Are You Sending Emails That Your Prospects Will Read?

Devon-McDonald by

If you’re an inside salesperson, there’s no avoiding email. You’re going to be sending a lot of them.

You use it for intros, follow-ups, thank yous, and scheduling. It’s an essential means of communication and your prospecting likely depends on it. And perhaps more than you think, those emails are a critical piece of your expansion stage business’s sales process.

But here’s the good news: your emails should never (and I mean never) be longer than a couple of paragraphs when you’re trying to reach out to someone for the first time.

All too often, I’ve seen sales reps send emails to prospects that are novels. They go on for paragraphs about themselves, their history, and their company, failing to quickly deliver a reason for that decision maker to care about the email. Honestly, that’s a surefire way to ensure it won’t be read.

Think about your reader, not yourself

For sales reps, writing better emails means putting themselves in the prospects’ shoes. They need to think about the number of emails they get every day and triple it. That’s the inbox of the decision maker that you’re trying to reach.

When you’re fighting against that kind of volume, Vorsight’s Ingrid Freemyer says that emails need to make the most of the sliver of time that decision makers might give you before moving on to the next message on their list. As a rule of thumb, that window of opportunity is about 10 seconds.

The recipients need to be able to connect, absorb and make a decision on how they will respond within that timeframe. If your email doesn’t allow them to do that, you’ve probably lost them.

So what makes for a good first email? Here are a few thoughts from Freemyer’s post:

  • Simple and professional subject line: The subject line is your first chance to make an impression. Make sure it gives your prospect a reason to open the email.
  • Keep it brief: Once you’ve established a connection and a relationship with the prospect via email, you can write longer emails that more eloquently describe the value of your company. When writing the very first email, keep it simple and to the point.
  • Include a call to action: Without a call to action, your email is likely to be deleted or forgotten. When a prospect reads your email, you want to encourage them to email or call you for more information. Asking for a return response or promising to follow up by phone will help do that.

Now, while it’s crucial that your emails are brief and succinct (and your intentions are made clear), there’s one thing they can’t be: ALL ABOUT YOU.

Self-centered emails will get you nowhere. You know the type – the “I, Me, My” messages that focus all on you and your company, neglecting the prospect’s needs and pain points.

So, what exactly does an “I, Me, My” email look like?

  • “I am reaching out to you today to….”
  • “I am hoping to get a couple minutes of your time…”
  • “Let me know your thoughts…”
  • “My company offers a….”

Look familiar?

Dig into your sent items in Outlook and take a look at some of the most recent emails that you’ve written to prospects. How many times have you used the words, “I, Me, My”?

If you haven’t finished the first paragraph and you’ve already counted more than three, then you’re focusing on yourself too much. Generally, for an email that’s about two paragraphs long, you want to use “I, Me, My” no more than two or three times.

A great email focuses more on your customer, addressing their pain points, their needs, and their schedule. If you approach email writing that way, your prospects will be more likely to read your email and perhaps even respond.

Need some more tips for writing better emails? Renowned inside sales expert and bestselling author Mike Brooks shares five secrets to effective email on his blog. I covered some of his suggestions above, but he’s got a few more that are worth considering.

The bottom line is to keep it simple, succinct, and customer-focused. Your first email to a prospect isn’t your chance to talk about how great you are. So, make sure you keep the first-person pronouns to a minimum.

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  • Great topic and points Devon. However, inside salespeople may not be the best at writing emails. And more importantly, how will they empiracally know what works?

    Have you given thought to professionally written selling emails that are templatized, can be modified and/or customized by the sales rep, allow the sales rep to dynamically select content (managed by marketing — not self-created), and can be measured empirically to determine what is has the most impact.

    Another consideration is time — activity based inside reps are measured on productivity (how many touches per day). By adopting a managed environment like I describe above, the sales rep’s throughput increases dramatically and allows them to sell, not write.

  • Matt

    I’ve worked in sales for a while. I have little to no luck with emails that start with something like “Turn scrap metal into cash.” or other titles that try to instantly convey the benefit we offer. I find that our clients view this as a blatent advertising message and it instantly finds its way into the trash.

    When we go with more subtle titles for emails like “Local scrap yard” and let the body of the message do the explaining for what we offer, we get better results. It comes off less spammy, less forcing and more personalized.