The Anatomy of a Perfect Sales Email, According to Experts & Data

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Zoe Ashbridge
Zoe Ashbridge


The last thing you want from a sales email is sleazy, spammy… or even sales-y copy. That might sound counterintuitive, but I interviewed Yuval Ackerman, email strategist, who shared her top tips for writing sales email marketing that don’t give you the ick! Plus, insights into how the best emails perform and what your audience wants from you.

woman writes about the anatomy of a winning sales email

Ackerman’s top tips are listed below, with further industry insights, including the anatomy of the perfect sales email from five email experts.

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Table of Contents

The Anatomy of a Perfect Sales Email

As we’ll find through this article, the anatomy of the perfect sales email includes these key elements:

  • On-brand copy.
  • Social proof or case studies.
  • A compelling or high-value offer.
  • A focus on user benefits over product or service features.

Nick Gaudio, director of brand at Go Rattle, shares his perfect sales email and his ten commandments of cold outreach.

Gaudio’s sales emails receive:

  • 36.3% open rate.
  • 3.1% click-through.
  • And perhaps most impressively, Gaudio reports a higher reply rate of 4.2%.

Here’s an example.

Gaudio’s ten commandments are:

  1. Keep subject lines short.
  2. Keep body super-short: 125 words or less at all times.
  3. Use plenty of white space/line breaks.
  4. Keep one primary CTA (i.e., link).
  5. Break an expectation within the first two seconds of reading.
  6. The tone should be exceedingly confident — and respectful — at all times.
  7. Strong writing comes from strong verbs.
  8. Write as if they’re humans.
  9. Use a little color to your advantage.
  10. Get meta with it.

Expert Tips for Writing Sales Emails

If you follow these sales email tips, you’ll feel less icky and more enthusiastic about your sales email campaigns. Our experts told us that sales emails are not old-hat, spam techniques — quite the opposite actually, sales emails are all about connection.

1. Know your audience.

Yuval Ackerman, ethical email marketing specialist at Ackerman Copywriting, kicks off with her first tip: knowing your audience.

By “know your audience,” Ackerman doesn't mean their age or demographic; she means really getting to know your audience.

Great sales emails start with a deep understanding of the recipients and their needs. Ideally, you’ll be out in the field gathering actual feedback from your buyers. Learn about them, from them, and understand their barriers, objections, and pain points. Only then can you tailor an email that resonates.

Ackerman recommends using her F.A.N. framework, the “N” in FAN, which stands for “networking.”

Ackerman says, “I know brands that have their own Facebook groups or discord channels for their top fans. And you can see the interactions over there and learn from the interactions.”

A channel such as this has additional benefits for marketing. Ackerman continues, “even to the point of getting ideas for new products coming directly from the community on Facebook or Discord, or ideas to market your existing products better and reduce churn.”

What I like: A direct channel to speak with your audience builds and nurtures connections. Developing this top-tier fan can only benefit the business. You’ve got a reliable place to get feedback, and your best customers are incentivized to become your brand advocates.

You’ll know exactly what your target audience wants, and you may find you develop a pool of people to support you with new product launches.

2. Ask for feedback.

Ackerman suggests that you ask your email subscribers for continuous feedback. This interaction can be as simple as an embedded feedback form or emoji reaction at the bottom of every email.

Or, Ackerman recommends Schmoozing Sessions. She explains, “[A Schmoozing Session] is basically hopping on calls with your best subscribers. Give a few slots every month or every quarter, and maybe an incentive like a gift card.”

Tell your best email subscribers that you want to hear from them, what they love, and what they want to see more of in your emails.

What I like: Asking for feedback from your audience is always a good idea. I love how Ackerman provides different levels of feedback. A form on an email is low effort for you, but a call with your best subscribers will be more in-depth, though a little more effort, very worthwhile.

3. Who are you writing for? Use segments.

I already knew that you should segment emails, but the why behind this became very clear when I spoke to Ackerman.

She said, “You can write a sales email to your top tier. You know the best engagers, and they would eat it up! They would love to hear from you. They would click, they would engage.”

She says you can then write a sales email to a segment of the most disengaged people on your list or one-time buyers who have gone cold completely.

“The copy that you need there, and the approach and the strategy that you need there, is completely different because the intent level is different. So know who you're writing this email for,” Ackerman says.

I asked Ackerman for more; I wanted to know how she recommends email marketers can segment their audience.

“Spoken like a marketer,” Ackerman laughs, “it depends!”

She continues, “It depends on which segments you want to have on your list. And why do they make sense for your brand?” Very popular segments include:

  • Top engagers in the past 90 days.
  • People who bought once.
  • People who have bought more than once.
  • The people interested in [specific] products or not these kinds of products.

