Line by Line Breakdown of a Highly Effective Sales Email

October 8, 2015 Sam Laber

While most sales emails are a little more sophisticated these days than blurting out “Gimme money!” in the first line, some emails would almost be better off doing that. Why? At least that would be surprising and a little bit funny. Most sales emails arouse no emotions whatsoever and get skipped over and are quickly forgotten.

Here's a line by line breakdown of how to capture the attention of your prospect from the subject line all the way down to your call to action.

Part 1: Subject Lines That Get Your Email Opened

First the subject line. This is a good deal of the battle when it comes to writing a sales email. If your subject line isn't enticing enough to open, it doesn't matter if you can promise the prospect $1K/month savings by using your product.

Here are few formulas that tend to work in your initial email to a prospect. The general rule of thumb is: subject lines that touch upon something unique to your contact get more opens since it shows you took the time to write something just for them.

A Compliment About Something Specific They Did Recently

Example: Your no holds barred report on misleading marketing metrics really opened my eyes!

No matter how immune you may think people are to flattery, getting a thumbs up for something you did in between two emails titled "Your bill is due", does warm peoples' hearts and encourage them to read the rest of your email.

Mention How You Found Them Through A Mutual Contact

Example: Hey Anna - found you through Sam Harris

A LeadGenius sales executive got an 86.6% open rate with this type of subject line when they ran a cold email prospecting campaign. To find a mutual contact you share withyour prospect, have a look at the Linkedin connections you have in common with them.

Re: [Subject Of Their Recent Article/Social Media Post]

Example: Re: How To Transform Leads Into Hungry Subscribers

Providing a follow up comment to something your prospect has written or posted is a great ice breaker in your first conversation with them. It shows that you have at least taken the time to get to know them a bit before making contact.

Thought You May Find This [Topic Your Prospect Is Interested In] Intriguing [Or Similar Adjective]

Example: Thought you may find this report on email open rate stats interesting. 

People like it when you go out of your way to find them something valuable in a topic they care about. It shows you have taken the time to research what they like and looked around for something they may find useful. But don't just read a headline and send the article to them. Read the entire article first to make sure it's actually good content!

Part 2: Five Essential Elements Of A High Converting Cold Email

1. Compliment About Something Specific Contact Did + Meaningful Or Humorous Thought On It

Before emailing your prospect, become a social media stalker and find out something they did recently. Look for events and experiences they would feel proud of or happy about. Then compose one sentence expressing a meaningful or lighthearted thought about it or how you can relate to it. This builds instant rapport.

Example: Saw on Instagram you recently rappelled down the face of Devils Horn - serious guts! I get scared looking down from the top of a staircase...

2. Explain How You Found Them And Introduce Yourself

In two sentences maximum, explain how you discovered their company and introduce who you are and what company you represent.

Example: After I checked out expense report automators, your company’s ad followed me around for a bit. Thought I’d introduce myself. I'm Jennifer from AdBlend.

3. Hook/Value Prop - Your Biggest Benefit

When you talk about your own product, you can sound like a mother gushing about her kid - everything they do is amazing! But for an effective sales email, you want to zoom in on one killer feature that will make your prospect's life better.

Example: See everything that's happening in your network in one glance - catch problems before they become problems.

Your value prop should change depending on what role your prospect has in the company. Let's say you're a network management tool.

Value prop for an executive: Network downtime is costing your company tons of money and time. Our tools help your IT team monitor your entire network in real-time so they can fix problems before those dreaded error messages invade your computers.

Value prop for an IT manager: Do you find your team is always scrambling to fix problems? Our tool lets your team see everything that is going on in your network on one screen so you can fix issues before they blow up and someone is yelling at you.

You have to research your prospect beforehand to get an idea of what matters to them and then tweak your value prop to rub capsaicin on their searing pain.

4. 1-2 More Sentences To Elaborate On What Your Product Does

Example: Slack lets your team instant message each other instead of clogging up inboxes with never-ending email chains. You can also start group chats around specific tasks/topics - say goodbye to CC-ing everyone involved in every email.

It's best to have 5-6 selling points tailored for different types of prospects so you can mix and match for each email.

You can also mention how your product has helped a competitor of your prospect with hard numbers.

Example: Slack lets your team instant message each other instead of clogging up inboxes with never-ending email chains. We have helped organizations like NASA and the MacArthur Lab save an average of 85 minutes a day and make decisions 3x faster.

5. Call To Action

Example: Can I give you a quick call at this Wednesday to see if we may be able to help? If there's a good fit, I can create a quick screencast that explains how your team can get the most value of our main features.

Ask your prospect explicitly what step you want them to take next or ask them for the permission to initiate something that involves them having a phone conversation.

In order to frame your call to action effectively, rate on a scale of 1-5 how much effort performing it takes. Here's are a couple rating examples to help illustrate this technique:

3/5: Ask them to review a PDF and tell you what they think (takes time to translate their feelings into words, they may be less inclined to do it if they have negative impressions)

5/5: Phone conversation (takes a lot of time and some mental energy)

The more effort your requested action takes, the more of the process you should try to do for them - and the more you should expect to follow up to get someone to do it.

For example, don't expect a prospect to call you. You're the one selling them something. Why should they? Arrange a good time to call them. Mixmax (a Firefox and Chrome extension for Gmail) offers a feature that lets contacts choose an open slot in your schedule right inside the email so you don’t have to play email tag with each other to figure out a good time:

schedule example

Here's how the cold email looks when you everything put together:

Hey Anna,

Saw on Instagram you recently rappelled down the face of Devils Horn - serious guts! I get scared looking down from the top of a staircase...

