017

While new technology is flooding into the sales industry daily, much of it is focused on improving the two oldest tools in a sales rep’s arsenal: phone and email.

Phone and email are the bread and butter of the modern sales rep and this is not likely to change anytime soon. While new channels like social selling have carved out a niche of their own, they’re unlikely to usurp phone and email for the simple reason that those new channels are not used as frequently by the customer. Email and phone remain the two most effective ways to connect with customers.

While modern sales engagement platforms like Salesloft provide best-in-class sales email and sales dialer, it still takes human judgment to determine which channel to use for a given situation. Here are a few suggestions to help make this decision.

Consider Your Goal

The most important factor to consider is your goal for that particular touchpoint in the sales cycle. Phone and email are both useful, but not equal. Each has a time and place they’re most successful.

Phone is better for important actions and asks like setting meetings, reviewing important information, or conducting a demo. Phone is a proactive channel. You’re making contact and are firmly in control. This improves your chances of receiving a “yes” as you’re matching your method of contact to the importance of the request.

Email is better for collecting information or feedback. Email is a very reactive communication channel. You reach out to your prospects but are at their mercy as far as when or even if they reply. Never put anything in an email you couldn’t live with getting lost in an inbox. For all other functions, pick up the phone.

Timing Matters

Like all types of communication, timing is important. There is an optimal time for the use of both phone and email. To determine which channel to use, you can employ two different tactics: empathy and analytics.

Empathy around timing means putting yourself in a prospect’s shoes. If it’s 9 am, they’ve probably just walked into their office and are trying to wrangle their inbox and get the rest of their day in order. A phone call right in the middle of this chaos is likely not going to be appreciated or even answered. An email, on the other hand, might get seen right away as they work through their inbox. The same goes for the afternoon. Your prospect has likely hit peak email-fatigue and has given up on their inbox for the day. This might be an opportune time to make a phone call. Whether you’re picking up the phone or about to hit send on an email, just take a few extra moments to think about your prospect, their day, and the best way to connect.

Analytics around phone and email connections is also important. While you could trust the outdated industry wisdom of “calls are most successful on Wednesdays” or “only email after 3 pm,” to trust your success to this generic data is insanity. The best sales engagement platforms provide analytics about the best time and day to reach out based on your own data. Check these reports on a weekly and monthly basis and you’ll be armed with the best possible information about exactly when to reach out.

Test By Persona

The truth is, like many sales problems, there is no silver bullet. There are simply too many factors that can influence what works for your teams. Some companies see success with phone as the first touchpoint while others don’t use phone until they’ve already had an email response. The best companies benchmark and test performance based on a number of key factors including:

Persona: You’re more likely to get a CEO’s assistant on the phone than a lower-level manager themselves.

Industry: When financial industry professionals are likely at their desks, manufacturers might be out in the field.

Sales Stage: Is it better to be phone-heavy at the beginning or end of the sales cycle or both?

Next time you pick up the phone to make a call or hover your mouse over the “send” button, take a few extra moments to consider your goal, the timing, and who the recipient is to make sure you’re using the right channel at the right time.

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