“Some businesses are segmenting their list according to gender, or if it's in the pet niche, you can have [subscribers who] have a dog, cat, or have both,” Ackerman says.

With segmentation, you can understand who you’re writing for. If you know exactly who you’re writing for, you know what they need or their pain points.

Mark Colgan, B2B Sales SaaS Consultant at Yellowo, supports Ackerman’s recommendation.

He drives the importance of focusing on the prospects' challenges/pain points.

“Focusing on pain points in your messaging is going to help you tap into the emotion of the prospect and increase reply rates,” Colgan says. “But, you need to develop a strong understanding of your prospects' challenges and their role in order for your message to really resonate with them.”

The email should conclude with shining a light on the end of their challenges, Colgan says, with your solution.

Colgan provides an example:

Hi Sarah, I saw you’re spending over $60k p/month on paid ads.

Would it be helpful to identify areas where you can cut wasted ad spend and save time? Personio increased ROAS by 23% after working on implementing our ad analytics platform.

Worth exploring?


Colgan explains why this email works.

He says, “It works because the observation is relevant to them (and only them). Then, I allude to a problem that I know the prospect thinks about (wasted ad spend). I then back it up with social proof and show how another company benefited from our solution. The CTA is soft and not too aggressive.”

Colgan’s emails following this framework achieved

  • 79% open rates.
  • 13% reply rates.

What I like: Audience segmentation always made sense to me, but until I spoke to Ackerman, I underestimated just how powerful segmentation could be. Segmentation allows you to alter your sales email messaging for the benefit of different subscribers depending on how invested or engaged they are with the brand’s emails.

4. What’s in it for me?

Ackerman’s third tip is all about driving the benefit to the user. Your sales email is not about your product features or the service you offer — it's about solutions for the user.

Ackerman explains, “[Your sales email is] not about features of your product or your service. But the transformation that you're offering, thanks to your solution or service. And what is the before and after for your subscriber.”

Ackerman says to emphasize what‘s in it for the user. What would their life, or their pets’ lives, or their children's lives look like later on?

When asked how you can do this, Ackerman says, “If it‘s more of an Ecom brand, you want to showcase photos of the product. But if you’re a coach, for example, and you have an online course, then it‘s really nice that you have a prerecorded course with seven modules and three bonuses and whatnot, but tell me what’s in it for me.”

Ackerman notes, “[Your subscribers] don‘t care that you have seven modules. They want to know how they will feel after they’ve gone through your course.”

What I like: It’s no secret that emotions can drive consumers to part with their hard-earned cash and make a sale. I like how Ackerman puts it — a subscriber isn’t interested in the details of the product. The course is a great example.

It doesn’t matter to a subscriber how many modules there are — they're not buying modules, they’re buying a solution, so what is it? A sales email that drives the benefits and solutions will be successful.

5. Stick to brand tone of voice.

If there’s one email that I feel could fall victim to a switch in tone of voice (ToV), it’s a sales email. It feels like it would be easy to turn into a sleazy salesman, which is the last thing you want.

Ackerman explains that you want to stick to your brand tone of voice because it would sound very off to your subscribers.

Ackerman points to an imaginary brand whose newsletter is typically light, fun, and funny. Then, their sales emails are straight to the point, very pushy, and very salesy.

“That would create this huge disconnect between the brand and what it stands for,” she says. “You definitely want to make sure that you are cohesive throughout the entire inbox experience.”

Doesn’t it make sense that brands adhere to their typical tone of voice sousers can experience consistency? It builds trust.

Below is an example of an email that builds trust from Man Crates. It was an end-of-year clearance where users saved up to 20%.

The email targets a gift-giver, and Man Crates has stuck with their tone of voice the whole way through. See language like, “Epic Gear and Grub” and friendly jabs at their gift recipients, “Guys suck at tidying up.”

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What I like: A brand’s tone of voice is critical in building credibility and trust and connecting with customers. As Ackerman says, email is about connection, so there’s every reason to stay on brand with your sales email copy.

Why Great Emails Bounce

Not every sales email will make it to your recipient; some of that will be out of your control as an email marketer.

Before we get into the controllable, let’s look at the differences between a soft and hard bounce.

Soft Bounce

A soft bounce typically occurs due to temporary issues, like a recipient's mailbox being full or a server being temporarily unavailable. This issue is out of your control as an email marketer. The good news with a soft bounce is that the server might hold the email and attempt to redeliver it.

Hard Bounce

A hard bounce is still out of your control but does point to a more permanent problem, such as an invalid email address. If your subscriber adds a typo to their email, there’s nothing you can do.

Both the hard and soft bounces impact the effectiveness of email campaigns and the quality of the email list.

New Email Regulations

Ackerman warns about a more pressing issue for email marketers.