After I checked out expense report automators, your company's ad has been following me around for a bit. :) Thought I'd introduce myself. I'm Jennifer from AdBlend.

We have worked with several top luxury brands including Hermes and Prada to customize their ads to the website/app they appear on and the preferences of visitors seeing them. All dynamically.

This is how your ad would look, seamlessly blended into any context it appears in: [screenshot of product customized to prospect]

We can also inserts images from visitor social media profiles relevant to your brand to grab their attention. Basically, native personalized advertising, without you having to create unique designs for every publisher you advertise on.

I would love to have a 5-10 minute quick chat to see if I can help you in any way. Here are times I'm open - just click the one that works the best for you:

schedule example 2

Look forward to chatting,


How To Revive Your Prospect Gone Cold With One-Click Links In Your Email

If you're already on your 2nd or 3rd follow up without getting a response, considering adding one-click links to the end of your email so your prospect can quickly and painlessly let you know where they stand.

Make sure you have an email tracking tool installed in your email client like Yesware or Mix Max.

Then ask your website developer to create 3 separate pages with these instructions (tweak as you see fit):

Create 3 separate web pages - make all of them no index

One page: Same branding/design as rest of the website with only the text: "Sorry to hear that - we completely understand. Have a great day!"

Name the page: thanks (or something similar)

Second page: Same branding/design as the rest of the website with only the text: "Great - you will be reminded later!"

Name the page: reminder (or something similar)

Third page: Same branding/design as rest of the website with only the text: "Thanks - I'll get back to you shortly with more details!"

Name the page: more details (or something similar)

Let me know what the links are for the 3 pages when you're done setting up - thanks!

Once you get the links from your web designer, add this to the bottom of your email message:

I know you're super busy so just click one of these below to let me know where you stand:

1. What's the next step?

2. We're not ready yet - remind us later

3. Thanks, I'll pass

Make each line clickable to the corresponding page your website developer made.

Here's how the final email looks like:

email example

With email tracking set up, once they click on one of the links, you will be notified which one they did.

Why this works

If you haven't heard from your prospect in a while, chances are they've completely forgotten about you, are too busy to respond or have decided they aren't a good match for your product and don't want to hurt your feelings.

Giving them links to click on makes it super easy for them to let you know where they stand and it feels impersonal enough they can get over any fear of hurting your feelings if they decided not to buy right now.

How To Come Up With Your Irresistible Value Prop

If you want to nail a magnetic value prop, you have to go to the person you're trying to persuade: your customer. The issue with trying to come up with a value prop by yourself is, you’re too close to the product to have enough objectivity or perspective. How you think customers use your product can be very different from how they actually use it.

For example, Heapanalytics landing page headline reads "Instant, Retroactive Analytics" but what does that mean exactly? And aren't all analytics instant and retroactive? Now if they were to ask me, a customer, how I use their product, I would say: "It lets me look over the shoulders of each and every visitor to see exactly where their clicking, right down to the exact paragraph. "

That's why it's imperative to ask your customers "Hey why do you like my product?"

Connect with your marketing team. If you haven't set up a welcome email already, ask if them to prepare a message that gets automatically emailed whenever a new user sign-ups.

At the bottom of the email, ask them to include:

I wanted to ask you one quick question: why did you sign up for [Company Name]?

Understanding your need really helps us deliver more of what you want. Just hit reply and let me know.

Then ask your marketing team to forward all the responses to you so you can get an idea of why new customers decided to try your product out.

Another great way to find good hooks for your value prop is to Google your company or a similar product and see how other people describe it.

Let's say your company is Marketo. Here are how some customers describe the service:

customers describe the service

Copy and paste similar phrases in one place:

  • Useful way to track ROI and impact
  • Track each stage of marketing sales
  • Get clear picture of email performance

Based on those phrases, its obvious customers really like Marketo's ability to track email performance and ROI.

A good value prop for them then would be:

Are your email campaigns actually working? Find out where you're converting (and losing!) your audience at every step of your marketing funnel.

The Best Time To Send The Email To Improve Its Chances Of Being Opened

Look up where your prospect is located so you know their time zone. What has worked the best for me is sending emails weekdays between 10-11:30 am or 1-3 pm. However, you should test email sends times on your own audience to see what works best for you.

If they don't open the first email, simply send it again 3 days later with a different subject line.

Word of caution: from my experience, if you are sending emails to Outlook or Live addresses, email tracking may not work. This is because Microsoft email service blocks images and links from unknown senders. If you are sending emails to these accounts and not seeing an email opened notice, it may not necessarily mean they haven't opened it. In this case, it's a good idea to simply shoot a short follow-up message instead.

So there you have it, the jab, cross, hook to packing a punch with your sales email. The beauty of sales emails is that since you're often sending them in smaller batches, you can test lots of different messages on contacts to see which gets better reactions and responses. Don't be afraid to try a bold idea! You'll be surprised by what works.

About The Author: Sapph Li is a conversion copywriter and designer. When not running outreach and prospecting campaigns, she can be found enjoying the great outdoors (and getting swarmed by mosquitoes).

Featured Image Source: Office Startup Business Home Office Businessman by StartupStockPhotos CC0 Pixabay

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