For the last two decades, email has retained its position as the default business communication tool. The popularity of messaging apps and the social media has done little to shake the email as the unchallenged tool for transacting business.
Here is the evidence: An average office worker receives 121 emails a day and sends around 40 business emails daily. If your company has 100 employees, collectively, you will send out 4,000 business emails in the course of the day tomorrow.
With this huge number of emails flowing fast into our inboxes, it is natural that only a few will be replied to. Many will be ignored. What makes us drop everything and reply to some emails and snub others? Here are a few tested tips that can get your emails noticed.
Use a question in the subjection line. Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking a response. And not just any questions —ask questions that the other person will enjoy answering.
Asking questions that start with “what” or “how” are particularly powerful on an email or in any other communication. Questions that start with “why” make people defensive and sometimes resentful, and should be avoided. In his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depends On It, a former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, Chris Voss, adds a twist to the questioning techniques. He says that the best questions are those whose response is likely to be “no” — because “no” is the best way to start a conversation as posed to a thoughtless “yes” that yields no commitment.
“No”, according to Chris Voss, peels away the plastic falsehood of “yes” and gets you to what’s really at stake. “Yes” makes people defensive and “no” makes them feel secure and in control — and opens doors for further discussion. Any avenue for discussion is good because it gives the discussants an opportunity to go beyond the “no” to a profound “yes”.
So trigger an initial “no” question even on your emails if you have a lingering issue that is not getting resolved. For example, on the subject line of your, email type, “Does it mean that this meeting has fallen off your radar?” Or “Have you decided that this offer shuts the door to our discussion?”
Use pithy and appealing email heading. An email subject line should be like a newspaper headline or a book title. It should be attention-grabbing. If not a question, use words that paint a picture on the reader’s mind and sound sweet to the ear. The subject should however be indicative of the email’s content.
Put a figure in the subject line. Numbers written out as numerals , for example, 21 as opposed to twenty-one, have been shown to stop wandering eyes of online readers, making it more likely that your email will get noticed in an overcrowded inbox. A typical subject line could be something like, “Prime plots selling at Ksh1,000,000 in Kiambu” or “3,000 Kibera kids win scholarship”. Use recipient’s name on the subject. Dale Carnegie, a celebrated American writer and the developer of famous courses in self-improvement and public speaking said, “a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Try catching a person’s attention by placing their name in the subject line — for example, “Hi Sam, its Sylvia from Sudan.”
Keep your emails short; brief is better. Sending long emails —even well-written—may actually decrease your chances of getting a response. Either the recipient just doesn’t have the time or desire to read through a lengthy email, or he doesn’t have the time to give a detailed response.
One last thing that your mother may have forgotten to tell you: avoid emailing about a sensitive subject that’s better left to a phone call or in-person conversation.