She says, “With the new Google and Yahoo regulations, great emails could be bouncing because the email is unverified and/or unauthenticated. It‘s a technical process. Everyone needs to go through it to ensure they’re passing the spam filters of Gmail and Yahoo specifically.”

Yahoo and Google are offering increased protection for safer and less spammy emails. Google has said, “We’re introducing new requirements for bulk senders — those who send more than 5,000 messages to Gmail addresses in one day…”

Google’s recommendation is to

  • Authenticate emails.
  • Make it easy for users to unsubscribe.
  • Don’t send spam; make sure the recipient wants your emails.

When asked what else email marketers can do to avoid hitting triggers related to these new regulations, Ackerman advises that you follow good, ethical email marketing. She says, “[Make sure] the email isn’t too heavy because you included a very heavy HTML, or big like videos. Don’t link to sketchy websites or use triggering words.”

Examples of Perfect Sales Emails

Next, we will look at some emails that have proved their effectiveness when it comes to selling.

Zero Bounce sends sales emails after events.

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Zero Bounce sent a follow-up sales email to webinar sign-ups, including those who attended and those who signed up but didn’t attend.

The email received a

  • 48.63% open rate.
  • 11.30% click rate.
  • 11.36% sign-up rate for new accounts.

When asked about the email’s success, Zach Nonnemacher, email strategist at Zero Bounce, gave three reasons for the email’s success: audience segmentation, value, and freebies.

On audience segmentation, Nonnemacher said, “The email's content is highly focused on a specific audience and event. These people already showed they would engage by signing up through the original event invites.”

Nonnemacher explains that providing value in the email encouraged CTR, “There's something both free and valuable (the webinar recording link) for our readers to click on.”

Finally, Zero Bounce showed its commitment to its customers by offering support with the freebies provided in the webinar.

During this event, Nonnemacher recalls, the company gave out some free credits. Credits are tokens people can use to validate and enhance their email lists.

“We wanted this new audience to get a chance to use our platform. But, by providing the option to chat, they can continue the conversation and learn how to put those credits and tools to use effectively,” Nonnemacher says. “As a bonus, we gave out a freebie to those who took us up on the offer.”

What I like: This email ticks all the boxes! It was sent promptly after a webinar and was value-packed with the recording link (ideal for those who want to share with their team) and freebies.

Zero Bounce allows their excellent customer service to shine through their sales email by offering their prospects support with the freebie, helping potential customers see the service they could receive if they signed up.

Omniscient captures attention with a high-value perception.

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Alex Birkett, co-founder at Omniscient Digital, reports an 80% open rate and a 25% reply rate to his cold sales outreach.

Birkett recognizes that the close rate is harder to calculate because sales are not always instantaneous, but many recipients may get back in touch later.

When asked why his emails are so successful, Birkett says, “We use a straightforward subject line (no tricks like ‘quick question [first name].’ We literally just write the subject line to describe what the email entails, e.g., ‘content ideas for [brand].’”

Then, in the email, the team gives content ideas, usually through a quick mini audit or content gap analysis. “This takes time, but it also gets results,” Birkett says.

Birkett warns against relying on tricks, hacks, persuasion, and automation. Instead, Birkett recommends that you focus on capturing attention and your ability to conjure a high-value perception.

What I like: Omniscient is using plain text emails to capture attention and provide value over anything else. It shows that sales emails do not need to be overly complex. If the content is good, the email will work.

Kineon’s email addresses pain points.

After the holidays, January emails are unlikely to have quite the same success as the buying season, but Tomas Pinto at Emotive reports a 43% open rate. Better than that, their email had the largest revenue generation.

Pinto says, “Open rate is not everything. This was a content-focused email, so we connected with people who read it because we touched on some pain points of our target audience.”

What I like: This email is a great demonstration of two of Ackerman’s tips. Kineon demonstrates how well they know their audience and their pain points. The copy focuses on the benefits to the reader, for example, restoring “normal range of motion in the shoulder.” Instead of a copy surrounding what the product could do, the benefits are clear.

Tools to Help You Write the Perfect Sales Email

There are a lot of paid and free email writing tools out there, but here are some top picks.

HubSpot’s AI Email Writer

HubSpot’s AI Email Writer takes the mental load out of writing emails, increases your productivity, and increases email open rates.

Use the AI Email Writer to

  • Generate the sales emails at record speed with this fit-for-purpose AI.
  • Improve your email with tried and tested templates that your recipients will love.
  • Track all your emails in one easy-to-use platform.

My Experience With HubSpot’s AI Email Writer

Undoubtedly, AI can save us all time, especially when the AI is designed to help with specific tasks.

