How Much Thought Goes Into Yours?

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Not too many years ago, I did virtually all my business over the phone, much like most sales people. Now 80.0% of my communications come via email. This is not unusual in today’s electronic age. If you are a sales person or own a business you are likely to be communicating from 30.0% to 80.0% of the time via email. These communications will be with customers, service providers, prospects and more.

It is about time that we provided some parameters with regard to these email communications. In this issue, we will be talking about the email “signature” specifically. For many years we have spoken about effective voice mail messages. It is time to “update” this lesson!

Why is the signature important? Your signature is actually part of your gateway to your business world. For example, for many of your prospects your email signature represents the first impression you create. In sales, the creation of a first impression is all important. The question you should ask is–is this first impression helping or hurting my chances with these prospects?

Actually, your email signature is not the only issue here. Even your email address and hosting service can be important. You should not be using a personal email address such as “yahoo or aol.com.” Free emails may not be appropriate for businesses because they may not be compatible with Microsoft Outlook or other business email systems and may not easily capture “trails” of conversations. These trails are very important when documenting business transactions.

Basically, you should have a business address, whether it is your name.com or the name of your business. Iloverealestate@aol.com does not create a very professional image for a client.

What is an email signature? Most letters contain a standard signature such as “yours truly, Dave Johnson.” Would you believe that many business people just sign their emails with their first name? Here is an example–

I would be happy to serve you. Mary.

What should a professional signature contain? A professional email signature should be comprised of at the least the following information–

  • Your full name
  • Your title and/or your company
  • At least some contact information such as–phone number, address, email address and/or fax number
  • Your website address.

That seems pretty simple–is it that easy? Yes, it is simple. But if it is so simple, then why do we communicate with hundreds of sales people every day and see something much less than the information above? Even personal email systems such as AOL enable the creation of a standard signature.

Can I get more complex by adding graphics? The addition of a simple company logo or a picture is fairly easy and common. Some business people add much more such as audio/video business cards and even invitations for live on-line chats. While these complex systems may seem great, keep in mind that they are only as good as the “receiving” station. If you add very complex graphics and it makes a system on the other end freeze or makes communicating more cumbersome, this can become a real problem. Never upgrade without extensive testing that would include you viewing your email on four or five other “receiving” systems. In other words, put yourself in the shoes of your recipient.

And yes, there is something else. Something very important. Your email signature should be a tool that will help sell “you and/or your services.” To do this you must communicate your “USP,” or Unique Selling Proposition. The USP is a statement that summarizes how you are delivering unique value in your marketplace. It can be no longer than one or two lines or phrases. If you cannot summarize your uniqueness, you will sound like everyone else. Those who can’t differentiate themselves are unlikely to lead their industries.

There is also the opportunity to add specials, schedules and other information to your email signature. Ask yourself what it is you would like to convey every day. Two caveats to this strategy. Remember, the email signature cannot be too long or else it will not be read and this would defeat the purpose of positive and effective communication. Also, if you are communicating a special or similar messages you must change the information on a regular basis. You can’t achieve different results with the same message every day.

In summary, your email signature is a unique opportunity to help you present yourself in a positive and professional light as well as differentiate yourself from your competition. It is a very important sales tool. Are you using this tool in the most effective way?

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