You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And when that first impression is made via email, it’s even harder to come off the way you want to. Without the benefit of an in-person interaction, you can’t exactly build rapport or pivot your strategy if something you’re saying doesn’t resonate.
So it’s imperative that you get that first email right. While you can’t control whether your email garners a response, you can control everything else -- and you should.
If the core of your email is an insight or resource, think of your writing as the packaging. Even if you’re an expert, it’ll be hard to build credibility if your online communication is riddled with spelling and formatting errors. Below are the worst errors that'll cause salespeople to embarrass themselves over email. Beware!
Sales Email Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
1) Misspelling words
According to Grammarly's analysis, misspelled words were by far the most common email mistake people made in 2017. Use a tool that checks your spelling as you type to catch your errors without slowing yourself down.
2) Misusing “your” and “you’re”
They sound the same, but they certainly don’t mean the same thing. It’s easy to slip up, but asking your prospect, “Do you have any time on you’re calendar to chat tomorrow?” makes you look sloppy and unprofessional.
Along similar lines, know the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” Writing "There excited about the new product," or "Their is no update yet" is a nother common grammar mistake that makes it harder for you to be taken seriously.
Misusing “its” and “it’s” is the final category of commonly confused homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently.)
3) Repeating words
The second most common error of 2017? Repeating words. That means accidentally typing the same words twice, for example:
"When will the report be be ready?"
Not the end of the world, but your message will certainly look cleaner without the doubles.
4) Misspelling your prospect’s name or company
Maybe you were tired when you sent the email. Maybe your eyes were blurry from staring at the screen for too long. Guess what? Your prospect won’t care -- they’ll think you haven’t done your research, are sloppy in your work, or flat out don’t care about accuracy. None of the above bode well for your ability to make the sale.
5) Misspelling your own company’s name
This isn’t nearly as insulting to a prospect since you’ve fumbled your own company, not theirs, but it still gives the sense that you just don’t care that much.
6) Mistyping your phone number
This is a mistake I made (and learned from) the hard way. My email signature contained my phone number, but I’d mistyped one digit. I got a frustrated email from a client a few days into his project demanding to know why I never picked up the phone.
If you’re going to provide a way for your prospects to get in touch, make sure it’s correct. If they actually take the initiative to call you, ensure it’s not a waste of their time.
7) Fumbling the date
Scheduling a meeting over email is enough of a pain. Asking your prospect for a meeting on “Thursday, November 16th” when November 16th is actually a Wednesday creates confusion and necessitates an additional two or three emails to correct the mistake. Make sure you’re referencing a calendar when including dates in your emails.
8) Not using paragraphs
If your email’s only two sentences long, this isn’t as much of a problem. But when you’re writing a long follow-up email or a recap of an important call, make sure you’re breaking the text up so it’s easy for your prospect to read.
9) Using inline lists instead of bullet points
To make your prospect’s job even easier, break out lists into easily scannable bulleted lists. Would you rather be asked if a meeting on "Monday at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday at 12:00 p.m., Tuesday at 1:45 p.m., Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., Wednesday at 4 p.m., or Thursday at 12:20 p.m." works better for you, or receive this email:
Let me know if any of the below times work for you:
Monday at 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday at 12:00 p.m.
Tuesday at 1:45 p.m.
Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.
Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.
Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
You prefer the second option? Yep, me too.
10) Failing to format
In a real conversation, you can use body language, voice tone, and gestures to accentuate important points. But it’s harder to convey tone in emails, so if your email is longer than a paragraph and it contains information your prospect absolutely must read, bold or italicize it to make sure it catches their eye.
One caveat: Don’t go too crazy. An email where every other word is bolded or underlined is jarring to read and looks unprofessional.
11) Including too much information
You can use #10 above to gut check this point. If you’ve written 800 words, but only felt the need to bold one statement, take a moment to check whether you actually need to include everything you’ve written. Save your prospect as much time as possible by cutting right to the point -- they’ll appreciate it.
12) Burying your ask
Sometimes, though, you will need to write a longer email. In this case, make sure to pull out your ask into its own line or paragraph so it’s not lost in the rest of the text.
13) Not including an ask
Whether it’s asking for 10 minutes to discuss resources you’ve just sent over or offering a product demonstration, every action you take should be designed to advance a prospect through the sales process if it’s a mutual good fit.
14) Asking too much
Of course, what you ask has to be reasonable. If it’s the first time you’re speaking with a prospect, it’s ridiculous to ask them what contract terms they’d be comfortable with. Tailor what you ask for to your prospect’s stage of the buyer’s journey.
15) Including broken links
Including a link or two in your sales emails is great when it's applicable. You're providing more content and an opportunity to click around your site and learn more about your product. Make sure those links are updated and work, especially if you're using a template -- if your prospect is actually interested enough to click through, make sure you're giving them a good experience. Just as importantly, you'll appear unprofessional and sloppy if you include links that don't work.
16) Being vague
Vagueness isn't just irritating, it's inefficient. Your recipient has to work harder to understand what you're saying -- and sometimes even ask for more information. Do your best to be specific. Rather than saying, "Are you interested in getting my thoughts on your strategy?", ask, "Do you want to spend 15 minutes reviewing your 2018 lead gen plans?"
17) Copying and pasting
Have you ever gotten an email where a single section is much smaller than the others or appears in a different font? If so, you know how distracting it is. This weird issue is caused by copying and pasting without removing the formatting.
To make sure this doesn't happen with your emails, highlight any sections you've pasted and click the "Remove formatting" button in your email browser.
If you're using Inbox or Gmail, you can also remove formatting by highlighting a section and pressing command + the backward slash key (\). Outlook users, press control + space.
Writing good sales emails is an art and a science. Different subject lines and strategies will work better for different prospects and industries. But these are the building blocks of professional correspondence. Get your writing rock-solid so you can focus on selling.
Originally published Dec 27, 2017 6:47:00 PM, updated June 10 2021