Don’t Write Emails, Craft Them
Emails are our digital conversation, and just like our audible words, some are more important than others. We dictate this importance based on who we are speaking to, who else is listening, and of course the content itself. The most successful communicators can read their audience and choose the appropriate language accordingly to best convey their message. In casual conversations with peers we use relaxed diction because the stakes are low and the dynamic is simple. But what about the conversations where you’re speaking to someone with power? Or if you want something from someone?
When your ask requires some convincing (or selling) then you need a well-prepared action plan. It requires crafting the conversation to go a certain way – your certain way. It requires understanding your end goal, how to get there, and predicting likely hurdles that will arise.
Now flip the script and turn to email. Email was created, or has evolved, to be a fast way to send simpler and shorter dialogues, at least for the business realm. But when the dialogue centers around those tougher conversations, it’s key to craft your message instead of playing it by ear (pardon the pun). Slick talkers can wing it, and maybe you can too, but that’s not going to lead to your highest potential for victory. This is most impactful with those tough moments when sales people need to sell someone over email.
I'll pause for the sales vets and leaders who cringed at "selling over email," and who surely already mentally yelled "always sell over the phone!" at me.
And they’re right, 100% of the time. Except now, when they're wrong. You're lying to yourself if you believe you've never sold (or tried to convince) someone to do something via email. It could be ensuring a contract is signed on time, explaining why a must-have feature isn't really important to their end goal, or maybe dangle that discount carrot at the end of the quarter. Either way, you wrote it, you sent it, and you sold over email. Let’s continue.
You're lying to yourself if you believe you've never sold (or tried to convince) someone to do something via email.
To better craft an email and improve your odds of success, try these out:
Know your audience. Chances are if you're crafting an email, it's important. And the person you're writing to probably has something you want or is perhaps your superior. If that's the case, speak like it. Use forward but polite language – use their language. Balance brevity and bluntness, as omitting common niceties can come across as demanding or aggressive. Remember, 90% of email recipients incorrectly believe they can interpret the tone of an email message (The Huffington Post). Sounds high to me, but even a conservative portion of that percentage leaves a lot of risk on the table.
If a VP asks for your thoughts on accurately quantifying the value of two concurrent deals for the same account your working on, then chances are she wants facts and strategy. Save the sarcasm, emoticons, memes for your friends. Keep it professional, keep it classy.
Be concise. Why are you writing this? If your reader has to ask, or asks themselves but can't answer immediately, then you're taking too long. People get cut off for speaking too much in live conversation, let alone when asked to read long, wordy sentences. No one deserves that, especially your choice audience, and it increases the odds they skim for key words rather than reading the message diligently. Short and sweet has never been more applicable.
Be authentic. I almost hate this word now despite its transcendent meaning because it's excessive use makes it an honorary cliche. But until a better term is coined, be you. Speak and write in your voice. A recognizable voice through your writing takes time, but once developed it will draw in and retain your audience’s attention.
Crafty email messaging is an equal combination of planning, decisive execution and writing ability. If you're convincing, then you're selling. So if your cause is important, then take the time to strategically design your message. Remember, you really only get one shot with email, so make it count.