"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
There are so many reasons I love this quote by Mark Twain. The most obvious is that it so reflects where we are today. The wave and influence of technology has made it critical and essential for us to learn the skill of communicate more clearly, compellingly and concisely in email. This is difficult to do and most sales professionals talk of the struggles to get communication back from clients.
With a reported 200 billion emails being sent per day you don’t want to have the reputation of being that guy with the annoying emails. Attention spans are dropping and you probably have less than 8 seconds to keep your audience’s attention. We need to act now and work on this skill.
As sales professionals we’re told. We need to communicate more effectively. I’d agree and I’d add we need to communicate more intentionally to get even better results.
Communicating intentionally is about the choice, timing, purpose and impact of your message today for yourself and your customer.
I’d like to share with you 5 simple thoughts to my approach to encourage intentionality in my writing that leads to more concise and effective email. Some of you will be doing this well already and some of you are looking for better results. Whatever stage you’re at I’m convinced you’ll get some value from this.
The headline matters
According to market research group Radicati in the US the average professional can receive up to 125 emails per day. 50% of those are legitimate emails potentially worth looking at, a quarter of them are spam. We all do this when checking our email, we’ll either scan the name or see the subject line. We then make an instant decision on whether or not it’s important or if it’s something we’re interested in reading further.
What does this all mean for us as sales professionals and Account managers? Your name won’t always count. We need to find more creative ways to get our emails read. The headline matters to grab attention fast. You want it ideally to be connected to what you want to speak about. Try and be short and sweet although there are times you can break this. Here are 4 simple ideas I use to creating headlines that get read more often.
- Ask a question – “How was the presentation last week?”
- Use someone they know (as long as it’s true)–“Victoria asked me to get in touch”
- Connect it to something current– “Just saw your company acquired X”
- Make it time specific – “Do you have 3min to answer this question?”
- Make it personal – “Congrats on your promotion?”
Get super clear on the why
Why this message, why would they care and why now? What response do I want from this (feeling, thought and action). Once you’ve got them to open the email you need to make sure you come up with the goods. Don’t shock them with huge paragraphs and long introductions. 43% of people stop reading or delete long emails. So get straight to the point. E.g. “thanks for taking the time to read this. I emailed you so we can set up a meeting to discuss the proposal. I know it’s time sensitive for you and the team because of budget requests next week. I’ve got some availability this Thursday. When that day might work for you? I’ll follow up with a calendar invite once I hear from you”
Make a connection, be personal and show empathy
Be approachable. Depending on the relationship I like throwing in things that are personal and personalised for the person. Remember that every connection matters. A goal should always be to build rapport and connection. Consider their personality, past responses to messages, preferred communication, acknowledge what may be going on for them. All this plays a part. If there is anything you can use that offers a shared connection in the email they’re more likely to read it and feel that this is not some generic template email. You’ll need to find the right balance. E.g. “I hope you're trip to Spain was relaxing, In the last conversation we had before you left you mentioned it would be challenging to get the internal data together and you would need help. I've completed more than 50% of this for you and wanted to set time up for us to go through the rest together”
Be courageous with the ask
Take a verbal deep breath and ask for the action. With the clarity of why you’re sharing this email you should have confidence in the ask. Be very clear on the expectations you have and what you’ll do in return and be time specific. E.g. “The project is on schedule to finish this week, but I need the summary document from you by tomorrow at 9am. This is so we ensure the project is completed on time and benefits you and the entire group. If you feel there’d be any challenge with this give me a call as I’m here to help”
Give something extra of value
I look for ways to go beyond the request. This doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is business centred. A tool that is under used is the P.S. It is known that when an email is read the first areas looked at are the top, the bottom and the middle. A recent survey from Getresponse noted that 41% of emails are opened and read on a mobile device. This has significant implications to how an email is read and experienced. A 100 word email on a computer is inviting and easy going. On a mobile it could be dense and uninviting. You have the opportunity here to raise the bar. The purpose of the P.S. or post scriptum is to add additional information that may not be connected to the main text. Recently copywriters and great sales professionals are using this medium to add value. E.g. P.S. I thought about our last conversation and saw this article that might offer some insight on the topic we discussed. All the best” – why don’t you give it a go and see what response you get. You can also use this as another reason to get in touch.
Get messaging and let me know what may have worked for you
What you use already and what you might add to this list