It’s easy to think of ways not to write a sales email. You know you shouldn’t brag endlessly about your business, never considering why your prospect should care. You know you shouldn’t straight up ask someone to buy from you before you’ve even talked.
But how do you write a good sales email, one that isn’t too aggressive—but still achieves your goal of, you know, actually selling something? Keep these five rules in mind.
1. Keep emails short and straightforward
As you start typing your message, keep this in mind: The average person receives 88 business emails a day, according to The Radicati Group, a tech market research firm. If that person spent five minutes reading each message (and threw in a lunch break), her workday would be entirely consumed by email.
So, of course, people don’t often spend five minutes reading an email. Keep your sales emails around the 100-word mark to ensure that your message can be easily understood, quickly.
And in the same spirit of simplicity, include only one call-to-action per email. Your intentions aren’t clearly communicated when you ask the prospect to check out your website, watch a video, read a blog post, and call you—all at the same time. Focus on just one action you’d like her to take after reading this email, and save the others for your next message.
2. Help before you sell
For many people, sales means telling prospective customers how great your products and services are. Fortunately, many of those prospects agree, which is why you’re in business.
But for other prospects, hearing about the benefits your company provides isn’t nearly as impactful as hearing about the problems your company solves. When first contacting a new lead, introduce yourself less as a salesperson and more as an expert in your field offering to share your knowledge and advice.
In an initial email to a prospect, describe the challenges your customers face before explaining how your services are part of their solution. The prospect will be more receptive to hearing about your company if she feels that you understand her unique needs—and sees that you’re not just trying to sell to anyone who might listen.
“If (solving this problem) is a priority for you, I’d love to share some ideas,” you might write in the email. “Please let me know if you’d like to set up a time to talk this week.”
To get a cut-and-paste version of an email like this, download our free resource, 10 Emails You Need to Close a Sale.
3. Remember to request referrals, not expect them
For many small businesses, referrals are one of the best sources of new customers. But you won’t always receive referrals automatically, even if your customers are happy. Consider the findings of this study by Advisor Impact, Charles Schwab, and Texas Tech University: Although 93 percent of the customers surveyed said they’d likely continue working with their financial advisor, only 29 percent had actually given a referral in the past 12 months.
You’ll get referrals when you ask for them. Send an email asking for a referral soon after the sale, while the customer’s experience with your business is fresh in her mind. Requesting a referral is less uncomfortable when you ask to help other customers, not when you ask customers to help you.
In your email, try phrasing the request like this: “Assisting customers with (the problems your company solves) is the reason I got into business, and I’m always looking for more people to help. If anyone comes to mind, can you please send me his or her contact information?”
4. For every action, there’s a follow-up
Sales—and life—would be easier if people remembered every conversation they had, picked up the phone the first time it rang, and responded to every email they received. Unfortunately, as you well know, that’s not the case. So the best you can do is follow up after every interaction with a prospective customer.
When you meet someone in a networking situation, don’t assume he’ll call because you gave him your business card. Send a follow-up email recapping the topics you discussed and inviting him to continue the conversation.
When your prospect doesn’t answer the phone, leave a voicemail—and also send a follow-up email explaining that you’ll try her again tomorrow.
And when you finally connect, don’t assume the next step is the sale, even if the conversation went well. Continue following up by sending answers to questions, relevant articles and content pieces, and other helpful resources in order to stay top of mind and encourage further action.
Across industries, most sales require multiple touches with prospects. And yet most salespeople follow up only once or twice. That’s in part because following up is difficult and time-consuming—if you’re doing it manually, anyway.
Automation software can help you stay in touch with prospects without having to remember emails and next steps. To learn what automation can do for your company, read our free e-book, 25 Things Every Small Business Should Automate.
5. It’s not over until it’s over
Every salesperson has talked to a prospect that, at one point, sounded like he was about to reach for his credit card—only to go M.I.A. later in the process. And that’s the time when many salespeople give up, turning their focus back to brand-new leads.
The best salespeople attempt to solve the mystery by following up until they reach a definitive conclusion.
Send an email to prospects asking for a quick status update. You could ask them to choose one of a few options, like, “I’m still interested, but now isn’t the best time” or “I can’t remember who you are. Can you remind me?” A prospect may have disappeared simply because he’s been busy or forgetful, not because he’s no longer interested.
Still, at some point, you have to close the case and focus on more promising opportunities. Send one last email explaining that you’re removing the prospect from your list unless you hear otherwise. You won’t know until you try: The reverse psychology just might work.
But we know these types of emails are easier discussed than written. That’s why we wrote some for you. For free, customizable email templates download our resource, 10 Emails You Need to Close a Sale.