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3 Skills You Need for Writing Sales Emails
We all sell something sometime. If you’re in sales for a living, you sell specific products or services and are compensated for doing so. Those of us not on a sales team may also have to pitch and sell too, perhaps more than we realize.
At a job interview, you sell yourself as the best candidate for a role. A spouse might sell their partner on the idea of spending money on a kitchen renovation instead of a trip to Hawaii. A parent sells the virtues of vegetables to their child—an especially tough sell, to be sure.
Selling is a part of life—and so is email. Hence, it’s no surprise that email has become a sales tool. And a compelling sales-centric email requires solid writing skills, especially when our inboxes are so overflowing that many messages go ignored. A sales email, often viewed as unimportant to recipients, has to work even harder to be noticed, especially if it isn’t expected. So, if you want to make a sale by email—or at least lay the groundwork for a sale, writing skills are essential.
If writing doesn’t come easily to you, don’t deem it a lost cause. We all have skills we learned and practiced before becoming adept at them. For example, does anyone jump on a bike and ride without falling a couple of times at first? Probably not. Someone usually holds the bike and guides them as we first get used to it. Let’s take something more routine, like making coffee. To make your first pot of coffee, you probably followed either written or verbal instructions. You may have referred to those instructions the second time you made a pot too to ensure you had the correct ratio of coffee grinds to water. But now, you likely make coffee regularly without a second thought and may have tweaked your technique so the coffee better suits you. All this is to say, we acquire new abilities all the time. Think of writing in this same way. It’s not that you can’t write: it’s just that you need some guidance and practice to do it well.
Granted, writing can be intimidating if you feel you don’t have a knack for it. So below we break the skill into manageable chunks to improve your writing know-how and chances for making that sale.
Use proper grammar
Words form impressions and prompt reactions. People are busy and would love to ignore your email and feel justified in doing so. Incorrect grammar gives them a reason, so you must eliminate it. However, if your email is buttoned-up, you appear to be a buttoned-up person who knows your stuff and is worth the recipient’s time. All this means your grammar can determine whether someone reads your email or not. Start thinking of proper grammar not as nice-to-have but as essential.
If grammar skills don’t come to you naturally, they can feel nearly impossible to pick up. But fear not. Learning all the ins and outs of grammar isn’t necessary, but regularly hitting the “check spelling” button on your emails is. Make it a habit. No exceptions.
To up your game and grammar knowledge further, check out a grammar tool like Grammarly, which comes with a free option and syncs to email. Grammarly recognizes grammar errors and confusing phrases, advises how to fix them, and explains pertinent grammar rules so you learn as you go.
Beyond this, recognize the words and phrases that challenge you. If you can’t catch them as you write, double-check these problems spots before pushing send. In particular, make sure “you’re” and “your” are correct. Double-check the names of people you’re addressing. And take it from us, review “assess” and verify it’s not “asses,” unless you want your message recipient to LOL.
Make your point clearly and succinctly
Does anyone in the world look at a long email and think: “Yay! I get to read this whole thing!!” (No, not a soul thinks this.) So, if no one wants to read long messages, why send them?
But don’t fret if your messages tend to run long. The key here is don’t push “send” immediately. If you’re able, take a 24-hour break from the message and then return to it. Reviewing it with fresh eyes will help you see and eliminate redundant phrases, overly long sentences, and unclear points.
Also, place the main point of your email in your first few sentences or subject line. Never bury your point late in your message. Again, recipients want an excuse to ignore you. If they can’t quickly determine what your message is about, they have a valid reason to do that. Let’s say you’re posing a question. Provide the absolute minimal background needed before asking the question. If need be, you can flesh your question out further after posing it. This way, your reader is never lost, which increases the chances they’ll read your entire message and respond.
Another tip: the fewer words and letters, the better. So instead of “at this point in time,” say “now.” “Because” is better than “the reason being.” And opt for “use” over the superfluous “utilize.” They mean the same thing—one just has four more letters. That just makes it longer, not better.
Make a human connection
No one has ever encountered a bunch of bot-written Internet gobbledygook and thought: “That speaks to me!” This is because humans respond to other humans, and we recognize humanity. So sound like a human in your emails. Cutting out overly formal phrases and overlong words, like we discussed above, will help with that, but a truly effective message goes beyond a polished writing style. If you want someone to buy what you’re selling, whatever that is, connect with that person.
Let’s return to the idea of selling yourself as the best candidate for a job. One way to stand out is to highlight a personal connection to the company. Perhaps you’ve used the company’s product for 20 years and can remember the first time you encountered it. Relate that to them. Passion for their product isn’t a skill they can teach, and it’s useful to them. Or maybe you happen to volunteer for a charity the company sponsors. Explain why this charity is meaningful to you and your appreciation that the company supports the same cause. Our stories make us unique and interesting. Leverage yours.
Acquiring new skills takes practice, so you may not write the perfect sales pitch with your next email. Keep trying. To start, focus on one aspect of writing, such as grammar. Work on it in all aspects of writing, not just in sales messages, until you’re comfortable with it, and then add on another component, like using fewer words to say what you mean. (#ProTip: Twitter is an excellent way to sharpen this skill!) Eventually, you’ll find writing of all sorts easier, and you’ll soon reap the benefits of your more persuasive prose.
About the Author
Dmitri Leonov is an internet entrepreneur, leading growth efforts at Sanebox. He has over 10 years of experience in startups, corporate strategy, sales strategy, channel development, international expansion and M&A.