A 5-second strategy for writing excellent sales emails

Danny Rubin
Danny Rubin is a public relations specialist and author of the book, "Wait, How Do I Write This Email?"

People are smart. We can tell real from fake in an instant.

If the product doesn't seem legit, you lost us. It's over, and we're not coming back.

How many times have you received an email with a business pitch that starts with:

"Hi John,
I'm Bob Smith, digital sales executive at Company XYZ.
I was looking over your website and feel my company, Acme Corporation, has a product that fits your needs … "

Excuse me. "Looking over your website"? Which website? I bet you say that to all the businesses you contact.

At that moment, I tune out. The email is as good as spam because it feels as if the person ran by and threw a business card in my face. I don't even need to read further to be proven right.

Nothing unique in the copy. Nothing special.

No authenticity.

And I believe many of these "canned" messages come from honest to goodness business people — not hucksters or scammers. The sad truth is most of us don't know how to communicate in a genuine, personable way. We were never taught so we struggle to make people believe us in a competitive place like the email inbox.

The good news? There's a better approach. When I show you how it takes about five seconds to write with authenticity, you will never rely on the old approach again.

People work at computers in TechHub in London, England
Oli Scarff | Getty Images

The 5-Second Strategy to Write Sales Emails with Authenticity

What's the best way to make a busy working professional stop and pay attention to you?

Compliment his/her work

Every day, we wake up, go to the office and immerse ourselves in the job. We are proud of what we create and the impact we make on others.

And then we write articles and blogs about the efforts on our websites. Why? Because we want the world to know how special we are.

We all do it. You, me, everyone.

That means everything you need to capture the person's attention is sitting on the company website.

Let me give you an example. I'm all about step-by-step instruction for business writing.

Rather than open the email with:

"Hi John,
I was looking over your website and feel my company, Acme Corporation, has a product that fits your needs…"

Here's the play:

  1. Go to the company's website
  2. Visit some or all of these pages: Blog, Recent News, Press Releases
  3. Read — like, actually click on the link and read — something that stands out to you
  4. Return to your email body
  5. Incorporate the company news into your message

Before I show you what it looks like to drop company info, I need to stress one point.

It's not enough to write, "I checked out your website and think your company does fantastic work."

Nope. Not authentic.

You also can't fake it with, "I enjoyed reading more about your business."

Again, that's lip service. And both we know it.

The way to prove authenticity is when you include a specific example of the company's success.

CEO of a $16 billion business says the way you write emails can break your career
CEO of a $16 billion business says the way you write emails can break your career

"Hi John,
I'm Bob Smith, digital sales executive at Company XYZ.
First, let me tell you I enjoyed reading the company blog post about your initiative to donate tablets to underprivileged children at Acme Elementary School this past October. What a cool way to build team spirit and give back to the community.
I'm writing to introduce myself and tell you about…"

Let's unpack what I did here.

  1. Before I dove into the pitch, I provided an example of a notable project from the company's website. It took five seconds to find the story. This strategy will not gobble up your day.
  2. I linked to the post to prove once more I physically went to the website and studied up.
  3. I used specific language at every turn.
    • Instead of "donate items to kids," I wrote, "donate tablets to underprivileged children."
    • Where did it happen? I included that detail ("Acme Elementary School")
    • When? There I go again ("this past October")

With every piece of detail, I built rapport and developed trust. The business person expected my message would be impersonal. Instead, it's a refreshing change of pace.

And please understand, it doesn't matter what example I chose from the company's website. If the blog/article is on the site, it's because the company employees want it there. Why would they brag about something they're not proud of?

Validate the company's success. Give the email recipient time in the spotlight.

He or she will bask in the glow and, more often than not, write you back. That's because the email is personal and tougher to ignore.

A real-life example: When I wanted to promote my book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email?, on various career-related podcasts, I always began the outreach message with an example of a recent podcast episode I enjoyed from that particular show.

Like this email, where I asked to be on a podcast that preps students (and their parents) for the college application process:

"I'm Danny Rubin, an author and blogger in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Thank you for creating a tremendous resource to help students (and their parents) navigate applying to college. I want to tell you I enjoyed your discussion in episode 083 about myths on college admissions. Agreed: it's never too late to apply!"

Can you spot the detail?

  1. "episode 083"
  2. "myths on college admissions"
  3. example of a myth to prove I listened ("Agreed: it's never too late to apply")
Emojis in work emails? A career expert weighs in
Emojis in work emails? A career expert weighs in

Did the podcast host write back? You better believe it.

"Thanks, Danny, for reaching out personally. Your topics sound like a great fit for our podcast, and we'd be happy to record a guest interview with you. Sounds fun."

In fact, during the book launch, I sent emails to 10 podcast hosts — each time with the authentic approach. I heard back from nine and appeared on eight podcasts.

How's that for a batting percentage?

Similarly, I taught the strategy to the team at a Chamber of Commerce in Virginia. One woman, in particular, took my message to heart. I saw her a few months later and she ran up to me.

"I need to tell you I use your technique of referencing something specific from the company's website when I do fundraising outreach. For every ten emails I send, I generally hear back eight times."

Eight. Times.

No, it's not brown-nosing to compliment the company's efforts. The strategy is perhaps the most prized of all the "soft skills" — take an interest in someone else before they would ever take an interest in you.

The hard truth: you can assemble the greatest fleet of CRM tools and email analytics programs the world has ever seen.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, replaces genuine curiosity in someone else's life and business.

Spend five seconds in someone else's world, and see what happens to your email outreach.

Authenticity is a magical thing.

Danny Rubin is an author and speaker on business communication skills. Learn more about his award-winning book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email?, a collection of 100+ templates for networking/job search. Follow him on Twitter at @DannyHRubin.

Your career is like a smartphone, says a former Google career coach
Your career is like a smartphone, says a former Google career coach