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Email prospecting has become standard practice for most salespeople. While sending a sales email is less intimidating than making a cold call, it can be harder to generate any kind of response, let alone a positive one; less than 24 per cent of sales emails actually get opened, according to Topo.

If you’re going to be sending pitches by email, you need to be armed with the right tactics. Here’s how to write the perfect sales email in 2017.

Writing a Subject Line

The perfect sales email has a subject line that is brief, intriguing and, if possible, personalized. Your goal when writing a subject line isn’t to sum up your email, but simply to get your recipient to open it. Some ideas:

  • If the recipient is someone you were recommended to contact, lead with that: “A referral from Jane Thompson”
  • If the recipient is someone you’ve met, even in passing, make your connection clear: “Our chat at TechStars”
  • Try working their company name in: “A question about Dawson Brothers Ltd.”
  • Give them something to think about: “Some ideas for Dawson Brothers Ltd.”
  • If you recently read a blog post they wrote, or attended an event they spoke at, pay them a compliment: “Loved your post on productivity”

Remember that certain words will trigger spam filters, meaning your message might not be seen at all. Check out this list of possible flag words to avoid, including ‘free,’ ‘compare’ and ‘benefit.’

What to Open With

Don’t waste time introducing yourself and your business. Start with a personalized greeting (“Hi Jim,” “Hey Jim”) and then draw the connection between you and them. Here are a few ideas based on the subject line approaches we touched on above:

  • The mutual friend: “Our mutual friend Jane Thompson wanted me to reach out to you.”
  • The acquaintance: “We had a great conversation about virtual reality at TechStars in January.”
  • The question: “I stumbled upon the Dawsons Brothers Ltd. website the other day and was curious about…”
  • The idea: “I’ve been following Dawsons Brothers Ltd.’s growth for a while now and had a few ideas about tools for scaling.”
  • The compliment: “Just finished reading your ‘What Productivity Really Looks Like’ post and wanted to reach out.”

How Long

Through its research, email app Boomerang found that lengths of 50 to 125 words are the sweet spot for sales email length. Emails that hovered in and around that count had the highest response rates (at approximately 50 per cent). Emails clocking in at 200 words at a response rate of about 48 per cent.

The lesson: be economical with your words. Keep your message focused and sharp, and don’t pad it with adjectives or jokes.

What to End With

Now you put the ball in your recipient’s court, with a clear call-to-action that explains what exactly you want from them. The more specific your CTA, the better — this makes it easier for your recipient to respond accordingly. Depending on the goal of your email, your closing line could be:

  • Do you have 10 minutes to chat tomorrow or Wednesday?
  • Can I send you a PDF with some more information?
  • Does it make sense for us to schedule a call, or is there someone else I should reach out to?
  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • It would be great to chat for a few minutes this week. But if you’re not interested, no problem; let me know.