Be an Inbox Hero With These Simple Tips for Better Sales and Prospecting Emails
Bill Farquharson remembers one email exchange that resulted in receiving a check in the mail. It wasn’t a business email, per se—it was actually to get reimbursed after a carpet cleaner accidentally put holes in his family’s rugs. Even though the company didn’t want to pay what he felt he was owed at first, Farquharson didn’t have to argue much.
In the end, it came down to one question: “What would your mother tell you to do?” That was enough to get the guy on the other line thinking and, in the end, mailing him a check.
Writing a good email is an art form. In business, it’s often the only time you have “in front” of a prospect, and you need to fight amongst countless others and junk mail to get that person’s attention.
So, how do you do it right? Well, if you ask Farquharson, president of Aspire For Inc. and chief creator of content for his own site full of industry sales training tools, it’s pretty much the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice.
Make It Personal
No one likes receiving junk mail. Unfortunately, our inboxes are often so flooded with messages that we just want to swipe them all away and get back to Inbox Zero. In the process, though, we might mistakenly think something is junk when it really isn’t. And when your goal is to reach a potential customer and make them want to do business with you, you should be doing everything in your power to show that you care about their business and their business specifically. There’s no time for one-size-fits-all emails.
“I think my No. 1 rule is to do everything you can to make [emails] look personal,” Farquharson said. “It’s like getting something in the mail. You look at it and say, ‘Is this bulk mail? Is this a personal letter? Is it a bill? Is it a check?’ I want someone to look at this email and think, ‘Bill Farquharson took the time to send an individual, personal email.’”
You don’t have to stalk the person and find out what their favorite movie is, dropping little references in the email. Just do something that shows that you are thinking of this person longer than simply copying their email address into the draft.
“I like to reference the time,” Farquharson said. “I might say something like, ‘I know it’s the Monday before Christmas, but…’ That almost timestamps it. I could also reference something that I know about them. ‘Hey, you attended a workshop I did back in September.’ That personalizes it. Or, ‘I had it on my calendar to reach out to you and talk to you. You and I spoke in November.’ Anything I can do like that that references something, because I don’t want someone to think that I just copied and pasted.”
The thing with email is that it’s inherently impersonal, so it’s up to you to try to make up for that by taking special care to craft a good email that gets your message across in a way that resonates with the recipient.
Especially now, with younger generations more comfortable with text-based communication than hopping on the phone, it’s more important than ever that your email game is as good as it can be.
“The way I look at email is that you and are standing on two sides of a closed door, slipping notes underneath it to each other,” Farquharson said. “It has its advantages, in that it’s efficient. It has its disadvantages, in that you’re fighting with hundreds of others to get someone’s attention.”
Farquharson added that just putting something simple in a subject line, like “question for you” or “follow-up,” makes it more apparent that a real human wrote that message with intent, and could pique the recipient’s curiosity.
You don’t have to be William Shakespeare to write a good email, but it is good to write with purpose. You can’t just drag your knuckles across the keyboard, attach an invoice and expect the recipient to understand exactly what you mean. Some things can get lost in translation, and you have to make it very clear what you want and what you’re saying. That’s one of the downsides to text: You can misconstrue someone’s intention.
Part of getting past that roadblock is to be a better reader yourself, and understand that you are only reading a sliver of someone else’s day, and to never assume that you know their intentions in an email. They might just be having a bad day so they’re uncharacteristically short, or they might have meant something as a joke but it comes off as rude.
When you take that into account, it can inform how you write your own emails, paying careful attention not to let the morning’s frustration seep into your message, or maybe thinking of every way that a joke could be interpreted before you hit send.
“You can get in a lot of trouble in written form because someone doesn’t get your tone or your intonation,” Farquharson said. “I’m a natural wise-ass, but I have to be very careful with what I write.”
Take Your Time (and Edit Often)
If you’re ever in doubt that your message doesn’t say what you want it to say, or if it doesn’t land the way you want, it’s best to ask someone else. Someone who didn’t type out the message can look at things objectively, and tell you what they think. If you don’t have anyone on hand at the moment, just give yourself some distance from it and revisit later.
Farquharson treats important emails like a column he’s writing for a publication. He’ll write it out, then go back later with a fresh pair of eyes to make sure he’s saying what he wants to say. And a lot of the time, what you want to say can be boiled down to its purest components. It just takes a little nuance to make sure it sticks.
“I was not a good communicator when I was 22 [or] 23 and in sales,” he said. “Now I’m 61 and I write two really good letters and emails: One is praise-you and one is screw-you. I write a really good screw-you letter. I’m not going to get aggressive with you, but you will read in a poignant, direct and sometimes clever way that you’re a…”
And, as expert communicators here, we know when to edit out the ending of a message.