Coaching emails sales teams (1)

Set your sales team’s written communication apart with GEMS, our email coaching framework

Main illustration: Virginia Gabrielli

As a sales manager, the most impactful thing you can do is coach your team. To do this effectively, it’s important to remember that every customer interaction matters when closing a deal.

Study any sales coaching blog, podcast, or book and you’ll find plenty of advice on the best ways to coach your sales reps: join their calls, listen to recordings, apply a framework … the list goes on. But these tips seldom acknowledge the essential role of emails in the sales process. At Intercom, we’ve developed the GEMS framework to help everyone on our teams achieve best-in-class written communication.

Why are emails crucial to closing the deal?

According to data from Gong, the best indicator of whether your deal will close is not call velocity, but email velocity – the number of emails exchanged between the salesperson and the prospect in any given time period. 

Even more important is the number of times your prospect emails you. Boosting this number means creating email communications that are engaging, impactful, and above all, convince your prospect that you can solve their problem.

“Our mission is to ‘make internet business personal.’ Prospects and customers can only subscribe to that ideology if they experience it firsthand with our teams”

Our mission at Intercom is to “make internet business personal”. Prospects and customers can only subscribe to that ideology if they experience it firsthand with our teams. Timely, well-constructed emails are a key pillar of a best-in-class customer experience – you can encourage your team to strive for the highest standards by consistently emphasizing the value of emails in the sales process.

Emails introduce your solution

Email is the most shareable asset available to the prospect during the deal cycle – key stakeholders will likely be introduced to the conversation when they’re added to email threads or forwarded emails. If the first email they read doesn’t clearly show that you understand their pain points and how your company can help, you’re fighting an uphill battle. 

Emails tell the prospect you get it

While a simple follow-up email is often looked at by sellers as an “admin chore”, we encourage our teams to think of these follow-ups as a way to instill confidence in their prospects. It’s an opportunity to let them know you actually listened to what they had to say and understood their unique needs. You can conduct the best call in the world, but if the follow-up is poor, the prospect will assume you didn’t actually “get the point”, opening the door for a more polished competitor to step in.   

Closing roles need email coaching too

In sales development land, managers allocate large portions of their coaching time to email outreach; scrutinizing reps’ written cadences, making tiny tweaks, and monitoring any incremental changes as they go. In some organizations, almost every word or statistic in an SDR’s email is closely examined. 

This laser focus on written communication often disappears as sellers progress into closing roles. At this level, it’s assumed the seller has perfected their email-writing techniques, and managers are mostly happy to leave their correspondences unmonitored. We aren’t talking about prospecting emails here – these are emails exchanged between a sales rep and a buyer during an evaluation.

“As leaders, we should be coaching our teams to produce best-in-class written communications – so why is email typically a neglected coaching channel for closing roles?”

The data tells us that, as leaders, we should be coaching our teams to produce best-in-class written communications – so why is email typically a neglected coaching channel for closing roles? 

Maybe it’s because, as leaders, it’s easy to feel like asking to see our sellers’ emails, or sifting through them in a CRM, qualifies as “micro-managing”. Or maybe some leaders don’t truly understand the impact timely and well written follow-ups can have on a deal, or how they can empower a salesperson – regardless of how great a seller is on the phone or in person. 

GEMS: Our email coaching framework

Setting and maintaining these high standards means incorporating written communication into your coaching plan. Every sales manager at Intercom uses a variation of the GEMS framework, which we’ve developed over time to guide email coaching at every level of our team. 

Good looks like

We show our Sales team what good looks like at every stage of the sales funnel. What makes an excellent discovery follow-up? How do you follow up after a demo or pricing discussion? Creating a clear image of excellence is the starting point. Applying your chosen sales methodology should help here. 

“At Intercom, we include an ‘offline communications’ pillar in every new account executives’ onboarding process”

At Intercom, we include an “offline communications” pillar in every new account executives’ onboarding process. This small tweak to our onboarding has played a huge role in changing most sellers’ perception of email in the sales process, and setting clear expectations from the very beginning. 

Enable with tools

Now that you know what good looks like, enable your team to deliver this level of quality every time. At Intercom, our tech stack is critical to ensuring consistency in our written communication:

  • Templates/snippets: your “what good looks like” templates/snippets should be accessible to all sellers, ideally within their email composer. Tools like Outreach and Salesloft have excellent email extensions.
  • Detail: We encourage our teams to install advanced spelling and format checkers. (Many are free!)
  • Consistency: Following up or reaching out to a prospect can often slip a seller’s mind – having tools that remind your sellers of who they need to contact or when they last reached out have really helped our team to stay organized. Something as simple as creating tasks in your CRM can work. Deal boards in Gong can also encourage consistency in a deal’s email frequency.

Metrics that matter

Be clear about the metrics you prioritize when it comes to offline communications. Obviously there are influencing factors outside of email, but at Intercom we regularly review:

  • Stage 2 to Stage 3 opportunity conversion (right down to “closed won”)
  • SLA follow-up times: our team have set a high standard for same day follow-up
  • Volume of exchanges per opportunity (we measure this via Gong as a health score on live deals)

Situation, behavior, impact 

Creating an open forum for feedback of all kinds is critical. At Intercom, we’ve built a culture where our teams are happy to share challenging email exchanges and seek advice from peers and managers. During deal reviews, sellers will often look back over email threads with the review team – the email channel must be baked into your deal review cycle.

When giving feedback, our teams apply an SBI model:

  • Situation: Reference a particular email with a specific client or prospect. “Thanks for sharing your email with Acme Inc. last Friday.”
  • Behavior: Describe what you have observed. “I noticed we didn’t reinforce any of the metrics that Acme discussed on our call in the follow-up email.”
  • Impact: Describe the results of this behavior. “Going forward, we should always include the customers KPIs in our follow up; this increases their confidence in our understanding of their end goals and what they are hoping to achieve. It also ensures we are continuing to focus on what is most important to Acme.”

High-quality emails are a differentiator

At Intercom, we strongly believe that delivering a best-in-class sales experience is a differentiator for our team. That means a customer touchpoint that might seem insignificant, like an email follow-up or check-in, is written thoughtfully and with intent. 

Are you looking for a new challenge in your sales career? We’d love to talk to you – take a look at our open sales roles.

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