How to write a sales email that doesn’t suck

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Author photo: Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart


Reality check: knowing how to write a sales email is a must-do for today’s teams.

The numbers don’t lie: based on recent sales email statistics, whether in the form of cold outreach or following up with leads, the sky-high ROI of email isn’t going anywhere.

And with people spending so much time in their inboxes these days, your sales team should prioritize writing emails as one of your top sales activities.

Of course, there’s the actual matter of putting pen to paper.

Easier said than done, especially if don’t consider yourself a master copywriter. (You could become one though with these tips.)

Not quite sure how to spin words into gold? Relax—you’re not the only one.

Figuring out how to write a sales email from scratch can be daunting, which is exactly why we broke down the process step by step.

Whether you’re struggling for replies or simply want to fine-tune your current outreach campaigns, we’ve got you covered.

Step 0. Don’t hit “send” until you’ve done your homework

Arguably the most important piece of putting together a sales email is what happens before you start writing.

Based on the statistics noted above, personalized emails boast significantly higher click-through, conversion, and reply rates versus one-size-fits-all messages.

Anything you can do to give your sales emails a personal touch is a huge plus.

Before you start blasting emails to prospects, take a few moments to do your homework.

Social media is a prime place to start. Twitter and LinkedIn are perfect for picking up on talking points for your sales emails. For example, look at the following activities which can serve as ice-breakers or reasons for outreach:

  • New tweets or Facebook statuses regarding industry happenings
  • LinkedIn activity, including company milestones or new roles
  • Fresh blog posts or pieces of content
how to research a contact on linkedin

The beauty of researching your email targets via social is that their activity is totally transparent. They don’t feel like anyone is stalking them, and all the while your outreach doesn’t feel cold or out-of-place when it happens.

And if you’ve interacted with your prospects in the past, chances are you’ll be more likely to receive a warm reception.

That’s where your CRM can be a game-changer, too.

For example, Copper logs previous calls and meeting notes with your leads automatically. (You can log other sales notes as well, of course.) This means that you can always pick up where you left off in a long-term sales conversation.

log meetings and calls in copper crm

Whether it’s through your CRM, social media, or both, previous interactions are perfect foundations for a sales email.

Once you’ve established why you need to reach out, you can actually start crafting your message.

Step 1. Sort out your subject line

Given that 35% of people open messages based on the subject line alone, figuring out that ever-so-critical opener is one of the most stressful pieces of writing a sales email.

That’s why yours needs to pack a serious punch.

Ask yourself: what are you going to do to stand out in your recipient’s inbox?

Below are some golden rules of subject lines that are proven to encourage opens while also allowing your own personality to shine.

Address your recipient by name

Remember what we said earlier about personalization?

Your recipients should feel like your message is for their eyes only rather than part of a blast. The simple act of addressing your recipient by name is a subtle way to grab their attention as they’re scanning their inbox.

“Love your site, Mary!”

“Anything we can do, Jim?”

“How’d you do it, Bill?”

Pique their interest

In a day and age where the average office worker receives somewhere in the ballpark of 120 emails per day, you need a subject line that’s going to stop your readers in their tracks.

The key here isn’t to clickbait, but rather to pose a question to your reader. This is where referencing a previous interaction or industry happening (a new blog post, breaking news) is a brilliant move.

“Do you have a minute?”

“About your latest post…”

“Thoughts on the recent news?”

Get to the point

When it comes to your subject line, think “less is more.” CoSchedule recently did a deep dive into subject line optimization, noting that headlines between 17 to 35 characters seem to hit the sweet spot for engagement.

optimal character count for email subject lines

Subject lines aren’t the place to get too wordy or formal. Get to the point.

“Really loved your latest post!”

“Let’s solve your lead problem”

“How else can we help?”

If you’re looking for a “second opinion” on your subject line, you can use tools such as CoSchedule’s subject line tester. The tool helps hone in on emotional power words, avoid spammy and salesy terms, and assigns a score to your subject line based on best practices.

coschedule's subject line tester

These tools certainly aren’t the be-all and end-all of your subject line, but can refine your headlines and help you brainstorm new ideas.

