The manner in which we communicate via email can unquestionably impact how others perceive us. Yet I often receive emails that are poorly conceived and written, and they leave an impression that is exactly the opposite of what the authors intended.
What kinds of mistakes am I talking about? Here are just a few:
- The email message is unclear or ambiguous.
- The message is too long.
- The email contains multiple spelling and/or grammatical errors.
- Words are missing in sentences.
All of these mistakes can leave a negative impression on your customer or prospect. And as we all know in sales, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
Here are five recommendations that can help improve your email communications and prevent avoidable errors that could be negatively perceived:
- Proofread your email. In a high-stakes email, where the message to a prospect or account is critical, spelling and grammatical errors are inexcusable. Fortunately, functions to check spelling and grammar are built into most software systems; use them as you compose your email and also right before you send it. Even the smallest revisions can introduce mistakes. But don’t rely on your computer to catch everything. Double-check your work to make sure there are no obvious errors or statements that could be perceived as careless or sloppy.
- Get a second opinion. What you say or don’t say, as well as how you phrase something, can create unintended impressions. For instance, a message you want to be interpreted as serious and urgent may be perceived by the recipient as flippant or ill-considered. Reach out to someone you know, trust and respect to get a second opinion on how your message comes across. The second opinion could (but not necessarily) come from your manager. You might also consider asking a colleague or someone outside your organization, such as a friend or spouse, subject to confidentiality and privacy constraints.
- Be concise. My rule of thumb is that if your email requires the reader to scroll down, then it’s too long.
- Be clear about what you are asking for and why. What are you asking your customer or prospect to do? Is it to agree to a meeting? Provide loss runs or financial statements? Whatever it is, make it clear early in the email, explain why the “ask” is important and state how it will benefit the recipient.
- Explain the next steps. What will need to happen next to move things forward? Lay out the next steps in a manner that makes it easy for the reader to comply. A nice added touch is one in which you take full responsibility for managing these steps through to fruition.
It might be obvious by now that few things get me more worked up than the topic of carelessly crafted business emails! Because I can’t address all of my pet peeves here, I will return to this topic in future articles.
If you have any pet peeves of your own regarding this subject, email them to me. I’ll try to share as many as I can in a future column.