This Is How to Write a Sales Email to Get a Response

Confession time: I have recently signed up to Unroll.Me.

It was a decision driven by desperation mostly — I was getting buried under unsolicited emails and irrelevant pitches. There were moments when I was really aghast at the lack of imagination and flair of the people who kept barraging me with thoughtless, generic emails.

When it comes to interpreting cold email responses, silence usually means no. And that got me thinking — what makes a stellar cold email? Is there a secret hack to writing a sales email that gets a response?

It appears now that there is more than one hack to crafting an inbox-busting cold email campaign.

#1 Do your homework

A mischievous cat from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ once said that “if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take”. It’s okay if you don’t want to take advice from a fictional character, but talk to any self-respecting inbound sales rep and they’ll tell you that the single most important aspect of their job is research.

Effective marketing and sales campaigns are based on connecting with prospects on an emotional level. What seems like a pretty simple box to tick, invoking emotions can actually be excruciatingly difficult. Not only do you need to know your lead’s pain points to be able to push the right buttons, but you also need to choose the right method to approach them and the right vocabulary to make them take the desired action.

Most inbound marketers will agree that if you don’t know who you’re targeting, your emails will stink.

Whether you’re reaching out to just a handful of leads or a database of 1000+, crafting a highly personalized sales email is the only reliable way to generate decent response rates. If your mailing list exceeds a reasonable number of people, when manually looking them up is simply not an option, consider a few basic tips for improving your chances for hitting the bullseye:

  1. Create a meaningful buyer persona that captures and summarizes the most important information about your target market, including their pain points and motivations. When you get to crafting the actual sales email copy, write for that particular person as if you were talking to them face to face.
  2. Use LinkedIn to get a better understanding of your list. Select just a few names at random to research their profiles, see what language they’re using to describe themselves, what skills they’re highlighting, their recommendations and so on. This will give you direction as to what style, tone and messaging they’re most likely to respond to.

Anyone who’s ever tried to write a killer sales email knows that defining the buyer persona early can significantly shorten the writing and redrafting process as well as help you choose the right keywords and tone. A CMO will not respond to the same messaging as a CTO, so blindly shooting emails left and right in the hopes of winning some of the leads will waste your list and earn you a spammer’s badge.

At this stage, having the right tools in place can help you cut the research time in half, so make sure your prospecting process is well thought through. You will most likely need a few different tools and extensions to create, track and optimize your email campaigns. Here are some of the most popular email prospecting tools that you should explore.

Tools and Resources

Yesware – allows you to track, measure and optimize sales outreach by automating and personalizing drip email campaigns, utilizing templates, tracking clicks and opens, and more.

Teamgate – helps to connect, research, present, and close their inbound leads.

Elucify –  helps to find contact info by giving you access to over 200,000 company profiles and business contact emails.

Crystalknows – helps you write better emails and connect with prospects based on their unique personality and communication style.

Clara – an auto-scheduling plugin with a human feel that handles all your meetings calendar.  

Really Good Emails – a database of the best email designs and copy. Find your inspiration!

Sales Email

Image source: Really Good Emails

Gmail extensions

Rapportive – pull up your prospect’s LinkedIn info right into your inbox.

Boomerang – a Gmail plugin that lets you schedule emails to be sent at any time.  

Clearbit – find any sales email right from your Gmail inbox.

WiseStamp – enables you to create a professional email signature for free.

Grammarly – boost your credibility with this grammar and spelling checker.

#2 Craft and test various subject lines

When you’re sending cold emails, the subject line can virtually be a door opener. But make a mistake and you’ll land in the spam folder with no chance of making it out of there. And I have the statistics to back this up: 35% of email recipients decide whether to open an email based solely on the subject line, while 69% of people report email as “Spam” based entirely on the subject line.  

Subject lines matter.

