Why Your Sales Emails Aren't Working, and What to Do About It
Keep your sales emails out of recipients' trash by deploying these five best practices
While a lot has changed since the internet first entered people’s homes, one thing has held steady: Email is still an essential part of online communication. Despite the introduction of messaging apps and social media sites, email hasn't just survived — it has thrived. Worldwide, about 3.9 billion people use email daily, according to Statista. By 2023, this number is expected to reach 4.3 billion.
Email's importance as a component of a successful content marketing strategy has also grown. According to HubSpot, 78 percent of marketers saw an increase in email engagement between 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, Content Marketing Institute found that 90 percent of marketers cite email engagement as the top metric for measuring their content's performance.
As someone in the content marketing space, I’ve seen my fair share of bad emails. But I’ve also seen how effective a well-crafted email can be for sales. More importantly, I know that everyone can learn how to build out the perfect sales email — as long as they’re willing to put in the effort.
How to write sales emails that people will actually read
To ensure their sales and marketing teams are creating successful sales emails, business leaders need to encourage them to dig a little deeper. Those crafting the emails need to focus more on what the recipient will actually want to engage with rather than solely what the company wants to say. And that’s not always easy.
To help you guide your team members in the right direction, consider these five sales email best practices:
1. Hook recipients before they even open the email
According to Convince & Convert, 35 percent of email recipients open an email on the basis of the subject line alone.
Writing an effective subject line involves a delicate balance. The goal is to catch recipients’ eyes while also letting them know what the email is about. Being too flashy can backfire — especially if the email doesn't live up to the hype. Instead of going the clickbait route, craft a subject line that lets readers know, specifically, how they would benefit if they opened the email.
At my company, one of the best sales email examples we use to show the power of an effective subject line is also one of the simplest. The subject line reads, “Any questions?” That’s it. There’s nothing flashy or gimmicky about it. Instead, it gets straight to the point and lets our customers know that we’re not only available for questions, but also ready and waiting to hear from them.
2. Deliver more than just empty words
For every sales email, it should be immediately clear to the recipient why an email was sent and what value it provides. It’s equally important to structure the email so that the most important information is easy to find for those who might do more of a scan than a true read.
One of our team members recently sent an email designed to offer guidance and resources for businesses trying to plan next steps for marketing during a health crisis. The email consisted of a quick introduction explaining why it was being sent and then went straight into the links to free courses and other helpful content. It finished with a call to action welcoming people who needed more help to book a half-hour phone call, no strings attached.
The email contained nothing revolutionary, but it provided a strong return on this team member's time investment. The email was engaging simply because it was straightforward and provided real value.
To see more examples of sales emails that provide value and drive responses, check out HubSpot's templates.
3. Make sure communication is a two-way street
When figuring out how to build the perfect sales email, it’s crucial to remember that the goal isn’t merely to provide information — it's to engage recipients in a dialogue. To successfully accomplish this, include in each message an easy way for recipients to reach out.
When one of our team members wasn’t hearing back from someone who had previously shown interest in working with us, she sent a follow-up email with the subject line “Easiest reply ever.” The email was a short message that consisted of a quick check-in and a numbered list of four simple responses the reader could choose from. One was to set up a meeting, another was to receive a follow-up email next week, and the last two — either that the reader had lost interest or had gone with another firm — let us know that this was no longer a viable lead. All the recipient had to do was reply with the corresponding number.
4. Write like a human
When sending a bunch of sales emails, it can be easy to deliberate over every word and fret about whether the verbiage is too casual or not witty enough. The resulting email often sounds stodgy and awkward. To create successful sales emails, don’t approach the task as a creative writing challenge; approach it more as a friendly chat between colleagues.
I like to reread each email before sending it and ask myself, "If I were saying this face-to-face, would it sound odd?" If the answer is "yes," I’m probably not writing like a human. Sometimes, it’s a matter of trying to be too clever. Other times, it’s the result of trying to be too professional. Either way, the goal should be to make a genuine connection with the recipient — no salesy jargon or snazzy catchphrases required.
5. Get to know your audience
While form emails do have their place in sales and marketing, the true power of this kind of content marketing strategy comes when sales reps take the time to do a little research on the person they’ll be corresponding with. This can sometimes be a big ask when time is a precious commodity, but it doesn’t require some hours-long deep dive into analytics — just some light Googling.
Where are the prospects from? What sort of companies do they work for? What do they post about on public social media sites? Get a feel for what each recipient likes and dislikes, and tailor the message accordingly. Don’t overpersonalize to the point that it might come across as creepy, such as when Target predicted that a teenage girl was pregnant, sent related coupons and upset the girl's father in the process. But throwing in a little bit of specificity can work wonders in fostering a new relationship. After all, emails with personalized subject lines are more than 25 percent more likely to be opened, according to Campaign Monitor.
Email can be one of the best ways for businesses to get the word out and engage new customers. But emailing solely for the sake of spewing sales pitches will only go so far. To truly harness the power of email, a business needs to send a message that encourages conversation and offers clear value to the person on the other side of the screen.