If you want to lead a successful sales email strategy, you need to focus on improving your bottom-line results, and that means improving your conversions. Every business is different, so you’ll need to invest time in your own experimentation, but a handful of fundamental sales email best practices can guide any strategy to a strong start.
The Importance of Sales Email Conversions
Let’s talk about conversions. The term “conversion” can refer to any meaningful user action that gets you measurably closer to a sale. Sometimes, a conversion is simply a purchase—an email recipient clicking through to your site and buying a product. Other times, a conversion is filling out a contact form, or watching a pertinent video. Whatever action you define as a “conversion” should be the last and most valuable step in the customer acquisition and/or sales process—and should be your primary focus in any email-based sales strategy.
Optimizing for conversion is all about making changes to your subject lines, body content, design, distribution, and other variables to maximize the number of conversions you get per message. There are several generic strategies and best practices that can help you do this, though the execution will still partially depend on factors that make your organization unique.
Cold Sales Email Best Practices to Maximize Conversions
Assuming you’re emailing cold prospects, these sales email best practices can all help you maximize conversions:
1. Write emails with a desire to help
People are much more likely to respond to an email if they feel it’s coming from a place of good intentions, or value. If they feel like they’re being sold to, they’re probably going to ignore the message. Frame your subject lines and body copy in a way that makes it clear how this email, and how their next actions, are going to benefit them. For example, instead of saying “we have one of the best apps in the world!”, tell them “this app will save you 45 minutes a day!” For help getting started, see our list of sales email templates you can use.
2. Master the art of the subject line
Your subject line may be the most important component of your sales emails. It’s the first thing your recipients will see, and it will heavily influence whether or not they open the message. It will also set the tone for your message—which means it needs to be compelling and inviting. We’ve written a robust guide on the subject of sales email subject lines, so make sure you review it and get some new ideas.
3. Understand and tweak your text previews
Text previews are snippets of text that appear next to your subject line in most modern email platforms. Go ahead and open your Gmail inbox to see it in action. The subject line is what draws the eye, but some users may also catch a glimpse of your text preview—it’s a nice second chance to catch someone’s attention. When testing your email, make sure you’ve captured enough valuable information from your body content, and try to tweak it to persuade more opens.
4. Provide value in your message
Let’s assume your recipient opens the email. What are they going to find? If they spend a few seconds reading your message, but they don’t find anything interesting, they’re going to delete the message and move on. Accordingly, you need something truly valuable to your recipient—that could mean a new statistic, a discount on a product, or even a humorous joke. The point is to keep your prospect reading.
5. Don’t waste time on uninterested recipients
One of the most important principles in email marketing is sending emails only to people who want to receive your emails, and it applies to sales emails too. Don’t waste your time emailing people you know nothing about; in other words, don’t spam random emails or buy/rent preconstructed email lists. Instead, curate your email list naturally with website signups and invites, and if someone falls outside your target demographics, take them off the list.
6. Talk to a person, not a statistic
Many of the tips on this list require you to understand and appeal to your target demographics. But in the course of market research, it’s easy to start seeing your audience as pure statistics. This can lead you to write messages that sound clunky or robotic. Instead, write your emails like you’re talking to a person—because you are. Don’t overthink your phrasing, and write in your natural voice. Even if it doesn’t seem as “businessy,” your customers will likely appreciate it.
7. Integrate your email campaign with other strategies
Email sales strategies can be powerful, but they’re limited by your brand presence in other areas. If you want to see the best results, you need a multi-point branding, marketing, advertising, and sales campaign. For example, you can use a content marketing strategy to build brand trust and attract more traffic, and use your top pieces of content to invite email list signups; at that point, you’ll be generating warm leads who are already familiar to your brand.
8. Make it rewarding to convert
There are many ways for customers to convert, but all of them need to be rewarding in some way, or people won’t take the time or spend the money. If you’re selling a product, it needs to be worth the cost in the eyes of the customer. If you’re asking someone to fill out a form, give them something for free in exchange, like a piece of premium content or a free sample of your products. You can compare your conversion rates to your open rates to estimate the perceived value of your deal.
9. Make it easy to convert
Similarly, it needs to be easy to convert. This is perhaps one of the most important sales email best practices to ensure you get right. If your email asks recipients to follow a 15-step process over the course of 3 days, they’re not going to go through with it. If all they have to do is click a button, enter two form fields of information and click send, they’ll be much more likely to go through with it. Test to make sure the process is as quick as you think it is, and consider refining it to be even faster.