Besides getting you through the door, a strong, compelling subject line will also earn you a few extra seconds after a prospect opens the email. But how can you pimp your subject lines to really grab their attention? Marketing pros recommend:

  • Keep it short. And it’s not even because people have the attention span of a goldfish. You have only about six to eight words to transfix their mind, as a typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email’s subject line. If your prospects are checking their email on a mobile screen, you’ve only got 25 to 30 characters to seal the deal.
  • Start with the most important information. 55% of all email opens occur on smartphones. A long subject line will get cut off, putting the success of your entire campaign at risk. If it’s not skimmable, it’s not good enough.
  • Personalize your subject lines. Who doesn’t love the sound of their own name? Using personalization tokens, like name or location, will help you break through the initial barrier and build rapport. Showing your prospects that you know more about them than just their email address is an effective tactic to get that email opened.
  • Avoid clickbait. Look, you’re already a stranger in someone’s personal inbox — don’t push it. Making false promises or telling half-truths to get your emails opened won’t get you far. If you want to build a relationship based on trust and respect, keep your subject lines honest.

Sales Email

Image source: Pexels

Once you nail a few teaser subject lines, don’t rely on your gut to figure out which one achieves better open rates. The best way to see how your audience responds to different styles and subject line formulas is by implementing a smart A/B testing strategy. Most of the email marketing tools like MailChimp, GetResponse or Yesware will run the tests for you, giving you a detailed report of opens and clicks at the end. The most important lesson here is to let the data guide you.

#3 Keep it short and to the point

Cut the fluff. Everyone is busy and living by the “time is money” rule. Getting into someone’s inbox is one thing, making a connection with a prospect and getting a response is quite another. It’s not particularly helpful when you hear the “keep it short and simple” mantra but it’s the best advice you can get.

One of the easiest ways how to keep things simple is to write like you talk. An email written in a straightforward, casual style sets the right tone for future communications — you come across more relatable, personable and approachable. When you finish drafting the email, read it out loud and see whether it rolls off your tongue nicely or sounds like an excerpt from an essay. Don’t make your cold email sound cold, write like a human.

#4 Make it about them and talk about benefits over features

Whatever you’re selling, don’t go for a hard sell in the first email.

If you’ve done your homework and carried out a thorough research, you’re starting from the position of strength. Addressing your prospects by their name and talking about their most pressing problems makes your intrusion a little less annoying and shifts their attention from you to their pain points.

The only important truth in sales is that you don’t sell products or services, apps or tools. You sell dreams and aspirations and offer people a better version of themselves. Benefits over features is a classic example of how much the buying decisions are driven by psychological cues. You will have a better chance of converting your leads by vividly painting the picture of what they can achieve if they get on board with your offer, rather than blowing your own trumpet and talking about the amazing features.

Apple nailed the feature selling technique when they launched the iPod. When crafting your email copy, keep the Apple example in mind, avoid the awful “me me me” attitude and focus on the prospect. If you keep on asking yourself “So what?” after every sentence you write, you’re bound to reach a version of your email that will get you a “yes”.

Sales Email

Image source: Help Scout

#5 Use social proof

7 out of 10 Americans seek out opinions before making a purchase, so adding a little social proof can go a long way. It’s one of the few big guns under an inbound sales rep’s belt that can make it easier for a prospect to say “yes” as well as foster trust. Name dropping and using high-level stats to add a little oomph to your pitch can be an effective way to demonstrate the value that your product creates and increase the response rate.

Although it’s important to weave some case studies, numbers or client testimonials into your cold email copy, it’s also worth remembering that it needs to stay sharp and concise. You need to find a way how to make the social proof a part of your story instead of throwing dry facts and numbers at your prospects and expecting them to be impressed. Yet, the allure of proven success is incredibly powerful:

Studies have shown that people tend to value more the opinions of those that resemble them in some way. If you nail your buyer persona and pick the right case studies or testimonials for your emails, social proof can be your lucky ticket.

#6 Make sure to include a clear CTA

It goes without saying that a strong CTA is the linchpin of any promotional campaign. Chances are, your prospects will skim through your email and jump straight to the bottom of it to quickly figure out what you want. If your closing line is too long, your CTA will lose its punch and might even get lost.

A good rule of thumb is to limit your CTA to one or two sentences, ensuring it directs the prospects to the next step. When they open your email, the first question they’ll have will be “What do you want from me?”. Ensure that your CTA or your closing text clearly states the desired action and next steps.

