Low Response Rate? 3 Key Pieces Your Sales Emails Must Have

Email response rates kinda…weak? Ever feel like you are just shooting spam into space? Does it feel like your sales outreach emails are just…missing something?

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If you’re not getting the type of replies you want – or just not getting replies at all – there may be any of a number of things going on. 

Part of the problem may be the way your email is constructed.

If you’re missing these 3 key elements to your outreach emails, you may be sabotaging your reply rates.

Include these 3 pieces, and make your emails work harder for you!

1. A Subject Line That Makes Them Click “Open”

First things first. If your email doesn’t even get opened, then there’s no way you’ll get a response.

But for many email writers, 95% of our attention goes on the content of the email. The subject line is an afterthought.

It’s funny that so little thought goes into the most important line in the entire email.

Most important? Yes. Again, if the receiver doesn’t click “open”, everything else that follows here doesn’t matter.

So you want to make sure you get that subject line working in your favor.

It needs to cause the recipient to take a simple action – opening the email and reading at least the first line.

There are different ideas on how to produce a good email subject line that gets opens. Some suggest focusing on the value you are offering the potential client.

Others propose asking a compelling question.

Surprisingly, one study even found that a blank subject line got one of the highest open rates.

There are a lot of things you can include. One effective subject line we use is quite simple – “Meeting Confirmation”.

One variation of this which personalizes it a bit, is to simply add a location – as in, “Meeting Confirmation – [city name]”.

The purpose of the first contact with a prospect – whether it’s email, a phone call, or in person – is simple. It’s to set a meeting. This email subject simply goes right to the point – we want to confirm a meeting time with the recipient.

There are also some definite no’s. Avoid text and terms that will make your email look like spam – either to filters or the human eye.

This includes terms like “Free”, “Act Now”, “Special Offer”, and other more colorful terms you have certainly encountered.

It shouldn’t sound “salesy” or spammy.

What goes in the subject line can vary. But it needs to compel the person reading it to invest that single mouse click in discovering what lies behind it.

So take more than 5% of your email-building time to figure out what can work for you – and be sure to test alternatives*.

(And by the way, if you don’t know your open rates, you should be using a tool like Hubspot Sideick* or other to track it).

2. A Reason to Keep Reading

So. That subject line did the trick. They invested that precious click in seeing what more you have to say. So let’s not waste it.

Once the prospect is in the email, our text needs to do a couple crucial things. One – keep him reading.

Bore the prospect, and he’ll soon be heading to places more interesting.

Hit him with an enormous email, and he might not even start with the first line – just back-click and get out of there. 

Brag too much about how great you or your product/service is, and you’ll quickly be turning him off.

The key things to remember about the content of your email. These pieces will give you the best chance to keep him reading:

  • VALUE – you need to convey some sort of value that would appeal to your prospect. Some call this a Unique Value Proposition. At NorthStar we do something related but slightly different – a Key Selling Point. This 3 to 6 work phrase should be general not specific, describe value not features, and ideally, create some mystery or questions. A good KSP creates a conversation.
  • SOCIAL PROOF – We most often do this through the names we mention. This needs to come early on in the text. Describe other people in his position, industry, and location which you have either a) already been working with or are already customers, or b) have already spoken with in some business context, like an initial sales meeting. Social proof can also be demonstrated by mentioning other associations we might have that the prospect may potentially know – for example a university we partner with, or an organization which awarded us*.
  • PROPER LENGTH – Your email should be short. If it’s too long, he won’t read it all. This email has a simple point – to set up a meeting. Aim for 3-5 sentences total.

3. A Clear Call To Action

Too many emails start off well…but wither and die at the end – because they have a weak Call To Action, or forget to include one at all.

You need to ask for what you want, be assumptive about it (everyone meets me, you’re next) but polite, and do so clearly. Some Do’s and Don’t’s:


  • Don’t ask too vaguely or weakly: “Do you think maybe it might be okay with you if we met if it wouldn’t bother you too much…?”
  • Don’t be creepy: “I’ll come by your office/house/children’s school to catch you Monday morning, sound good?”
  • Don’t be too assumptive – remember, it should still be in the form of a question. This means including a question mark.
  • Don’t be unconcrete – control the next step, don’t leave it in their hands, as in “Contact me when you know a good time for you.”
  • Don’t forget a CTA


  • Do be assumptive. This doesn’t mean being impolite. But your attitude should be, “I’ve met with John and Mike and Karen and Bob, and now it’s your turn. Let’s figure out when we can do that for 20 minutes.”
  • Do give a choice of two positive Asking “would it work better to meet on Wednesday or Thursday next week?” is better than “when do you have time?” Why? It makes the next step easier – the other party just has to pick one. Either option works well for you. We can use the choice of two positives in different places in the sales process. It even works in “real life” J
  • Do include a CTA

When you’re corresponding with clients or potential clients, always think of the outcome you want the email to accomplish. What’s the next step?

If it’s a first contact, it should be to set up a first meeting. If it’s later in the sales process, it may be to set up further talks, get an agreed-upon document sent to you, or convey some other piece of information.

Don’t let your emails finish limply – be politely clear about what you want to happen next.

It’s more than just one email

So those are your 3 key elements for effective sales outreach emails. It’s not much more complicated than that.

Constructing a sales email that gets results is a bit science, and a bit art.

And of course for best results, you’ll need to do more than send just one email.

With our 3 email + 1 (warmed-up) call system, we/our clients get a conversion rate to first meeting of 20%, 30% – and sometimes even higher.

How would it change your sales success – and your business as a whole – if 20-40% of the emails you sent translated into sales meetings?

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