10. Use active words to encourage action
Your calls-to-action (CTAs) are the point at which your recipients will make a decision. Try to use strong, action-focused words to encourage action more consistently. For example, “free samples of our latest product are available now!” doesn’t encourage action. “Get a free sample of our latest product now!” does encourage action. They’re saying mostly the same thing, but one is a command. Use this phrasing to your advantage.
11. Imply urgency
People are natural procrastinators. If they have time to think about a decision or delay a decision, they’re going to do so. Accordingly, you can use urgency to your advantage, motivating people to stop procrastinating, or taking the option away from them. You can do this by implying a degree of urgency; for example, the simple phrase “limited time offer” can make people act, but it’s better to be more specific. For example, tell them the offer is only available for 48 hours, or better yet, use a ticking clock to instill action.
12. Use an attractive “from” line
Most email platforms will allow you to customize your “from” line, so make it attractive. In many cases, a simple first and last name will be preferable. If you’re sending on behalf of your company, try using your brand name. Even if you won’t be accepting replies, people will still see the from line and could react to it.
13. Create highly personalized messages
The more personalized your message is, the better. If you’re an individual salesperson sending messages one at a time, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to perfect this approach; you can talk to your recipients as a friend and build the message from there. If you’re mass-marketing, you’ll need to segment your email lists, and build out custom messages to people based on their past activities and current identity.
14. Send at least 4 follow-ups
Follow-ups are more important than you might realize. If you send between 1 and 3 emails, you’ll be looking at a 9 percent response rate. But if you send between 4 and 7 emails, you’ll triple your response rate to 27 percent. That’s because each email gives you a new opportunity to pitch, but also because it reinforces the customer’s image and familiarity with your brand. See this list of perfect sales email follow up templates you can use, as well as this list of sales productivity tools to automate this process!
15. Avoid spamming
That said, you need to be careful. If a prospect feels like they’re being bombarded with unnecessary or uninteresting emails, they’re going to start ignoring you. Worse, they could block you altogether. A handful of follow-ups, at least a few days apart, is usually all it takes to tell whether or not a prospect is interested.
16. Automate emails based on trigger points
Sales email strategies can usually be improved with some form of automation. Many modern email marketing platforms offer the ability to automate sales emails based on “trigger points,” like a customer abandoning a shopping cart or viewing a specific product page. This could be seen as marketing or sales, but either way, it’s an important opportunity to capitalize on existing customer interest without necessitating the manual drafting of a new email. For help, see our list of the best sales prospecting tools.
17. Optimize your emails for mobile devices
Your demographics may differ, but overall, it’s more common for people to check emails and read them on mobile devices than on desktop devices. Accordingly, all your emails should be optimized for mobile devices; it’s much easier to view a mobile email on desktop than a desktop email on mobile. There are some basic tools you can use to make sure your email is mobile responsive, but you may also want to make additional tweaks, making sure your most important text is easily readable and your links are easy to tap with a finger. Making sure your email is readable is one of the most basic email best practices to follow.
18. Set goals, and work toward them
What are you trying to achieve? Yes, you’re interested in getting more conversions by adhering to sales email best practices, but what exactly are you trying to accomplish? Is there a specific number of conversions you want? Are you optimizing for a higher conversion percentage? Is this a short-term campaign or a long-term campaign? Do you have historical data that you’re trying to outdo? Goals will provide better focus to your campaign, and will serve as a benchmark for your success. If you achieve your goals immediately, it’s a sign you need to set goals more ambitiously. If you’re struggle to achieve a lofty goal, you might tone it down—or simply do more to achieve it.
19. Experiment and measure the results
While many of the sales email best practices in this article should help you achieve more conversions, you’ll still have your work cut out for you. Every business is different, and their customers will respond to different things. While some customers will appreciate big, bold fonts, others will prefer something more minimal. Some will respond better to a short, humorous email, and some will respond better to something longer and more value-driven. The only way to tell for sure is to experiment with different approaches, and measure the results. The more AB tests you run and the more data you collect, the closer you’ll get to an objectively-backed email sales strategy that works specifically for your business.
Are you interested in learning more about how you and your sales team are emailing so you can adhere to sales email best practices? Give EmailAnalytics a try. With our tool, you’ll be able to delve into Gmail metrics like number of emails sent and received, busiest times of day and days of the week, and even your average response time. If you’re struggling to make your sales email strategy work and you’re not sure what the problem is, or if you’re interested in optimizing the email habits of your sales team, EmailAnalytics is the tool for you. Sign up for a free trial today, and learn firsthand what it’s capable of!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.