The Ideal Length of a Sales Email, Based on 40 Million Emails

According to TOPO, prospects open less than 24% of sales emails. That means three out of four emails you’ve agonized over and sent to buyers in the past month were likely not worth writing at all.

Salespeople today rely on email more and more in their prospecting efforts. But what’s the point of sending emails if the recipients aren't reading them? With this in mind, sales reps would be smart to look into the factors influencing the open and response rates of the messages they send.

If you’ve ever wondered why you aren’t hearing back from the prospects you’ve emailed, I have some good news for you. A study from Boomerang reveals the factors behind why some emails are opened, and others are sent straight to trash.

The data, based on a collection of more than 40 million emails, showed messages that expressed either moderate positivity or negativity evoked 10 to 15% more responses than completely neutral emails. But, reps should know, the research discovered too much emotion in messages resulted in similar response rates as neutral emails. “Flattery works, but excessive flattery doesn't,” Alex Moore wrote in the report.

The optimal length of an email has been much debated. But according to Boomerang’s data, emails between 50 and 125 words had the best response rates at just above 50%. Short and direct emails resonated best with prospects and earned a response. (That's why HubSpot account executive Dan Muscatello writes short prospecting emails -- two sentences long at most.) However, the numbers revealed a fine line: Emails that were 10 words or shorter got a response just 36% of the time.

Next, the study showed emails written at a third-grade reading level had the highest response rate. These emails performed 36% better in terms of open rate than those written at a college reading level and boasted a 17% higher response rate than emails composed at a high school reading level. Further, the data suggests that free-flowing, informal emails are best for eliciting a response from recipients.

Finally, it’s a best practice to include an “ask” in every sales email you send, and reps often probe prospects for information in their messages. But how many questions are too many in an email? The study discovered when reps asked one to three questions, recipients were 50% more likely to respond compared to emails containing no questions.

Often, being successful in sales isn’t about doing more -- it’s about being more effective. Use the data here to sharpen your skills and improve your email strategy.

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