Take a moment to examine the everyday volley of emails between you and your customers, coworkers, and colleagues. What you'll find is uglier than the texting of teens. It's a sloppy mess of fragments and misspellings. It's an endless crime against punctuation and capitalization. But somehow...it's OK!
Why? Because such emails are between friends who share an established respect. In the day-to-day mode of getting work done, what matters is communicating as rapidly as possible.
The emails between you and your prospect, however, require a higher level of writing. When a fledgling relationship hangs in the balance, sloppiness can motivate your prospect to award the sale to a more eloquent competitor. Do your prospect emails communicate that you're professional, articulate, and intelligent? Or do you leave your recipient wondering if you're smarter than a fifth grader?
Consider these ten guidelines before composing your next prospect email:
1. Triple check spelling and grammar.
If your email or proposal contains typos, you're dead. Many say "write once, read twice." It should be, "read thrice." If you struggle in these areas, you may need an online service like grammarly.com. It's an automated service ($100/year) that will instantly evaluate your text for many forms of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and even plagiarism violations.
2. Use commas correctly.
Even grammar checkers can't tell you how to use commas and other forms of punctuation correctly. If you slept through English class, use lousywriter.com as your righthand reference aid.
3. Use a proofreader.
Enlist a receptionist, assistant, friend, coworker, or your spouse to help you by proofreading your mission-critical emails and proposals. They'll be well worth the Mocha Frappuccino you'll buy to thank them.
4. Use words accurately.
For most smart people, hearing others use words improperly is like fingernails scraping a chalk board. If you're not sure how to use a particular word, use dictionary.com to look up its meaning and thesaurus.com to find a better fit.
5. Write in full sentences.
Sentence fragments like, "Is a requirement" appear as though you're rushing or a poor writer. Always write in complete sentences with prospective customers by including a subject and verb. "It is a requirement."
6. Title long paragraphs.
Your recipient will scan your email first. Paragraphs with more than three of four sentences may overwhelm and prevent them from reading your message. For longer paragraphs add a short, bolded title to give them a hint about the paragraph content. If it's relevant to your prospect, they'll read it.
7. Use emoticons.
The smiley ":)" and wink ";)" emoticons work wonders to represent your intended inflection in an email. Be careful though. Less common emoticons like ":P" can appear adolescent.
8. Don't capitalize full words.
It looks like you're SCREAMING! Don't do it.
9. Don’t indent paragraphs.
In email, indentations can cause odd breaks between paragraphs. They’re not as easy to control as they are in print. Separate paragraphs with a double return.
10. Use proper formatting.
Avoid running your salutation, body message, valediction, and signature all together.
Here's an example:
"Susan - Please find my proposal attached. I look forward to hearing from you! Cheers - Tom."
Instead, format your email like this:
Please find my proposal attached. I look forward to hearing from you!
Follow these guidelines and you'll see that the value of a proper email is more sales and signed proposals. Ignore them and you may actually find yourself as a contestant on "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"