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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

How to Write a Killer Sales Email

Customers are more likely to respond to emails that are short and sweet and get right to the point.
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Most sales emails have a response rate of around 1 percent. In other words, if you send out an email to 100 potential customers, only one will get back to you. Let me explain how to write sales emails that get much higher response rates.

Let's get started. First, some basic concepts. There are three parts to every sales email:

  1. The Opener. This is what the recipient sees in the inbox. It consists of the Subject and the first 20 or so words of the email. If the opener is intriguing, the email gets opened; if the opener is boring, the email is skipped or deleted.
  2. The Benefit. This is the meat of the email. It explains why the customer should be interested in what you've got to offer. If the benefit is clear and understandable, the email gets read; if the benefit is obscure or complicated, the recipient ignores it.
  3. The Closer. This is where you tell the recipient what to do next (i.e., the "call to action") along with your contact information. If the closer is simple and easy, you get a response. If it's complicated and onerous, you don't.

Those are the basics. Let's look at an example.

A Typical Sales Email

The following sample is based upon a real-life email. The intended recipients are people who organize trade shows and conferences:

Subject: Trade Show App
Dear John Doe:
   I hope you are having a great day!
   My company XYZ LLC provides online and mobile apps that provide attendees with an opportunity to plan and connect for the conference before leaving for the event! It's a way to create buzz, communicate with your attendees, network, schedule meetings in advance, and exchange information.
   Networking is important at events; however, we do have some clients that go with just a basic app that strips all of the interactive features out of it. We can accommodate a solution that is right for your event. We power similar conferences like yours and I guarantee you would find it beneficial.
   To learn more visit our website http://xyz.com/videos and watch a short video. Please let me know when we can arrange for a demonstration over the phone. Feel free to call if you have any questions. My number is 603-555-1212.
Sincerely Yours,
Jane Smith
Account Manager, XYZ Corp.
1976 Prairie Street, Gardena, CA 90024
213-555-1212 x 200
www.xyz.com
janesmith@xyz.com

Just so you know, the above email is, if anything, better than average. It's relatively free of biz-blab and describes an interesting product concept.

However, that email is unlikely to be opened, because this is what the recipient sees in the inbox (the opener):

Subject: Trade Show App
Dear John Doe: I hope you are having a great day! My company...

That's just boring. And why would the recipient care about your hopes for his or her day? Chances are this email will just be deleted.

But let's suppose the recipient does open the email. At that point, he or she sees two blobs of text (the benefit):

   My company XYZ LLC provides online and mobile apps that provide attendees with an opportunity to plan and connect for the conference before leaving for the event! It's a way to create buzz, communicate with your attendees, network, schedule meetings in advance, and exchange information.
   Networking is important at events; however, we do have some clients that go with just a basic app that strips all of the interactive features out of it. We can accommodate a solution that is right for your event. We power similar conferences like yours and I guarantee you would find it beneficial.

If you read those two paragraphs carefully, it's pretty clear what's being offered. Even so, it takes some work to translate all that verbiage into a solution to a problem.

Most recipients won't make that effort. They'll skim it over, shrug, and then either delete the message or move on to the next.

However, let's say the recipient does read and understand the benefit. At that point, he or she is confronted with this to-do list (the closer):

To learn more visit our website http://xyz.com/videos and watch a short video. Please let me know when we can arrange for a demonstration over the phone. Feel free to call if you have any questions. My number is 603-555-1212.
Sincerely Yours,
Jane Smith
Account Manager, XYZ Corp.
1976 Prairie Street, Gardena, CA 90024
213-555-1212 x 200
www.xyz.com
janesmith@xyz.com

Whoa! That's a lot of call to action. Is the recipient supposed to access a website? Call? Write a snail-mail letter? Or all of the above?

Of course, if you read carefully, you realize that the primary call-to-action is a request that the recipient call and request a demonstration.

However, very few recipients are going to find the awkwardly stated benefit so convincing that they'll pick up the phone and call the sender. That's asking way too much.

How to Write It Right

Here's a rewrite that is far more likely to get a response:

Subject: The Atlanta Conference
John,
   You can reduce no-shows up to 50% by keeping attendees informed and involved with our mobile app.
   If you like, I can send you a brief overview of how the app works.
Jane Smith
Account Manager, XYZ Inc.
213-555-1212
www.xyz.com

This email will probably be opened because the opener is both intriguing and meaningful to the target recipients:

Subject: The Atlanta Conference
John, You can reduce no-shows up to 50% by keeping attendees...

This email, once opened, is likely to be read and understood because the benefit is simple:

You can reduce no-shows up to 50% by keeping attendees informed and involved with our mobile app.

Finally, this email is more likely to get a response because the call to action (an implied "reply to this email") is straightforward and easy to execute:

If you like, I can send you a brief overview of how the app works.
Jane Smith
Account Manager, XYZ Inc.
213-555-1212
www.xyz.com

Chances are pretty good the recipient will respond by hitting Reply and thereby open an email conversation that could eventually lead to a demonstration and a sale.

To summarize, killer sales emails (the ones that get many responses) are short and simple, with an opener that's intriguing, a benefit that a customer can easily understand, and a closer that has an easily executed call to action.

Online Workshop

For those of you interested in learning more about writing effective sales emails, on Thursday July 24 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, I will be giving an interactive workshop on "How to Write Compelling Emails," hosted by Execunet.

Just so you know, I will be giving away 20 hardback copy of my new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, to the 20 attendees who participate the most.

Like this post? Get weekly updates in my free newsletter.

Last updated: Jul 18, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.




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