The fact is you have one chance to make a great first impression when you initiate first contact in a business email. And due to spam and workloads, you probably have a higher bar to meet than in the off-line world.
When you meet someone off-line they have a limited amount of time and opportunity to make an impression. (Or to override a preconceived perception.) Your first contact business emails have even less time. A scan of the title, the message, click to trash.
How quickly this happens (or not) depends on your approach.
Based on what the person looks like, smells like, eye contact, and body language you form an impression. And, making a quick or rash decision based on that impression can be wrong. Regardless, we do it all the time.
We’ve all experienced first impressions we realize later are wrong. After meeting and talking to the person you determine they aren’t at all what you assumed.
Now, think about your business email for a moment. There is no eye contact or body language. You don’t get to “see” the person on the other side of the screen to make any further determinations. The only “sense” you have to form an impression are the words in the email, how those words are used and structured.
Omissions can lend to misunderstandings. Overcompensating can lead to incorrect assumptions about who you are and will be like to do business with. It behooves you to do your best to control your message and its appearance to get the results and make the impression you desire.
So, how can you do that?
5 Common Sense First Contact Tips for Business Email
While these 5 steps are common sense, I am surprised how many who contact me for the first time do not include these basic-basics. Whether they found my email address out there somewhere or are cold-calling through any of my website’s contact forms, many do not follow these guidelines.
1. Search a site first for the info you seek.
Make the effort to see if there is a contact name to address personally. Don’t just jump for the contact link. Emailing for information that is already on a site or covered in detail makes you appear lazy. This approach also creates the impression that your time is more valuable than the person you are contacting.
2. Know what greeting to use.
Using a generic greeting certainly is not personal or impressive. Especially when contact names are in fact noted. Another example that I get quite a bit is “Dear Team” when I am a sole proprietor. This indicates that they are not really contacting me personally. They are contacting a website just to get their info in front of someone, anyone.
3. Spell check your email thoroughly to ensure there are no typos.
Twice. Don’t just rely on your spell-check. Read your email out loud to make sure the proper intent and tone are what you want to relay.
4. Include all the necessary details and information.
Be crystal clear about why you are making contact. Then, provide the details the recipient will need to know to determine that replying to you is worth their while. Then close with a courteous and professional sign-off.
5. A word about follow-ups.
A follow-up after the first contact is pretty standard and customary. But to keep following up week after week after week gets annoying. It is tempting to use systems that send out pre-created messages at certain times. Don’t overdo it. The last impression you want to make is one of recipients groaning when they see you in their inbox – again.
The above tips are at the very least what you should consider in your first contact business emails. That is if you want to be taken seriously and increase the possibility of a response. Doing so will exponentially increase your chances of receiving the response you would like.
By getting in the habit of implementing these 5 little steps you increase your chances of building strong relationships, allies, partnerships — and opportunity.