Anatomy of a Great Sales Email: Your Data-Driven Guide


There’s no question that email is still one of the best ways to get in touch with potential sales prospects.

Need proof? Consider these email usage statistics:

  • There are four billion people using email today. This is more than the 3.8 billion people using social media.
  • 127 business emails are sent and received every day. This is more than the 122 number from 2015, meaning workplace professionals are still very active in their inbox.
  • 82% of workers check their email outside of office hours.

Needless to say: email isn’t going anywhere. In fact, email usage is actually increasing. Below, we share five tips for writing sales emails that actually generate replies.

Related: 11 Must-Follow Rules for B2B Email Introductions

3 things to do before you write or send your email

Before we dive into these tips, there are a few things you can do before sending your email that can give you a better chance at getting a response.

1. Use social media to warm up your prospects

The average cold email response rate is a measly 1%.

By warming up your prospects and building relationships, you can easily get this number much higher. Think about it: if someone has seen your name elsewhere, or has had a previous conversation with you, they already trust you.

If they trust you, they’re more likely to respond to your outreach efforts. Every businessperson says that relationships are key to sales, but how do you build relationships in the first place?

In the past, you’d have to attend networking events and meet-up in person. Today, with the advent of social media, it has become much easier to build relationships online.

Relationships aren’t built by leaving generic comments on someone’s blog, following them on Twitter, or adding them on LinkedIn – they’re built by giving value to your prospects.

Here are some examples of how you can do this with social media:

  • Write some thoughtful comments on their blog.
  • Add them on LinkedIn and comment on their posts.
  • Share a recent article they’ve written with their Twitter followers.

The more you do things like this for your prospects before sending an email, the more likely you are to get a response.

Related: 11 Must-Follow Rules for B2B Email Introductions

2. Plan your follow-up emails in advance

The reality of any sort of email is that your prospects may not respond at all to your first attempt.

It’s nothing personal – sometimes they want to respond, but don’t have time.

This could be because of a lack of interest, sure. However, it could also be simply because they’re simply looking into things on their own. The majority of buyers prefer to do their own research online before making a buying decision.

This is why it’s important to send follow-up emails. In fact, a single follow-up email can double your response rate!

So before you even send your initial email, plan on sending one or multiple follow-ups. Send five or more follow-up emails since sales follow-up statistics show that 80% of sales happen after the fifth point of contact.

In general, it’s best to space out your follow-up attempts a few days apart. A sequence like this is a good place to start:

  • Day 1: Initial email
  • Day 4: First follow-up email
  • Day 7: Second follow-up email
  • Day 14: Third follow-up email
  • Day 28: Fourth follow-up email.
  • Once per month: Any additional follow-up emails

3. Automate what you can, but be careful

Doing things manually can easily get messy, and sending individual emails and following up with prospects manually can be extremely time-consuming.

Thankfully, with the help of marketing automation software, we can automate a lot of our work. Some examples of this include:

  • Scheduling social media posts in advance. This is particularly helpful if your prospect is in a different time zone and you want to post something when they’re most likely to see it.
  • Sending follow-up emails automatically. Modern sales tools can help you set up your follow-up sequence in advance. Depending on how many times you plan on following up, this can save a significant amount of time.
  • Using templates to cut down on time spent writing emails. Just be careful with this one. Make sure your email still looks human and isn’t entirely templated. Additionally, make sure you run your templates through a grammar checker. The effects of even small grammar mistakes in the templated portion of your emails can add up if the template is being sent to hundreds of prospects.

5 tips for writing sales emails that actually generate replies

Now that you’ve warmed up your prospects, planned your follow-up sequence, and set up the necessary sales automations, let’s go into the details on how you can write effective sales emails. Let’s dive in.

1. Get the subject line right

The subject line is the very first thing a prospect will see in their inbox, so this is arguably the most important thing to get right when it comes to getting your emails opened.

In fact, 33% of recipients open an email based on the subject line alone. This is why emails with personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.

