5 email mistakes you make every day and what to do instead

The Unwritten Rules of Email
The Unwritten Rules of Email

Learning how to ask for a meeting by email is an art form. It's a feeling process. One where a single word can close or destroy a deal. In email: Every. Word. Counts.

I've made a great deal of terrible email mistakes along the way.

Here are five mistakes that I've made so you can avoid them.

1. DON'T: Write "Feel free to."

I used to try to sound breezy in my emails. Thrilled that someone had actually opened my email, I'd close my follow up note with phrases like "feel free to take a look at the attached." Or "feel free to share some dates that may work for a meeting.."

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Never do this.

What I didn't realize is that I was telling the recipient of my email that things are open ended. I had no deadlines. I didn't have a goal in mind.

By telling the recipient to "feel free to" I had dumped the responsibility of following up on the recipient.

Not cool.

DO: Write "I will."

Shifting your voice from passive to active will change the tone of your email. Now you have an agenda. You have a goal. Now you've committed your time and effort to the recipient and you're ready for next steps.

Stating: "I will follow up next Monday at 10 am to address any of your questions" is much more powerful than "feel free to follow up with questions."

2. DON'T: Reach for false rapport.

Recently a young executive solicited me via email. Not unusual, and appropriate. But, yet moments after she sent me the first email, she sent a follow up attempting to strike up a conversation about my love of CrossFit.

This false attempt fell flat because it wasn't coming from a genuine place. She was looking for an activity that I love and attempted to wedge herself into that love. Not cool.

DO: Build rapport by starting small.

My friend Oren Klaff is the master at building rapport via mail. I used to send sales emails with lots of links, too much detail, heavy copy etc. I would lose the deal before my prospect even opened the note.

Now I listen to Oren and I start my prospecting email communications short and sweet. Like this:

"Dear John, If I sent over a short one page overview on my company, would you give it a look and give it a quick yes/no?"

Short, simple and to the point. You've communicated your desire to share information about your company, and you've taken the work out of the response. All the recipient needs to do is say - yes, send it over, or no, thank you. Easy. Plus, once you get a response, now you have a conversation!

Building rapport takes time. Be careful not to force it via email.

3. DON'T: Write it's "urgent."

If it were urgent you'd call, or show up, or call 911. We're not curing cancer here. We're conducting business. If something is urgent, don't send an email. It's never urgent for the recipient.

If you feel the need to write "urgent" in the subject you need to reevaluate your motivation for sending the email. Where does that urgency lie? Is it urgent that you make the sale? Urgent that you tell your boss you received a reply?

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You should never impress urgency upon the recipient of your emails. It just won't work.

DO: Write "there are a few time sensitive matters I'd like to discuss with you."

Expressing that there is time sensitivity is fully appropriate. Communicating that urgency in an urgent manner isn't.

Yes, there is a difference.

If you're leveraging email as a communication medium, you can properly communicate an appropriate sense of urgency without screaming that the sky is falling.

4. DON'T: ask "Why haven't you replied?"

This is never an appropriate follow up. I cringe when I admit it - but I've sent this email. Please don't make my mistake.

DO: Install Hubspot's Sidekick, and sit tight.

It's not personal. They're busy. If they're interested they'll get back to you. If they're not interested, they won't.

Simple. A little painful, but simple nonetheless. Move on and focus on closing the next deal.

5. DON'T: Read into responses, and or lack thereof.

Some people can be passive aggressive via email, for sure. Some are also bad writers, and come across as aggressive when they don't intend to.

For example, you may ask a prospect a question, and they may reply with a simple "no."

To some this sounds arrogant, or harsh. To others this is something altogether different. The recipient may have sent this note minutes before takeoff, as a flight crew is telling her to shut down her mobile devise.

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No malice, or aggression intended.

Simple and effective email communication that isn't "softened" with everyday language should never be viewed as anything but simple and effective.

Reacting to what you think is a bad email can backfire in a big way. Take a step back. Or better yet, sleep on it. Never, ever fire off an email in anger.

DO: Take every email with a grain of salt.

It's an imperfect medium in which we add heavy emotional weight. It's our nature to interpret. Allow yourself distance from the immediacy of email.

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Originally published