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insights on communication skills

Insights on Communication Skills and Relationship Building

How to (Finally!) Get a Response to Your Professional Email

Posted by Bridget Beirne on May 13, 2016

bridget-beirne-1.pngRemember letters? Actual handwritten letters? Whether personal or business related, you'd get these little paper missives as the time constraints of the post office allowed. There was such a thing as items "getting lost in the mail". And usually, you weren't getting more paper correspondence than you could handle.

Now, email means we're never too far away for contact. There's no such thing as business hours, and even retired relatives have overflowing inboxes. We're inundated with electronic communication.

Because of the sheer volume of email, and our ever-increasing schedules (see the "business hours" idea above...) we know that getting someone to take the time to respond to a professional email can be extremely difficult. We may spend hours crafting the perfect email, only to find we never hear back from the recipient. We know people are busy, but what gives?

It could be that you're not helping your audience know how to respond to you, or decipher exactly what you're looking to achieve. No matter what end of business you find yourself in, a few tweaks to your current emails can help you (finally!) get a response from even the most overwhelmed of recipients:

1. Be clear about what you want: When I was just starting out as a professional actor, I wanted to keep my name in front of my agents.  I would send emails that said things like "Just checking in. Anything look interesting? I'd love to talk!" (OK, I'll come clean. When I was FIRST starting out, no one was emailing their agents. This was slightly later.) Then I'd be baffled as to why I'd get a one-line response — if I got any response at all.

I realized I wasn't giving them anything to respond to. I started emailing about specific auditions, and current productions, rather than just asking to "catch up". It's incredibly important to have a clear call-to-action in all of your communication. Be sure that you're asking for (or about) something concrete. Instead of saying "We've launched a new CRM! Anytime I can tell you about it?", try:

"We just unveiled the new CRM today! It's going to make it so much easier for your team to track their contacts. Are you free Friday or Monday at 2pm to hear about it?"

2. Give them a subject line to hang their hats on: Raise your hand if you skim email subjects professional emailto find what needs to be read. If your hand isn't raised, you're kidding yourself. When you make your audience play a guessing game about why you're contacting them, you run the risk of either a) being ignored completely, or b) annoying your audience when they have to take the time to figure out what you're on about.

Ensure that your subject lines are as specific as the call-to-action in the email itself. You'll help your reader prioritize and make decisions. Instead of "CRM Update", "Meeting time", or "Schedule change", try:

"New CRM Introduction, Friday or Monday at 2pm via skype"

"Marketing Meeting: Monday 3:30pm in Conference Room A"

"Monday's 3:30pm Marketing Meeting Location Change"

3. Yes to relationship building! But keep it simple, sweetheart: When we reach out to colleagues and potential clients, we want them to know that we listen to them, that we care about them as humans, and that we've got a genuine interest in what they have to say. That's all A+, and important. But avoid bogging down your professional email with endless personal details, or random questions.

Instead of:  "How was your vacation? I've always wanted to go back to Paris. I went once in college. Where did you stay? How was the food? Did you take in any shows?" keep things short and sweet. You'll build the relationship, without monopolizing their time.

Let's put these three tips together:

Subject: New CRM Introduction, Friday or Monday at 2pm, via skype

Hi Dave,

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed Paris. It's one of my favorite cities.

We just unveiled the new CRM today. It's going to make it so much easier for your team to track their contacts. Are you free Friday 5/13 or Monday 5/16 at 3pm to hear about it?

If not, I'm glad to find a time that works for you.

Best Regards-

Top Email Sender

The key words: precise and personable. I've used a sales-related email as an example, but regardless of your job, specific email communication makes everyone's life easier, and encourages response. People know exactly what you want, and what they need to answer. Remember, in your efforts to cover all your bases, you don't need to overwhelm another colleague who's got as much communication to sort through as you do. Make it easy for all involved.

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Topics: Writing for Business