Nine best practices for better sales development emails


A couple weeks ago I ranted about bad (to put it mildly) sales development emails we’ve been receiving in greater volume recently.  I outlined several “worst practices” I really wish would go away.

So what are the best practices?  This isn’t exhaustive, but here’s a great start:

  • Brevity: You’re an unknown, so no matter what you write people aren’t going to give you much time.  You have seconds, single-digit seconds, to get my attention.  Keep that in mind always.
  • Subject lines:  Brevity again of course (assume they’re reading on a smartphone, so make the whole subject line fit that many characters!), but also make it a bit of a tease.  You don’t have to communicate everything in the subject line, just enough to get my interest and get me to keep reading.
  • Email length: If your email is more than 100 words, it’s too long.  Shorter is always better.  Again, don’t feel like you have to communicate everything.  That’s what the next email, or the next call, or the next step in your complex buying process is for.
  • Salutations: If you don’t know them, don’t say “hey”.  Use their first name (and make sure you get it right).  Do enough homework to know if they like to be called Michael or Mike.  The wrong choice in any of these makes you look dull, and will get an immediate delete.
  • Share & teach vs ask:  Don’t ask your prospect for something that requires work of them right away.  Teach, share, give some links.  I highly recommend tracking link access vs. registrations as a key indicator of interest (instead as well of tracking just opens, which many email clients will overestimate based on actual user behavior).
  • No images or files/attachments:  Prospects don’t know or trust you yet, so keep things simple.  Plus their email filters will more likely put those unknown emails into a spam filter or simply auto-delete them.
  • Be REALLY careful about mail merge: You need to inspect every record before you do this.  Otherwise you run the risk of using the wrong first name (Michael vs Mike), using initials instead of full names, and all kinds of other weirdness that seems to always be within our lists.
  • Think about context:  Are you sending in the morning?  To a different time zone when people aren’t working yet?  On a Saturday?  To a busy c-suite executive?  Exactly when and into what context you’re sending emails makes a difference.
  • Use trigger events to break the ice:  Start your email with something unique, something recent, that demonstrates you’ve done your homework and have personalized the content.  This consistently gets prospects to read further.