Instead of using generic generative AI, this AI is fit for purpose. Once you’re up and running with AI Email Writer, you can write any email at the click of a button, and the tool has a specific “Cold outreach email type.”

Through a series of questions, the AI writer will ‘know’ exactly what you need to write and why.

It provides the perfect foundation to build your perfect sales email. Do you need to edit it? Absolutely — especially if you want to follow those sales email best practices such as adhering to tone of voice, knowing your audience, and building connections.

Hemingway App

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The Hemingway App was created in 2013 by Adam and Ben Long. The app is designed to make your writing bold and clear. It helps writers write concisely.

Use the Hemingway App to identify

  • Adverbs.
  • Passive voice.
  • Complex phrases.
  • Hard-to-read sentences.
  • Very hard-to-read sentences.
  • Get subject line alternatives to inspire something more suitable.
  • See how your subject line scores against alternatives.

Simply paste your email into Hemingway, and the app does the rest! It highlights the above using a color-coded system so you can easily scan your content and edit.

In addition, the Hemingway App grades your writing from three to 15. A grade of three is understood by a third-grader.

Ackerman recommends that emails are generally fourth or fifth-grade but notes again the importance of understanding your reader. She says, “You want to keep your email and copy at the level of a fourth or fifth grader. It depends on your audience. If you are a B2B or an academic newsletter, your audience is much more receptive to even a tenth grade. Obviously, you'll try to make it a bit more chewable.”

My Experience with Hemingway App

As a writer, I’ve used the Hemingway App for years! I think it’s a fantastic and easy-to-use tool for self-editing, and it’s free.

The highlighting system makes it easy to see what you might need to edit.

In the sales email scenario, you don’t have the luxury of time. Remember what Alex Birkett said: you need to capture attention. The yellow and red highlights are where I begin editing. They show the sections where I’m rambling without adding value.

I’d urge sales email copywriters not to follow the app’s recommendations entirely. Hemingway’s goal is always to simplify the text, but you know your audience and what works. Not every sentence needs to be simple.

Email Subject Line Tester

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Mailmeteor offers a free subject line tester. You paste your current subject and let the AI do the rest.

Use the Mailmetero’s subject line tester to

My Experience With Mailmeteor

This is a simple tool that does what it says. I found it very helpful. Even when I was quite happy with my sales email subject line, I felt it was useful to run a test through Mailmeteor. The tool either confirmed I was happy with my selection or inspired me to try something else.

It’s simple, and considering the subject line is hugely influential in your open rate, it’s worth doing.

I liked how the subject lines are scored (see the green and yellow numbers in the screenshot above) so you’ve got an idea of how your subject lines stack up against the alternatives. Plus, a guide on which one the AI ‘recommends.’

Like HubSpot’s AI writer, the tool is designed to help with emails, which makes it fit for purpose.

ChatGPT for ideation

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ChatGPT is a general generative AI tool that most of us have access to or have at least tried by now. However, unlike HubSpot’s AI email writer, it’s not designed for the sole purpose of writing emails.

Use can use ChatGPT to

  • Share and generate ideas.
  • Get alternative subject lines.
  • Write a draft email (though I don’t recommend it).

My experience with ChatGPT for sales email marketing

It’s my least favorite tool of those listed. While Chat GPT did write me an email, it fell short of what I needed.

It is worth noting that I didn’t give it the most effective prompt, but I did follow the email sales tips provided by our experts.

In my prompt, I said:

Can you help me write a sales email?

It's important that the email

  • Proves I know my audience
  • Shares benefits
  • Follows brand tov (friendly)
  • Offers social proof
  • Uses a pas framework

Service: sales email copywriting

Problems faced by recipients: they don't have the time or skills to create compelling campaigns.

Benefits to recipients: done for them sales emails with a trusted email marketing partner.

The sales email Chat GPT provided was

  • 351 words long.
  • Scattered with those AI thumbprints like “transform” or cliché sentences like “juggling numerous responsibilities.”
  • It included ‘agitating the problem’ as a heading, which diminishes the framework entirely.

That said, despite its shortfalls, there are some benefits.

Chat GPT's generative AI gave me something to work from. For example, the subject line it provided, “Transform Your Email Campaigns Effortlessly with Expert Copywriting,” was far too long and very AI-esque, but I ran the subject line through Mailmeteor, which recommended “Boost Your Email Campaigns with Expert Copywriting,” which I felt was better.

While it requires a lot of work, it is better than staring at a blank piece of paper.

Getting Started With Your Own Sales Email

If there’s anything that will set you up for sales email marketing success, it’s the tips from email experts and the sales email examples listed in this article.

Follow the anatomy of a perfect sales email, leverage the tools where it feels right, and don’t neglect those all-important, tried, and tested tips from our incredible email experts.

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Topics: Sales Emails

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