Successful Email Sales

Businessmen using laptop outdoors
Writing effective emails. Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty ImagesBusinessmen using laptop outdoors

Email selling is a great way to reach a large number of prospects easily with a minimum of time and effort. It’s also far less confrontational than cold calling, an activity that many salespeople dread. The unfortunate flip side is that a sales email is equally easy for the recipient to ignore or delete without even reading it.

When you receive an email from a source you don’t recognize, what do you do?

Chances are you look at the subject line first, then skim the first paragraph or two to get the gist of the message. If it doesn’t look relevant, the email goes straight into the trash.

Most people have an internal filtering mechanism, developed from a need to protect ourselves from the barrage of information that comes at us constantly. No one has time to review everything, so we take a quick look and then decide whether to review further or simply toss the message.

Subject Line

If you’re using email to reach prospects, then you’ll need to take this internal filter into account. It doesn’t matter how well-crafted or compelling your email message is if your prospect never reads past the subject line. As a result, the subject and the first paragraph are by far the most important components of your prospecting emails.

The subject line should be designed to be relevant to your prospects. On the other hand, don’t resort to trickery.

Using a subject like “Yesterday’s meeting” when you didn’t meet with the prospect will just make the recipient angry. There’s a fine line between a compelling subject line and a deceitful one, so if you’re not sure which category your subject falls under, try sending it to a few friends or colleagues and ask for a second opinion.

The Greeting

Once you’ve got the subject line ready, it’s time to look at the email body. Always start with the recipient’s name if you know it because a generic greeting like “Dear Homeowner” will get your email deleted instantly. If you don’t know the person’s name, you’re better off skipping the salutation entirely and going straight to the body text.

The Opening

Your first paragraph should be constructed using the same basic rules as for direct mail – namely, you need to intrigue your reader immediately and give them something that makes them want to keep reading. Typically this is the point where the recipient will realize it’s a sales email, so you’ll need to write something interesting enough to overcome that “urge to delete” everyone gets when reading junk mail.

The rest of your email should flesh out the main premise that you provided in your opening paragraph or two. Keep your paragraphs short and don’t overuse bold or italic text or fancy fonts. And don’t include graphics, because they slow down the message display and often look gimmicky. Worse, many email programs don’t download images unless the recipient specifically requests it for a given message, so if you use a lot of images, you’ll end up with lots of blank boxes in your email message.

Call to Action

Finally, work in a call to action and at least two ways for the prospect to reach you (email and phone are the obvious options, but it’s helpful to provide a link to your website and a physical address as well). Include your name, title and company name in the signature line.