Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.
When it comes to sales emails, the less you say, the greater your odds of getting a response.
If that sounds counterintuitive, consider this: our work lives are bursting with communications, from social networks and emails to on-the-go conference calls and even text messages. Thanks to that, people no longer have time or patience to read a lengthy email in order to get to the main idea of your message. Even a slightly long email can annoy a potential buyer and put any possible deal in jeopardy.
Super-lengthy emails don't normally happen at random, though. Usually, the sender is guilty of making one or more common mistakes that will add extra text to a message without adding anymore value. These mistakes might seem minimal on their own, but get two or more of them into a single email, and your message will go from intriguing to unreadable faster than you can say "spellcheck."
Here are five common copywriting mistakes to always watch for in your sales emails:
1. You give away all your selling points at once.
Intrigue and curiosity are almost vital to the success of a sales email, particularly in the early stages of a campaign, when the potential customer doesn't know you.
But it's tough to create a sense of mystery if you drop every single detail about your company into your initial email. Instead, you're just creating a wall of text that blocks any incentive the recipient might have had for responding to you.
Pick one aspect of your product or service for each email. If you're doing an eight-touch email campaign (recommended), you will have plenty of opportunity to cover all the important aspects of your business.
2. You spend too much time discussing features.
Not long ago, I received an email with a long, bullet-point list stuck in the middle that outlined 12 different features for this particular product. I didn't even try to pick out one or two of those that would be relevant to my business.
Feature lists like these, whether you're writing them out or formatting them in a list, are overwhelming and off-putting for most. While benefits are always better to include, you can go overboard with these, too.
To avoid that, set a sentence limit for your emails. Three to five works in most sales scenarios. Imposing this limit on yourself will force you to make a choice about what's worthy of inclusion and what's less of a priority. That can only lead to good, for both you and your potential customer.
3. You're way too nice.
As nice as manners are, in this day and age, we've lost patience with pleasantries over email. Opening an email with the classic "I hope this email finds you well" line adds nothing to your overall point and wastes valuable words.
If you've set a three- to five-sentence limit for your email, then waste two of those on a "warm" introduction and a pleasant sign-off, you're left with only a few lines of text to explain the value of your business.
Instead, use your opening line to ask a heated question or quote a statistic the recipient will find useful. When ending an email, a focused call to action will flatter a person far better than any pleasantry ever could.
4. You're full of yourself.
Nobody wants to admit they're full of themselves, but I encourage you to read through the last email you sent and see how much of it is focused on you or your company. Most of us are occasionally guilty of narcissistic sales emails.
The thing is, they're one of the easiest ways to turn a sales request into a long-winded ramble. Think of the guy at the party who stands there talking about himself for 30 straight minutes without giving anyone else a chance to join in. Don't get caught doing the sales email equivalent with your prospective customers.
Focus on the other person's pain points, making your message all about solving those problems. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to send short, thoughtful messages when you're not thinking about yourself.
5. You can't quote.
Quotes can be powerful social proof in sales emails, especially if they come from a celebrity endorser or "expert" in an industry.
That said, choose wisely. More often than not, quotes add nothing to an email, except unnecessary text. Does a quote add information not available anywhere else? Can it illustrate a specific benefit? If your answer to these or similar questions is "no," cut the quotes. Block quotes should be avoided at all times.
One final way to avoid all of these mistakes is to be careful about falling in love with your own words. Even world-class authors will tell you that getting too attached to a sentence can ultimately hurt the message if it doesn't fit perfectly. Keep an eye out for excess, and never fear the revision process. If you wrote an amazing sentence once and had to cut it, you can produce an equally riveting line again.