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How To Write Emails That Sell (You)!

By Ron Sathoff
Posted Wednesday, November 24, 2004

First off, let me offer a disclaimer: This article is NOT about those "sales letter" emails that a lot of us use to promote our businesses. Rather, I would like to discuss those OTHER emails....the ones that get ignored, overlooked, and even swept under the rug. That's right, I want to discuss those plain, everyday, "correspondence" emails and the effect they can have on your sales and marketing.

I work in a business where about 75 to 80 percent of our communication is done through email. That means I get to read a LOT of messages, and it is really surprising how many of them are either hard to understand or easy to misinterpret!

It is my opinion that, even though email is seen as being a "secondary" form of business communication, we should look at it as we would any other type of writing -- that is, as a permanent document that our customers and associates will use to judge our credibility.

The main problem, I think, is the fact that email is so instantaneous and so easy to use. It's very easy to think of email as being something that doesn't really matter, so we just jot off an email without thinking about it, just as if we were chatting in a conversation. Unfortunately, this often leads to messages that are hastily thought out, hard to understand, or -- worst of all -- written in anger.

This shouldn't be the case -- we should make sure that our e- correspondence is as well-thought-out as our sales letters or office memos, and that they show the qualities that customers look for -- things such as a commitment to quality, friendliness, and service.

To help create this kind of image, here are a few simple suggestions. These are mostly common sense, but as I mentioned before, it's often easy to forget these things when you are in a rush to answer those 300 messages in your "In" box!

* Make sure e-mail is the best way to communicate your message. In other words, know when NOT to send an email. For instance, sending an Email is almost instant, but that doesn't mean that email is the quickest way to get in touch with a client. Most people will only read their email once or twice a day, which means that if you need to get in touch with a person right away, you probably will want to call them.

Confidential information is also best left off of email, for two reasons. First, Internet security is getting better and better, but there are still many ways that your sensitive email can be "hacked into" by unscrupulous individuals. The second problem, which I have heard about more often than I would like, is the fact that with one simple mistake, you or your recipient could send a sensitive email to the whole corporation!

* Be correct in your writing. It's amazing how many emails get sent without the benefit of punctuation, capitalization, or even full sentences. Not only does this make it harder for the reader to understand the message, it gives the reader the impression that the sender is either sloppy or incompetent -- or that they don't care enough to take the time to send a proper message.

Also, be cautious about sending a message in ALL CAPS. In the "lingo" of the Internet, a message in all caps means that the sender is shouting. Certainly, there may be times you want to create this impression, but use it carefully!

* Give context to your emails. Once, I received a message from someone that consisted of one word -- "Yes." It took me 1/2 an hour just to figure out what question I had asked in the first place!

Always give enough context to your messages so that your readers will understand what you are talking about. If you are responding to a prior e-mail, it's usually enough to just include the message you are responding to. Don't, however, fall into the trap of including each and every message in a 40-message email conversation -- That's probably just a little TOO much context!

* Give full contact information. This one is pretty simple -- always let your recipient know who sent the message. Don't trust your email address to provide this information; Always sign your messages with your full name and organization, just as if you were sending a regular letter. Having a signature file can be very helpful for this.

* Be as prompt as possible. Once again, this is a no-brainer, but it is easy to lose track of your messages, especially when you get a lot of them. I've found the best way to managing my responses is to religiously use the mailbox function on my email program. As soon as I respond to a message, it goes into a separate mailbox (usually organized so that each client has their own mailbox) -- that way, I know that everything in my "In" box is something that needs a response.

* Think BEFORE you send! This is probably the most important thing you can do when you are sending email. Almost every horror story I have heard about email has something to do with someone who sent an email while in an emotional state, or who sent an email without double-checking the message and who it was going to.

If you get a message that makes you angry, don't send an email back right away. Take some time to settle down so that you aren't sending a message that you will regret later. Remember that your angry words can be "saved" by your recipient, and you don't want them to come back to haunt you.

Also, always double-check your message to make sure it says exactly what you want it to say, that it is going ONLY to the people who you want to see it, and that it is coming from the right address (important if you have a number of different users on your system).

Remember -- once the email is sent, you can't call it back!

Just one last note: I'm not saying that we should take as much time with an email as we would with a business proposal or case study. What we SHOULD do, however, is make certain that every piece of correspondence we write, whether it is a sales letter, an inter-office memo, or an email message, should reflect the image that we want to maintain -- one of professionalism, competence, and caring.

About the Author
Ron Sathoff is a noted speaker and manager of DrNunley's ( Ron works with business speakers and writers, helping them with their copy-writing, marketing, and Internet promotion. Reach him at or 801-328-9006.


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