Step 2. Come up with a compelling opener

After you’re done agonizing over your subject line, it’s time to do it all over again with your sales email’s opening line.

Seriously, though. Your opening line is just as important as your subject line in terms of encouraging engagement.

Why does your opener matter so much? This email preview from Litmus provides a great illustration of what a “second subject line” looks like via mobile.

maximize your "second" subject line

Again, you don’t want to run the risk of wasting this valuable real estate.

That’s why formal introductions (“Hi, my name is…”) not only run the risk of boring your readers to death, but are also unnecessary thanks to the “From” field.

Much like your subject line, you need to establish an immediate, personal connection.

“Just wanted to say congrats on the…”

“I couldn’t help but notice that…”

“I’ve been following you for a while now and…”

Opening lines ideally butter your reader up or establish some sort of benefit upfront. Whereas your subject line is your initial “grabber,” your opener ultimately compels them to keep reading.

Step 3. Keep your body copy simple

When it comes to your body copy, there’s no need to write a novel.

While you might be tempted to spill your guts to your readers, shorter emails are more likely to garner a response.

Remember: you’re trying to build toward a larger conversation. The “ideal” email length sits somewhere between 75 and 125 words, meaning you need to be economical with your body copy while still getting your point across.

Tools such as the Hemingway App can help immensely with this. The tool’s word counter, readability score, and grammar tips ensure that your message effectively moves your reader from Point A to Point B.

use the hemingway app to improve your emails' readibility

In terms of the actual writing itself, look at your body copy as a series of pieces rather than a single “wall” of text.

Think about how each of your sentences builds upon the next. For example, almost all of our prospecting email templates can be broken down piece-by-piece, sentence-by-sentence to tick the following boxes for your recipients:

  • Compliment them
  • Highlight a benefit of your relationship
  • Ask a question
  • Provide a call-to-action

Honestly, that’s all you need to do. Approaching your sales emails this way makes them much easier to write.

Oh, and a quick note on formatting.

Bear in mind that most emails are read on mobile devices versus desktops. Breaking up your sentences to make your messages more scrollable is a safe bet no matter what device your readers are on.

Step 4. End your email on a positive, actionable note

Your sales email needs a strong opener, but you can’t neglect your closer either.

How you wrap up your message will determine whether or not your reader takes that critical next step.

In short, you need to give your readers a call-to-action—don’t leave them hanging.

Whether it’s posing a question or giving them a place to click, there should be no second-guessing what their next steps are.

“Would there be a good time this week to hop on a call? Here are some times…”

“We actually just wrote a brand new post you can check out here…”

“Could you share this with your team and get back to me…”

Beyond your CTA, how you choose to sign off is a subtle but significant way to leave a positive impression on your recipients.

Don’t stress out over choosing “Cheers,” “All the best,” or “Regards” over any other run-of-the-mill ending salutation: simply say “thanks” in whatever way suits you and your team.

Perhaps what’s more pressing for teams who want to signal their professionalism is your email signature.

For example, including your headshot in your signature allows you to literally sign off with a smile. Showing off other professional touches such as your company logo or social buttons also signal that you’re part of a legit organization that means business.

If you’re flying solo or your company doesn’t have a designated signature template, you can use free tools like MySignature to put one together using your company information.

don't have a custom signature? use a mysignature template

Simple but effective, such signatures provide yet another personal touch that can set your message apart from other emails in your recipients’ inboxes.

example of a personalized email signature

Do you know how to write a sales email that works for you?

Most sales emails are pretty rough around the edges.

If you’re sticking to these principles (from doing your homework to paying attention to the fine details of your emails), you’re already way ahead of the curve.

In an era where people are spending so much time in their inboxes, knowing how to write a sales email is one of the most important skills for you and your team.

And if you’re still suffering from writer's block, check out our guide on how to craft the perfect sales email for some inspiration.

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