We all know a bad email when we see one. Whether someone has spelled your name wrong (despite the fact that it’s in your email address) or included egregious spelling errors, small mistakes make a big difference in how the message of an email comes across. That’s where sales email etiquette comes in.
Sales email etiquette rules dictate what’s appropriate and what’s not when you’re sending a message to a prospect, business partner, coworker, manager or acquaintance. While it might seem stuffy or out of date, knowing the in’s and out’s of professional email communication can make or break your message.
If just four words can make that much of a difference, imagine what understanding a more broad range of email etiquette could do for you email prospecting?
Don’ts of Sales Email Etiquette
Let’s start with the negatives.
We want to help you avoid miscommunications and mistakes, some more common than others. We recommend staying far away from these eight errors:
- Don’t Neglect a Spellcheck
- While this is more obvious, it’s also often overlooked. Even if it is a typo, misspelling anything sends a message to the leader making the decision that you’re not as intelligent or don’t care about the task enough to revise and make sure it’s written correctly.
- Particularly when applying for funding, it’s crucial to make sure there are no typos in your email so the recipient understands the importance of the ask on your part.
- Don’t Ignore Response Windows
- Although it can be easy to let emails build up in your inbox, an appropriate response time exists depending on the person and their situation. Immediate teammates/colleagues require a quicker response since collaborative tasks require you getting your work done. In regards to external contacts, depending on importance, these can typically wait until the end of the week.
- Don’t Overlook Punctuation
- Punctuation is subtle when you use it correctly and obvious when you don’t. The type of punctuation is also key. Overuse of exclamation points and questions can overwhelm the recipient.
- Don’t Use Email As an Avoidance Tactic
- Make sure you use email in the correct instances. Sometimes, a phone call makes more sense when canceling, planning or speaking about a more complex issue rather than handling it behind a screen.
- Email serves as a wonderful tool for larger groups, but it shouldn’t be used as a way to avoid other interactions.
- Don’t Forget a Balance
- While finding a balance between casual and professional can be tough, it is an absolute must. The tone of an email will change based on who you are sending it to and the relationship that exists between you. Even when sending highly professional emails, make sure you still sound authentic and human to avoid it sounding like a generic ask.
- Don’t Overuse the High Priority Button
- Evaluate the importance of your email, and refrain from using the high priority button unless absolutely necessary. Most of the time, using this feature can be avoided with a descriptive subject line.
- Don’t Use Emojis Too Freely
- We all know emojis can be extremely tempting. There’s just so many options to choose from. However, we do not recommend emoji use unless the recipient has already used emojis. Most of the time, the setting is too formal for emojis or you don’t know the recipient well enough to judge their reaction properly.
- Skip the Sarcasm
- Although sarcasm can be casual in conversation, it can be extremely hard to pick up on through a screen. Studies show that when recipients were believed to get sarcasm 80% of the time, in reality, it was more like 56%. It’s not worth the risk of a miscommunication via email.
Do’s of Sales Email Etiquette
So you know what NOT to do. Now it’s time to take your email from net-neutral to positive with seven key elements to include to set you apart from the crowd.
- Always Include a Signature
- Neglecting to use a signature can discount how eloquent you sounded in the email, simply because it can make you seem like an amateur. Less is more when it comes to a signature, so keep it simple and focus on including your immediate contact information and a headshot. Communicate eye contact and personality through a headshot, making the request more human and harder to reject.
- Maintain Privacy
- Don’t be afraid to use the BCC tool if necessary. When working with a third party, it’s unfair to give their addresses away freely just for the means of communication within a larger group. Always air on the side of caution when it comes to respecting the privacy of others.
- Briefly Introduce Yourself
- Even if the person receiving the email is aware of who you are, sometimes a specific email address is hard to recognize. We recommend starting off with a brief background on you and your relationship in order to add clarity to what will specifically be talked about for the remainder of the email.
- Write with Emotion
- Another significant factor in determining response rates is how positive or negative the words in the message are. Emails that were slightly-to-moderately positive OR slightly-to-moderately negative elicited 10-15% more responses than emails that were completely neutral. As long as you avoid going too far on the positive or negative spectrum, we encourage writing a little towards either side.
- Focus on the Subject Line
- Subject lines are extremely important to the open rate of an email and the effectiveness of getting your point across. Only 14% of emails without a subject line get opened.
- Typically subject lines with only 3-4 words received the most responses. However, if an extra subject line word will add a lot of clarity, go ahead and include it.
- The subject line of the email needs to address specific email topics and add clarity, not confusion to the message as a whole.
- For more specific examples on how to kick your sales strategy into high gear through subject lines, check out 21 sales subject lines to start using today.
- Include Questions
- Don’t go overboard. The recommended amount of questions to include in an email is 1-3. Emails including this are 50% more likely to get a response than emails asking no questions. Be careful not to bombard your audience with questions though, because studies also show that an email with 3 questions is 20% more likely to get a response than an email with 8 or more. Questions are more effective if the audience answer will be a more than likely “yes”, so make sure your first question will keep them reading.
- Pay Attention to Length
- Length will differ and does not need to be exact, but typically messages ranging between 50-125 words yield a response rate of over 50%. If you need to send a length above 2000 words, it is better to include this as an attachment in order to not lose interest from the main purpose of the email.
Your email is a reflection of you and we want to be sure it’s the best one possible. Tiny additions such as word choice, punctuation, length and so much more can make or break the success of an email.
According to a study by the International Data Corporation (IDC) workers spend 28% of their workweek reading and answering email, so make it count!