9 Minute Read

Sales Emails: Where to Start

Sales emails are not new, and while ubiquitous, it’s incredibly hard to create a great sales email. One Google search for sales emails will result in 100+ million results in less than one second. It is not hard to see how difficult this topic can be, even for a seasoned marketer.

Before you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, think about the goal of the sales email. What do you want it to achieve? What does the person reading it look like? What is their day filled with? What problem are you solving for this person?

Before applying any of the stats, percentages and best practices from the below list, consider these questions FIRST. If you’re any good at sales, you likely already know the answers to this….


How do you get results from a sales email? Find out! Click To Tweet


Email recipients say they prefer image-based emails, but data says otherwise

HTML or no HTML, that is the question; or at least one that keeps me up at night. The main advantage of HTML is that you can get as creative as you want, but specific email clients do not always equally appreciate your creativity. In fact, some email clients can turn your beautiful creation into just as much gobbledeygook.

Take Outlook for example: You can build a stellar email, with hours spent on design and Outlook will always block your images – How dare they! – So take this into consideration when using HTML. What is wrong with a plain text email? It may provide better open and click rates. It’s certainly easier to read on mobile, which is how up to 70% of emails are read…After sending a couple of emails you should be able to determine which email clients your customers are using to open your emails, then optimize for the largest percentage.


Are you talking to me?

Knowing your product is easy, but it’s better to know your target audience. Before starting to write your sales email, create a persona to help develop your message.

A persona is based on data regarding demographics, past interactions with your company and determining their potential motivations and concerns. Targeting emails by persona increases email click-through rates 16%. Have fun with the process and give your persona a name!

Meet Email Eric –

  • Eric is college educated, 35-45 years of age.
  • Mid-level manager at a small to medium sized company.
  • Eric has visited your website 3 times in the past month, and has signed up for your blog.
  • Goals: Eric is looking to eliminate unnecessary processes at his job.
  • Challenges: Eric’s company has a small budget and he needs the boss’s approval.
  • How you can help: We provide moderately priced solutions with no commitments.

Wouldn’t it be easier to write to Email Eric, than to the masses?


Targeting emails by persona increases email click-through rates 16%. #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet


Does your knock get the door opened?

Now that you decided on HTML or plain text and are writing to Email Eric, it’s time to make sure your email gets opened–it starts with the subject line. Writing the perfect subject line is definitely an art, and when possible take each email as an opportunity to test different subject lines. Write a subject line that is clear, relatable to your copy, and grabs attention. Choose humor, something whimsical or even quizzical, but never sacrifice the clarity.

If your list is complete with useful information (I’m really hoping you haven’t collected or purchased just email addresses), add in some personalization like FIRST NAME or COMPANY NAME to the subject like to increase open rates. Keep it under 50 characters and be creative.


Write compelling copy worthy of being read.  

(It’s not about YOUR solution, it’s about solving THEIR problem.)

Your subject line worked, now what? Your copy has to compel them to click. Start by staying relevant to the subject line and keeping it personal. Name and company tags are a great start, but do you remember Email Eric? Use your target persona to make the message even more personal.

Focus your copy towards the reader not yourself, by writing in the second person. Express the benefits of what you’re selling, while you may understand the value of your products, the reader may not. Make sure that your message is straightforward and brief while containing all the aforementioned points. Many emails are rendered ineffective by too many words. Concise, effective and a fast solution make the best emails. While some sales cycles are longer than others, do you best to show them what their life will look like after they have implemented your solution.


“A good pick-up line and a good CTA are pretty much the same thing”

While you aren’t looking to date your customers, you are looking for a (good) reaction. Most people scan through emails; so make your Call-to-Action interesting, good looking and urgent. In sales, again, the best way to do this is by offering to solve their problem. For a harried HR manager with tons of turnover, try: “Need to reduce retention FAST?” For Email Eric who has no money and lots of micromanagement use: “Get the manager’s approval with limited time pricing!” Use a color that will stand out but not clash, and include language that is action-oriented: “Download, Click, View, Now.”

If you opted for plain text, or are creating a text-only version of your HTML (which is a best practice), make sure to draw attention to your CTA by using space and linked anchor text. With most parts of an email, the CTA is no different, testing and statistics will tell you what works best.


Sales emails can be difficult to write, design and send. Even once they’ve left your marketing automation platform, there are so many things that can affect your open and click through rates. While you can’t control everything, focus on what you learn from each email. Analyze your open and click through rates and align them with send times, days and specific things you know about your overall audience. For example, don’t send a marketing automation email to a bunch of marketing professionals during SXSW or Dreamforce. Remember that a Thanksgiving email to your North American customers may need to look different (and get sent sooner) for your Canadian friends. Research, analyze and then try again.