#7 Include an email signature

It’s okay to end your email with “Best wishes” and “Kind regards” if you want to, but make sure your email signature is a little more creative. WiseStamp will prove to be a particularly handy tool if you decide to give it a shot. A great-looking signature will send the right message to your prospects, help you improve the email engagement and garner trust. Besides that, a professional email signature is a powerful tactic to establish credibility and put a face on a cold email. By adding relevant content, connecting your social media profiles and keeping your email signature up-to-date you will easily differentiate your emails and engage with your prospects in a unique way.

sales email

Image source: WiseStamp

#8 Writing techniques for inspiration  

You have probably deleted quite a few cold emails yourself, without ever giving them a chance to charm you into some sort of action. Most people open cold emails already irritated, so failing to find the right copy formula to really seize your prospect’s attention can have disastrous effects on the entire campaign. There are many different schools of thought and a myriad of clever writing techniques that can come to your rescue if you feel particularly drained and uninspired. The following three are particularly liked among professional copywriters:

  • Military precision. Let’s just say that military professionals take their email communications as seriously as their job. Efficiency and speed are at the core of everything they do. A US Navy veteran has recently shared a few unique tips on how to format emails with military precision.
    Optimize the subject line: military personnel use email subject to state the purpose of the email and to indicate the action that needs to be taken. They place special keywords, such as ACTION or REQUEST, at the beginning of the subject  to get their emails noticed quickly.
    The five W’s: Another rule they have is to lead their emails with very brief statements, otherwise known as BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front). The ultimate goal of this procedure is to help the reader quickly digest the announcement or decision, without diving deeper into the background information. The statements are based on the five W’s technique and need to answer who, what, where, when, and why.
  • Use power words. There’s a lot to gain from combining active voice with power words. Putting nouns ahead of verbs and charging your writing with action-oriented, powerful words will help you sound more persuasive. Unsure about what power words are? Here’s a list of 317 of them.

sales email

Image source: dlvr.it

  • The essentials of business writing. Business writing is all about clarity and persuasion. It teaches us to cut out unnecessary words and inject a little bit of humour. One of the main takeaways from the business writing technique is to write short sentences and to avoid mixing multiple thoughts in one sentence.

#9 Follow up, and follow up your follow-ups

Have you ever wondered how many follow-up emails you should send and how often? (See, I’m not even asking whether you think follow-up emails are important — they are key to any cold email campaign.) The number of follow-up messages will largely depend on the kind of relationship you have with the prospect. Yet, for a cold email outreach campaign, it’s not advisable to go beyond 2 follow-ups. Bombarding your prospects with unsolicited emails at this stage will only cause anger and tarnish your brand.

Keeping tabs on all the emails you send and remembering when the follow-ups should go out would be a nightmare without email automation and scheduling tools. The market is awash with smart email automation platforms, so choosing the right software might take as long as crafting the copy. Start with the best known brands like Marketo, Pardot, or Yesware and work your way backwards to find the most cost-effective solution for your needs.

If your initial campaign flopped or generated weaker results than you hoped for, here’s an interesting thought for you:

  • 44% salespeople stop trying after one follow-up;
  • 80% of sales require five follow-ups.

Quick takeaways

Crafting a winning cold email campaign takes practice and patience. Even with all these hacks and techniques at your fingertips, the most important factor determining your work’s success will be research.

  • Research is the stepping stone to the success of cold email campaigns. Before you sit down to write anything, develop a buyer persona and gather as much information about your target segment as possible. Then turn that information into a story.
  • Spend time perfecting your subject lines because they can make or break your entire campaign.
  • The KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle is one of the best rules you can follow to keep your prospects engaged.
  • Focus on the idea that you’re selling emotions, not products or services. Stressing benefits over features will help you capture the interest of a much wider base of people.
  • Use social proof to quickly build trust and credibility.  
  • Supercharge your emails with clear and simple CTAs that are maximum two sentences long.
  • Add a professional email signature with your contact and social media details to encourage your prospects to look you up and connect on other channels.
  • Take advantage of proven writing techniques to sharpen your copy and conquer your prospect’s inbox.
  • Follow up the first cold email at least twice.

Write to win prospects over, not to spam your way into their inbox.

Justas Markus

Founder/CEO Just&Tom and JustasMarkus.com. Passionate traveler and blogger at Entrepreneur.com, Observer.com, Influencive.com and others. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.

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