Do you want your emails to get better response rates, communicate more effectively, and help you build solid business relationships? Start with being more genuinely positive, said Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, a sales trainer and professional speaker with High Impact Presentations during a recent SRO campfire session at IMEX America 2017. Here are a few tips Hershkowitz-Coore, who goes by Speaker Sue, shared.
1. Do use a greeting and a sign-off. If you’re from the U.S., don’t use “dear,” and don’t end with “sincerely,” because these sound old fashioned. “Just say ‘Hi’ or ‘Good morning’ and the person’s name, especially in the first email of an exchange,” she said. Whatever you do, don’t end with “best”—according to the Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal, “it sounds like a kiss-off,” she said. “I use warmest regards, because I’m a warm person. ‘Regards’ on its own is fine, or ‘Best regards.’” But don’t use ‘Cheers’ or ‘Ciao’ if you’re from the U.S.; it would just sound off.
2. Stop with all the fake pleasantries—“Skip the ‘How are you’s and go to the next line,” especially when you don’t personally know the recipient, she advised. Once you have a relationship, asking about the family or the plans you know they had for the weekend is authentic, but otherwise, it’s fake rapport, and “Fake rapport won’t create actual rapport,” she said. Be caring, courteous, and warm, but be genuine about it. What do you know about that matters to that person? Start with that, she said.
3. Start with a positive message. For example, if you’re with a hotel, start off by saying how glad you are that a meeting organizer chose to work with your property, and that they can count on having a great event there. Instead of turning down the client’s preferred dates, start out by offering dates that would work, then be matter-of-fact about why the preferred dates don’t work.
4. Eliminate the adverbs. Whatever you do, don’t use the word, “unfortunately,” she said. “That signals that whatever’s coming is going to suck. Start by saying what is possible, even if it’s not what’s ideal, then introduce the reason why you can’t do the ideal if you have to—just don’t preface it with ‘unfortunately.’” And cross those other adverbs, those words that end in “ly,” off your list too. “Ninety percent of words that end in ‘ly’ are offensive and insulting, especially ‘obviously.’”
5. Cool your heels before replying to an emotional email. It takes skill most people don’t have to write an effective email when they’re angry. “You have to know why you’re writing that email. If you’re writing it to prove them wrong, don’t you dare. If you’re writing it to prove you’re right, don’t you dare,” she said. Make sure you’re responding to the issue, not the emotion.
6. Craft subject lines that accurately summarize the email. Subject lines matter the most when you don’t have a relationship with the recipient, but even with those you know well, it still matters. A pet peeve of Hershowitz-Coore’s is when the email chain starts to stray far away from the original subject line. “I highly recommend changing the subject line when the subject changes,” she said. Another word to avoid, especially in subject lines? “'Reminder.' There’s no such thing as a friendly reminder,” she said. “Instead, say, ‘Action requested.’”
7. Make the next step effortless. Everything you write in your email should give the recipient a reason or justification to move forward. “Make it as easy and sweet as possible to do so,” she said.
8. Only use the blind copy (Bcc) option when you have to keep confidentiality. “Otherwise don’t ever use it. It’s sneaky.” She recommends instead that you forward the message to the person you would have Bcc’d—“That way you also don’t have to worry about someone replying to all and having that Bcc show up.” Yes, that does happen in some systems, she said as many in the crowd gasped in surprise. Also, do not use reply to all—“It’s nauseating, and people hate it.”
9. Don’t be afraid to use emoji. Unless your organization forbids their use, emoji can help you convey emotions—“They’re today’s body language,” she said. “The English teacher in me says the reason we need emoji is because we’re not being clear, so we would be better off rewriting to be clearer. But if you have to add two sentences to be clear—use the emoji.”
10. Don’t drop your phone number from your signature line—but do drop your philosophy of life. “Save that for your momma,” she said.