Write like a human: 3 keys to writing sales emails that don’t suck
As a product developer here at IWT, I get to talk to a lot of our customers. Every week, I’m on the phone hearing about what’s new in their business, where they feel stuck, and what’s on their mind these days.
One thing that keeps coming up? Sales emails.
How do you write a good one? And more importantly, how do you write one that sounds authentic and not like, ick, an internet marketer?
We write some pretty damn good sales emails here at GrowthLab. One student told me, “I can always tell when Ramit [our CEO] is about to sell me something. But it’s forgiven because the email’s so interesting and fun to read. How do I do THAT?”
You see, the biggest problem our students have when writing sales emails is feeling like a pushy, inauthentic used car salesman. They’ve spent so much time building a trusting relationship with their list — they don’t want to blow it on the sales email!
So how can you sell — and sell well — without scaring away your readers? Or, better yet, how can you sell while DELIGHTING your readers?
That’s what I’ve been trying to find out. One of my favorite parts about being a product developer at GrowthLab is getting to snoop around all of our old sales material in the name of “research.” The perfect job for a nosy person.
Below I pulled three of my favorite sales emails. Let me show you a few things I’ve noticed so far.
#1: Go OFF topic
I have an aunt who’s obsessed with home improvement. She watches HGTV on the regular and cruises the aisles of Home Depot on the weekends — just for fun.
When we get together for pizza, she’ll say something like, “Do you remember my old bathroom with the honeycomb tile with the blue chair rail and the niche above the alcove tub?”
No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.
It’s easy when you’re so close to a topic to forget that not everyone knows — or cares about — what you do. Same goes for running a business. When you spend eight months creating a dog training course, it’s hard to pull yourself out of the weeds and remember that normal people don’t care about clicker training yet. You need to get their attention first.
Take a look at this sales email for How to Talk to Anybody, the social skills course from our sister brand, I Will Teach You to Be Rich (IWT).
This email is about learning to be a leader. But Ramit knows his reader is getting this email on a random Thursday. They’re probably busy at work or bored on the subway. They don’t care about “becoming a leader” — yet.
So he finds a simple topic to hook them in.
SUBJ: Why I love ordering food for my friends
I LOVE ordering food for my friends when we go out to eat.
Except if you have celiac or love duck. Then please, don’t eat out with me.
Anyway, I noticed a very interesting phenomenon happening when I went out to eat with my friends. We’d sit down at these restaurants, especially restaurants where there are a lot of small plates that you share with everyone (AKA NYC restaurants that want to charge you more). We’d look at the menu, and sometimes there would be one person who’d speak up and say, “Okay, I can recommend a few dishes or if you guys like, I can just order for everyone.”
You know everyone’s reaction?
THEY LOVED IT!
In this case, it starts with a fun story about ordering dinner for his friends. Not everyone will be sitting at work thinking about how to improve their leadership skills. But everyone likes food!
Once he hooks them in with a fun, “mainstream” story, then he can segue to the topic of leadership.
People spend so much of their day making decisions that it’s a RELIEF if someone else makes a decision for them.
Today, I want to talk to you about being a leader. This is about more than offering to pick the menu for your friends. It’s about being liked and admired by the people in your life. It’s about being unforgettable.
Social skills are one of the most important, but overlooked, skills of all.
- With good social skills, you get promoted faster
- With good social skills, you get better relationships — both as a single person and coupled up
- With good social skills, LIFE IS WAY MORE FUN
On the other hand, if you never think about social skills as something you can develop and improve…you’re just like everyone else.
So, let’s talk about the social skills to become a leader.
If you were standing in line at Starbucks (an editorial test we use often) and saw this subject line pop up in your email, “Why I love ordering food from my friends,” would you open it? I would!
If it was “How to become a leader”? Probably not.
Want to build a business that enables you to live YOUR Rich Life? Get my FREE guide on finding your first profitable idea.
#2: Talk to your readers like a human
A few years ago, I had to host a sales webinar here at IWT/GrowthLab. I practiced for hours. It started off easy. I was being myself — conversational, fun, friendly. But the moment I had to transition to the pitch? My voice changed. I got creepily quiet and serious.
What is it about selling that turns us into robots? When done correctly, pitching will sound like a casual chat with a close friend.
Check out this sales email for our Teach Yourself Anything course, another product from our sister site, IWT. It’s pretty light. We give a few cool tips, but we still make a sales pitch at the end.
For a few bucks, you could learn any of these things by the end of the week.
Btw, I thought it’d be fun if we all try to learn something new — together. If there’s something you want to learn — on this list, or something you come up with yourself — book it TODAY and reply to my tweet by the end of the day.
Here’s what other people are learning. I want to hear what you decide to learn!
P.S. We have a new course called Teach Yourself Anything. Open this week only. If you’re interested in learning how to learn faster, you’ll love it.
Notice how, even when we’re selling, we’re talking in a very conversational tone, like we’re talking to a friend in a bar or getting an email from a friend. Even with the casual use of “btw” — like we’re texting our BFF.
In copywriting, this is called the “Bar Stool Test” (more about that in our Ultimate Guide to Email Copywriting). If you wouldn’t say it to a buddy over a couple of cocktails (for example, “Do you want to achieve meta learning mastery?”), it shouldn’t be in your copy.
#3: Use the “Us v Them” Technique
One of the scariest sales emails for our students to send is the “last chance email.” This is where we let readers know that sales are closing — so they better act now. No matter what kind of funnel you’re writing, you likely have to send this email.
Why is this scary? Because there’s no storytelling, no teaching, no entertaining. You are straight up selling.
It’s like the last “Hail Mary” pass before the clock runs out.
The goal is to get them to do something NOW. How do we do that? How do we make the reader feel like they should take action — without sounding condescending or pushy?
One thing Ramit does a lot is, when saying something that might come off as an attack, he’ll talk about THEM, not YOU.
Check out this last chance email, another for our course Teach Yourself Anything. Scroll down to the P.S., where we make our final attempt to close the sale.
In less than 30 days, you’ll start hearing people set their New Year’s Resolutions: how they’re gonna start hitting the gym, or eating better, or reading more. Some might even resolve to do something cool, like learn to dance or play the guitar. Some resolutions last. Many don’t.
Why? Because they don’t know the #1 most essential skill: how to learn new skills fast, without it getting in the way of their life. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to learn for a while, here’s my suggestion: Don’t wait another month. If something is worth a New Year’s Resolution, it’s worth starting now. I can help. Try Teach Yourself Anything today.
Notice how Ramit refers to “them,” not “you.” He’s not saying … “It’s almost New Year’s Eve. When was the last time you kept a resolution, hmmmm? You’re failing because you need this new skill.”
That can feel like an attack, as a reader I might think, “Screw you Ramit, you don’t know me!”
No. Instead he’s basically saying, “Look at all those OTHER sad losers who don’t keep resolutions. It’s because they don’t learn how to learn. Suckers. You and I know something different. Don’t be like them.”
As a reader, I can look at my problem from a distance. Yeah. I don’t want to be like THOSE people. It helps me relate without feeling personally attacked.
This is called the “Us v. Them Technique.” Now that my guard is down, I might go check out this course before it closes!
There’s a lot more to writing a killer sales email, which I’m digging into on the daily. If you want to learn more, you can keep your eyes peeled for our new course coming out later this year.
However, there are a few readers I’m sharing early drafts with NOW for feedback! If you want to be in my little advisory group, leave a comment with ONE big thing you struggle with when writing sales emails — I may be reaching out for your input.