Email is one of the most effective ways for sales reps to connect with prospects. That said, getting a response is more likely if you know how to format an email that gets opened and read.
An intriguing subject line is a good start, but formatting an email also requires paying attention to the salutation, body text and signature.
For sales reps, writing emails also means choosing a message format that’s designed to get a response from even the hardest to reach prospects.
This article will walk you through three email formatting styles that increase response rates and five key rules of formatting an email.
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Three professional email examples to increase response rates
There are certain types of emails that have been created by sales reps for sales reps to help increase response rates from prospects.
The email messages’ formats have small differences in style and approach. Therefore, it’s essential to match the email format you use to the overall goal of the email, whether it’s to introduce yourself to a prospect or book a demo call.
How to format an AIDA email
AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.
Sales reps often use this email format to introduce a product to a prospect. The usefulness of the product is explained in the Interest section, and then the Desire portion of the email introduces how the prospect will benefit if they use the product themselves. These emails are also a good choice if you just want to start a conversation with a prospect without pushing too hard to book a meeting or a demo.
Here’s what an AIDA email looks like:
Subject line: You’re invited to our new product launch
Hi [their name],
We’re reaching out to a small group of startup developers to get some feedback on a BETA of our new [insert product here].
It’s a new tool that helps companies like [their company] and we want to make sure we get it right, so we’re inviting 50 developers to integrate it into their existing systems for free to see how it performs.
Are you interested in joining [your company name] for the free BETA test?
Looking forward to your reply,
In this AIDA email, we are treating the prospect like a VIP. They are being invited to try out an interesting new product, and instead of selling them something, we are offering a free BETA test and asking them to share their expertise.
According to 91% of consumers, they’re more likely to buy from a brand that makes offers and recommendations relevant to them, so talking about the prospect’s area of expertise can help you connect your products to their needs.
How to format a BASHO email
A BASHO email is similar to an AIBA email, but it’s hyper-targeted to the prospect you are sending it to. BASHO isn’t an acronym, like AIBA, but takes its name from creator Jeff Hoffmann, a sales trainer and entrepreneur who worked under the Basho brand.
This format is powerful, given that 72% of people will only engage with an email that’s personalized.
A BASHO email message format should answer two questions before you press send:
Asking these two questions will get the prospect’s attention and open the door to starting a conversation. As you’ll reference their company and other material, such as a recent article or social media post of theirs that you’ve read, it will be obvious to the prospect that your message isn’t a templated email.
To write a good email like this you’ll need to research the prospect and find an issue or problem that will resonate with them or their company. If you can’t find anything on their LinkedIn profiles or social media accounts, choose a pain point that has resonated well with similar personas and center your email around that.
Here’s an example of a winning BASHO email:
Subject line: Insightful article on [site name] - I have some questions about [specific point!]
Hey [their name],
I just read your [tweet/blog post] on [website] about [subject matter], and I thought the issues you raised about [x] and [y] were really interesting.
However, I have some questions about your points about [specific point]. It’s something that my company, [your company name], helps out CTOs with regularly, especially when dealing with complex tech stacks and multiple target audiences.
Are you open to jumping on a call to chat? Say, Thursday at 10 am?
Looking forward to connecting with you!
This BASHO email is one of the best email address formats to use when trying to start a conversation. This email doesn’t try to push a product demo or a free trial, it just opens the door to having a more in-depth discussion about a prospect’s needs.
How to format a BAB email
BAB stands for Before, After, Bridge.
This email and subject line rely on the power of intrigue. The aim is for sales reps to catch their prospect’s attention by using open questions that allow them to imagine what their day would look like if they invested in your product.
For example, if you are selling a productivity tool, describe how that tool could fit into their existing tech stack and help them automate tasks or plan projects faster. The aim here is to tailor your messaging to what the prospect will achieve with your product, and do it within three sentences.
Here’s what a BAB email looks like:
Subject line: Great article on [site name] - but I want to hear more about [specific point!]
Hi [their name],
If you’re like most sales reps, you spend hours of your week on tasks like updating contact information and following up with prospects over email.
What would your schedule look like if you were able to get ten more hours of your working week back?
I’m asking because sales reps like you who use Pipedrive have, on average, saved 10 hours a week by automating data entry and prospect follow-ups. If you’re willing to jump on a 10-minute call, I can show you how our customers achieve this.
What’s the best way to connect?
This BAB email gets straight to the point. It clearly outlines that you understand the prospect’s pain point, which in this case is wasting time on manual data entry. It then immediately highlights a solution, which is the product. The bridge acts as the email’s call to action, which sets you up for a phone call or meeting with the prospect.
If you can pinpoint a problem that your prospects have experienced, BAB emails offer your product as the ideal solution to the problem.
