With the shift to virtual selling, many sales professionals are emailing more than ever before. As we currently can’t meet face-to-face, email has become a dominant mode of communication throughout the sales process. In many ways, these emails are an extension of you and will help your prospects form an opinion about who they are dealing with. One of the first things people will notice is etiquette, the customary code of behavior, which can go a long way in showing your professionalism before you make a connection. Everything from the subject line to your closing forms the impression clients make. While you don’t have to be a professional writer to craft quality emails, it helps to be aware of current usage in language, punctuation, attaching documents, and whom to include in your responses to avoid a potential faux pas. Here are a few points on email etiquette to ensure yours make a good impression in this new virtual world:
Subject Line: This is the first thing someone sees when they receive an email, so it’s imperative this is right. The subject needs to be short, specific, and relevant to the content. An empty or misleading subject line can quickly strike a wrong chord. For prospecting emails, go with something catchy that could provide instant value to the recipients. For prospects with whom you share a contact, it’s helpful to get their name in: “Friend of Walter Smith.” For follow ups after a call, consider the tried and true “Follow up to our call on 5/9.”
Greeting or Salutation: Much has changed from the early days of email. While formal greetings such as Dear Sir or Madam, followed by a colon, were popular in the 90s, it’s now common to strike a friendlier tone with a simple Hello, Hi, or Hey, followed by a first name and a comma. Do not assume a prospect likes a shortened form of their name. Not all Roberts go by Bob nor are all Christines Chris. Unless you are certain about what they go by, use the full first name.
Body of Email: Short paragraphs of one to three lines are better than blocks of text. These can appear intimidating to readers, and they are less likely to read emails that require a great deal of work. Succinct paragraphs read quicker, are easier to understand, and your points are more likely to be remembered when they are spaced apart.
Tone and Punctuation: Most word processing programs have built-in spelling and grammar checks that are better than in years past. Utilize such features to ensure your email doesn’t arrive riddled with typos and run-in sentences. Also, read the email aloud before you send it. This helps you hear the tone as the client will when they read it. Depending how far along you are in your business relationship, it’s best to keep things simple at first and avoid too many questions, which can get confusing. Once you are established with a client, you can shift to a more casual and even friendly tone.
Attachments: When sending attachments, make sure these are clearly marked in the body of the email. This can be as simple as, “Attached, please find the document entitled Sales Proposal.” Also, open the attachment yourself before you hit send to make sure you attached the correct document, that it opens, and isn’t protected or encrypted for specific users. Instead of sending large attachments, consider providing a link to a file-sharing site. It will improve your chances of deliverability, as many mail servers put limits on the size of incoming mail.
Reply, Reply All, CC, and BCC: Ensure your reply is meant for all the users on the email. Often, especially in longer email chains, conversations can be reduced to simple exchanges that no longer apply to everyone. Be considerate and switch to a private email so as not to waste others’ time. Also, it is customary to make your main contact first in a list of multiple recipients, followed by bosses and other superiors. However, if these are added as a courtesy, include them on CC. BCC should include recipients you don’t want the main recipients to be aware of, such as your boss or members of your team.
Sign Off or Closing: In closing your email, it is customary to thank the recipient for their time. Keep this simple and include how they can contact you or a link that allows them to book time on your calendar for a call. Whether you decide to sign off with a traditional line such as “Best Regards” or “Sincerely,” or instead choose a more common sign off such as “Look forward to hearing from you” or a simple “Cheers,” is up to you. What’s important is to remain courteous and not make the recipient feel like they’re someone you take for granted.
Your emails are an extension of your personal brand. They are your unique voice and something that defines and differentiates you from the competition. They not only reflect on you, but also your employer. It’s also helpful to remember key points of etiquette to ensure the impression they create is positive. Mostly, you want to strike a friendly tone that establishes you as someone others trust and want to work with. Though email etiquette changes over time, one thing that remains constant is the need to sound sincere, helpful, and genuinely interested in the needs of your customers. Once you do that, you can build productive relationships through email that become progressively more casual and benefit both you and your clients.