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How To Write An Effective Prospecting Email

As a salesperson email is probably your most important communications channel (after the phone, of course). You will spend much of your day there, and will rely on it as your chief asynchronous medium. You probably send countless prospecting emails per month. However, you’ve probably also noticed the response rate is fairly low.

Writing sales emails well is a skill which takes time to master. I won’t propose to teach you everything here. Instead, what I’d like to do is show you a simple method to write effective prospecting emails, and discuss a few points you will have to consider while doing so.

Without further ado, then, let’s dive right in. I’ll start off with the considerations, and follow that with the simple framework.

Goal.

The ultimate goal of most prospect-oriented sales activities is to take a step upon the path toward a sale. When you send a prospecting email, that may be the main thought in your mind, but it should be tempered with pragmatism; a prospect is highly unlikely to buy based only on an email.

Your goal, therefore, is to start a conversation or at the very least an exchange. Keep all of this in mind when you write your email; a hard sell is very likely to land in the spam folder, and you don’t want to end up there.

Email as a medium of communication.

Email is an extremely powerful means of communication, defined by two key aspects:

  1. Asynchronicity: Emails do not require an immediate time investment. They are not like a phone call in that they do not need the other party to commit a few minutes of full attention. Instead, the reading of emails is often filtered, prioritized, and planned into an already overly busy day.
  2. Triviality: Since there is essentially zero cost to write emails, their volume is extremely high. This means the time and effort put into emails is disproportionately high when compared to their perceived value. It’s easy to click away, in the blink of an eye, an email a salesperson sweated over for hours.

With these in mind, we can come to the following five conclusions about prospecting emails:

  1. They are likely to be deleted quickly, so the effort put into individual prospecting emails should be roughly commensurate (certainly not too little, but also not too much).
  2. They should include one single, simple call to action, as they will otherwise impose too high of a burden of effort on the reader.
  3. They should be short and concise, for the same reason as above.
  4. They are not a good avenue for a large quantity of information.
  5. They should ideally be sent at a time or in a way to stand out from the otherwise indistinguished mass of emails.

Please note that the points above are extremely subjective. There are some who say long prospecting emails work very well indeed. My experience is that in the B2B sales world, especially when targeting higher level or C-level roles, the longer the email is, the less likely it is to be read. Please do experiment, though; after all, you want to sell, not follow a methodology for the sake of it.

Language.

1. Formality.
Considering the above, you may be tempted to tend toward as casual a tone as possible in order to make the email easy to read. However, I’d like you to consider this: your prospecting email is the first impression you will make on the prospect. If someone has worked long and hard to be where they are, they may not appreciate an overly casual tone. You must find out what works for your market; run tests and do the math.

2. Keys to language.
Whether you choose to write long or short emails, your language will be the defining factor in the conversion of their interest into action. Indeed, whether it’s in preparing an email campaign, sending an individual email, or simply in conversation, it plays the central role. Language is the substance which underlies and permeates meaning, and without an extremely good facility with it, you will not be successful in sales.

You should always strive for the following three aspects when communication:

  1. Precision
  2. Concision
  3. Beauty

The last is in the remit of philosophers, and is a very subjective thing. Suffice it to say, if your email is a pleasure to read, you’re more likely to hear from them.

Keep your sentences short and your emails to the point. To do so, your word selection is vital; take the time and make sure each word is exact, and the sentence reads precisely how you want it to read.

3. Buzzwords
Try to avoid buzzwords whenever you can. They tend to muddy up the language, and are usually quite imprecise. They’re also not defined in a universal manner, and will probably lead to confusion if your prospect uses them in a different way.

It’s important to differentiate buzzwords from industry-specific language; the latter is defined for the industry, though not in general use. Using industry-specific words correctly increases your credibility, and will make you less likely to be dismissed.

Research leads to a reason.

Research is important to a successful prospecting email. You should know a bit about the company you’re targeting, the industry, and, ideally, the individual. Take a few moments to search for them and check their own corporate news pages.

You’ll want a reason to write them. The best reasons come from:

  1. Recent role changes, challenges, or awards for the individual.
  2. Recent changes in the company direction, or within the company itself. Recent company awards, successes, or challenges.
  3. Recent changes in a competitor’s direction, or within the competitor. Recent competitor awards, successes, or challenges.
  4. Recent changes to the industry; trends, headwinds, or external influences.

A simple email framework.

After that hefty dose of advice, let me show you how I go about structuring an email. The key here is to make sure every piece fits into an overarching logic and theme. It’s only three sentences long, and, as a guideline, should ideally fit on one (or maximally two) screenfuls of most mobile devices.

  1. Greeting: your greeting should match the person you’re addressing. Make sure to consider the formality of it carefully.
  2. First sentence: reason: The reason you’re writing. Make sure there is a reason to write, ideally taken from the above point.
  3. Second sentence: intro and proof points: Explanation of what your company does and which problems it solves (we help companies…), along with proof points in the form of customers(make sure these have good success stories associated with them) within the industry. If you’re attempting to break into the industry, the next best option are companies of a similar size or who are facing similar challenges.
  4. Third sentence: call to action: This is where you build in your one and only call to action. I can highly recommend simply asking for a reply to the email if they’re interested; you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your emails by this.
  5. Signature: Keep it short and simple. You don’t need your email in the signature if you’re mailing from it. You don’t need your job title either; they should want to respond on the strength of the message. You should include a link to your company’s website and a telephone number where they can reach you directly.

Since you’re only writing three sentences, you need to make sure each one is as precise and direct as possible; avoid overly long or complex constructions. Keep it short and sweet.

Final thoughts

This simple email construction should help you build conversation starting emails, and shouldn’t be the only type of email you write. Later ones can always be longer, especially if you’ve agreed to send your prospect information. The more general points above the email construct should underlie all emails you write. If you follow these pointers, you’ll be well on your way to excellence.

As ever, I wish you all the best and hope this has been useful to you.

Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!

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