How to format an email: 5 key rules
Every business email you send to a prospect should follow some simple rules.
It should have a subject line (so they know what you want), a salutation (to break the ice) and body text to get your message across. You also need to remember to sign off appropriately and send yourself a sample email to ensure all your text and images are formatted correctly.
Rule 1. Choose a relevant email subject line format
How you format your subject line will come down to your email recipient.
Namely, you need to decide whether you should use a formal or informal tone, and if it makes sense to inject personalization. Since personalized subject lines can increase open rates by up to 50%, it’s worth the effort to include the prospect’s name or company.
The subject line should be as detailed as possible in formal emails, but it can be briefer if you know the person you’re sending a message to. Also watch the length, as subject lines with seven words and an average character count of 41 characters have a higher engagement rate, while anything longer tends to perform poorly.
Here’s an example of the differences between formal and informal subject lines:
Formal. Product demo: January 4th at 2 pm
Informal. Reminder! Upcoming product demo today ⏰
While the formal subject line is very informative and clear, the informative one suggests that the reader will know the topic of the email. If it’s your first time speaking to the prospect and they don’t know who you are, sticking to the formal format is safer. You can use informal language if you are following up on a conversation or if you’ve interacted with the prospect in the past.
Pro tip: One thing you should not do is trick your prospect into opening your email messages with a spammy subject line. Writing something like “Surprise inside!” or “You’ll never guess what I have to tell you” may catch their attention, but it’s also unprofessional and increases the chances of your email landing straight in their spam.
Rule 2. Personalize the salutation
A salutation is the opening sentence of your email and the first line your prospect will read.
It only requires a simple hello or hi, combined with the person’s name. Like the subject line, your email’s salutation will depend on the overall tone of your email. Formal email salutations should be written as if you are meeting someone for the first time, whereas informal greetings can be more personal.
Formatting your email with the proper salutation requires finding the perfect balance between professionalism and being approachable.
Formal salutation. Hi Joe Bloggs,
Informal salutation. Hey Joe!
A small addition such as a prospect’s name or company can make a huge difference on whether the rest of your message is read, since 71% of consumers choose whether to read a brand’s email based on personalization.
Rule 3. Break up the text
When you sit down to compose the main body of your email, write it like how you would speak to the prospect in person.
Think of every email you send as a story. The best email address formats have an intro (the salutation), a middle (the reason you are emailing), and an end (your signature). There are some rules to follow to make sure your email keeps your prospect’s attention:
Keep it short. A busy prospect doesn’t have time to read a 500-word email because they already spend around 3 hours a day checking their inboxes. When writing it, cut the text in half and then cut it in half again. It’ll help hold your reader’s attention long enough to get them to the bottom of the email where your call-to-action is.
Get to the point. Write your email and then edit it to ensure all of the basics, like why who you are and why you are emailing, are covered. The prospect has limited time to read your email, so quickly get to the point and condense all of your important information into a couple of sentences. If the prospect needs more information, they’ll ask.
Watch the formatting. Adding images, unusual fonts or videos to an email can make it cluttered and hard to read. You also don’t know whether or not your prospect’s email service will display all of the formattings correctly, so stick to plain text.
Avoid qualifiers. It’s also a good idea to not use too many qualifiers such as “really” or “very” as it can add to the email’s word count without adding much value or impact.
Rule 4. Include email signatures to convey credibility
Always sign off your email with, at a minimum, your name, email address, phone number and job title.
An email signature is a good place for sales reps to highlight your company and drive the prospect to take a certain action. Including links to a recent blog post or new product features is a good way for the prospect to see the latest movements at your company.
Also, best practice is to send emails from your company’s domain name. Sending out prospecting emails from a personal email can come across as unprofessional and can also cause your email to land in the spam or promotional folder.
Rule 5. Send a “test email” for quality assurance
Sending yourself a test email helps you see what it’ll look like when it lands in your prospect’s inbox.
Before sending the email to yourself, proofread it one last time and check for any grammar and spelling errors. A tool like Grammarly can help you pick up on syntax errors, sentence fragments and general punctuation errors that you might’ve missed during your proofreading.
Once you send the test email, it’ll give you a chance to catch any formatting errors and line break errors so when you finally send it to your prospect, it will be perfect.
Drafting an email that gets noticed in a prospect’s inbox takes more than just copying and pasting a template.
When it comes to how to format an email, think about what salutations are appropriate and take the time to refine and proofread your copy. This will help you nurture new prospect relationships and increase conversion rates instead of relying on a gimmicky subject line or pushy sales pitch.
When you are formatting an email, stick to the basics. Get your subject line right, keep your copy short and think about whether you should use a formal or informal tone to reach out to your prospects.
These simple email messages, formats and rules will give you the best chance of getting a response every time you hit send.