How to Say the Right Thing in Every Email, Every Time
The Radicati Group Inc., a technology market research firm in Palo Alto, Calif., released a study in 2015 that found the average person in the world sends and receives a total of 122 business emails per day. In an eight-hour work day, that means that you are receiving fifteen emails an hour, which means if you are checking it frequently, you are sending, receiving, or responding to an email every four minutes that you are at work.
For most people, email is a prominent part of their careers and their everyday lives. If you are going to be doing something every four minutes, don’t you think you should be doing it right? However, email does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. Just like in any business, when crafting a product or service, you have to consider your audience. Here’s how to craft the perfect email no matter who you’re talking to.
No matter how close you are on a personal level with someone in the office, always be conscious of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Remaining on the more professional side through email, even if you are friendly, is always smart because you never know if your message is going to be forwarded on to someone else in the company who might not get your inside jokes or humor. Before you send an email always think about how you would feel if it went public, and save the jokes, immaturity, and poor grammar for text messages.
When emailing people who are constantly in and out of town as well as running from meeting to meeting, it’s best to be concise. They are inundated with emails all day; many are important, but often times, few get responses due to a sheer lack of in-office time. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says, “When writing an email, every word matters, and useless prose doesn’t. Be crisp in your delivery. Think about the late novelist Elmore Leonard’s response to a question about his success as a writer: ‘I leave out the parts that people skip.’ Most emails are full of stuff that people can skip.” So get to the point, but do so politely. You’re much more likely to get the answers you need by skipping the fluff and being direct. If you don’t receive a response, there is no need to be shy about forwarding them the message again with a brief, friendly reminder at the top. They’ll appreciate you bringing it to the top of their inbox more than they will be annoyed by it.
When writing a sales email, blank spaces and bolded words are going to be your best friend. Your professors didn’t like reading your run-on sentences in college, and they were getting paid to do that, so why would someone who doesn’t know you do it for free?
Every few sentences, hit “Enter” and leave a space.
The negative space prevents the readers’ attention from wandering in a sea of words, and bolding important words and your call to action draws the readers’ eyes to what you really want them to notice.
When editing your email, there are two things that you should focus on: using the active voice and making sure everything is written in the second person. Transitioning sentences to the active voice rather than a passive voice makes you look, well, more active, and usually tends to shorten the sentence.
Quick English lesson:
Active: Adam won the award.
Passive: The award was won by Adam.
Using “you,” instead of the onymous third-person or first-person voice, allows the reader to picture themselves in the scenario you are putting them in, which gives you much more control. If you only talk about yourself and what you do for other companies, they might wonder how exactly it is that you can help them.
See how easy that section was to read! ^^
Imagine that all the emails you are sending out are apples in the produce section of the grocery store. The ones on top are the newest, juiciest apples with no dents or bruises on them. They are top quality and usually go into the carts first. Treat your customers like these apples! Craft emails to clients and customers with care and try to preemptively answer any questions that your client might have. Make them easy to navigate with links to more information or other people they can contact if they need it, and always remind them that you are available via phone or email with any questions or concerns.
In addition, emails from current or past customers should always be a top priority to respond to and follow up on if you are not hearing back from them. Few people follow up after they have received money and a transaction is complete. To develop great working relationships, lifetime customers, and referrals, following up a week or two after an interaction is essential. It shows you care.
Whether you are partnering with an outside vendor for a one-time project or use a vendor to help you crank work out all year long, this relationship is an important one and should be treated as such. Communicating in a very transparent manner about your expectations and needs is key. You also need to communicate often on updates and changes as they come up.
When introducing a new project to the vendor, start a new email with a new subject line. Using the same chain for everything you are working on together can get confusing when you go back to reference them later. Using bulleted lists of everything you need in the body of the text also eliminates confusion and makes them a built-in check list. Assigned deadlines should also be included from the very beginning when sending over a new project. If they do not say when it will be completed by, follow up with them to make sure that you are working toward the same completion date. Asking them what they think can be beneficial as well. After all, they are the experts in that industry and can often times offer great insights. Some of these insights can even save you money!
Hiring a new team member is already a long process, so why drag it out even more? Once you find a candidate you would like to interview, email them telling them that you are interested in interviewing them and include three dates and times that work with your schedule and respond as needed. When you settle on a time, confirm the interview with as much detail as possible, including your complete address, what to do once in the building, and a phone number of someone who will definitely be able to pick up if the candidate is lost. Taking a few extra minutes to put in the details will save you (and the candidate) from that awkward day-of confusion.
If you wish to hire them, call them to go over the details of the position and answer any questions they have before sending out a formal offer. Immediately follow that call up with an email and attached offer letter. If they are not a fit for the position, shoot them a simple rejection email that says you had many qualified candidates and decided to go with someone else. Also add one quality you were impressed with and one that they could work on. The constructive criticism and the compliment may help them with future job interviews, and you won’t leave them with bitter thoughts, cursing your company with bad juju.
Productivity hack: Although sending emails to the people who you decided not to hire takes time, it saves you the hassle of responding to countless (awkward) follow-up calls and emails that roll in in the future.
When it comes to email, the most important thing to remember is that it is a form of communication, even though sometimes it feels like a never-ending to-do list. Use it as it was originally intended: to communicate—directly, politely, and professionally.