This doesn’t mean it’s the only reason, but it does mean that your subject line has a considerable impact on the success of your outreach campaign. A good subject line will:

  • Capture interest
  • Build curiosity
  • Promise useful – but not misleading – information

Here are some examples that accomplish this:

  • [Mutual contact] recommended I get in touch
  • Idea for [something important to them]
  • Question about [trigger point/goal they have]

Finally, avoid sounding too salesy by using phrases like “state of the art,” “unique,” “final,” etc. Instead, write the email as if you’re talking to a friend.

2. Personalize the intro

These days, outreach emails are being sent automatically with software. Not only that, but templates are available everywhere online.

As our workforce becomes more tech-savvy, they’re more likely to be aware of the use of software and templates when it comes to email outreach.

If someone thinks that your email was sent with software, they’re under the assumption that you put no effort into contacting them. This makes them less likely to respond to your efforts. Why? Well, on some level, it has to do with the principle of reciprocity – the social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action.

Research has shown that people are often willing to perform a proportionately larger favor after someone has done something small for them. This means that by putting in the little bit of extra effort to personalize the opening line of your email, you’re much more likely to receive a response.

How much more likely? A surprising amount. Emails with personalized message bodies have a 32.7% better response rate.

Instead of opening your emails with a generic introduction such as “Hi, my name is…”, try writing a custom opening sentence about them. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Congratulate them on a recent event, such as a recent fundraising round.
  • Mention something you liked about a recent blog post they wrote.
  • Bring up a common interest.

While personalization is tough to do at scale, it’s an extremely effective way to improve your response rate and helps you stand out in a world of lazy salespeople.

3. Connect the email body to the prospects goals

If you’re selling something that doesn’t fix a major pain point for your prospect, it’s going to be much harder to get a response from them.

As many as 86% are completely useless. This explains why most outreach emails are ignored.

Don’t send your prospects a useless email. Instead of sending out generic pitches, make sure you connect your email to your prospect’s business goals. Sell them on the solution to their specific problem rather than the services you’re offering.

Here are some examples of how you can do this:

  • Seeing that outbound sales is one of your primary growth channels, I thought you might be interested in how we’ve been able to help other companies like yours scale this up.
  • I noticed that some of the ads you’re running on Google are being overtaken by those of your competitors. I thought you might want to hear about how we’ve helped others in your industry beat their competitors ad performance.
  • I saw your competitors outranking you on Google and thought you might be interested in seeing how we can fix that.

By addressing specific pain points like this, you come across as helpful rather than salesy.

3. Close the email correctly

Too many salespeople make the mistake of being too vague about the ask at the end of their email. Don’t end your email with something like “let me know if you’re interested in scheduling a call!” Instead, be extremely specific about the next steps.

This makes your email extremely easy to respond to, making it more likely that you’ll receive a response.

You can do this by ending your email with specific questions, such as…

  • Do you have five minutes to speak this Wednesday or Thursday afternoon?
  • Do you have time for a 10-minute call tomorrow between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. EST?
  • Have you given any additional thought to the proposal? Happy to address any concerns you might have!

To illustrate how well this works, check out this email from Yesware that generated a 52% for their team:

Image source

5. Make sure the email is short and simple

The average human attention span is now considered to be 8 seconds, according to a study by Microsoft. Not only that, but it’s shrinking. Back in 2000, a similar study found that the average attention span was 12 seconds.

What’s most surprising is the fact that research found that the human attention span decreases by up to 88% every year.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever to keep your outreach emails as short as possible.

As a general guideline, cold outreach emails should:

  • Not require scrolling when being viewed on a mobile device
  • Take fewer than eight seconds to read in full
  • Require a response that takes less than five seconds to write
  • Be between 50–150 words

To sum up

Now that we’ve gone over some data points and techniques for writing effective sales emails, here are some important takeaways:

  • 33% of recipients open emails based on the subject alone, so make sure you get this right by capturing their interest.
  • Personalization goes a long way, especially in the body of your email. Emails with personalized message bodies have a 32.7% better response rate.
  • As many as 86% are completely useless. By connecting your message to the needs of your prospect, you become one of the 14% that aren’t.
  • By closing your email in a specific way, you make it easier for your prospect to respond.
  • Humans have very short attention spans, and it’s getting worse. Keep your emails short.

To further summarize the process of writing an effective sales email, check out the infographic below:

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