How to Write An Email That Gets Read

“Call me Ishmael.”

emailAny writer will tell you that the first line of their work is the most important. Herman Melville’s opening line to Moby Dick has been voted the best first sentence of any novel in history by the American Book Review. The first line needs to grab your attention, create curiosity, and compel you to read the next line.

The subject line of your email is your hook. Your opening salvo determines if your email goes to spam or gets opened and read. Create and update a list of subject lines that work for you. I keep a list and continually tweak it and measure my response rate.

Next, learn how to write a good email. If you’re sending a first-time email to a new prospect or client, it should read like a movie poster. “If it looks like a quick read, rather than a major investment of time and attention, you’re likely to give it a look,” says Paul Brown, Your Attention Please. Three very short paragraphs on a first email should do it.

How do you learn to write compelling text? Take Roy H. Williams’ (The Wizard of Ads) advice – read poetry. Williams says it’s not who you reach, it’s what you say. Reading poetry shows you how to say much with little in the most creative ways.


Don’t send any attachments with your first emails. Always ask your reader for permission. And keep any graphics (signature line, company logo) small in size so you won’t clog-up the recipient’s mailbox.

This is not everything you need to know, but it’s a good start.


Yes, There Is a Free Lunch!

The following is an excerpt from Lunch? – 20 Sales Questions I’ve Been Asked Over Lunch. You can get a free PDF copy at to pass on to anyone you like.

One of the biggest complaints by business owners and sales managers is that their people never ask for the order. Having lunch with a couple of business owners in New Brunswick, New Jersey, one complained that there had to be some easy way to get his people to ask for the order.

There is. I gave him a 3 x 5 card and told him it was his. Make copies and give it to his salespeople and tell them to give it to the prospect just before getting up to leave the customers’ office. Then let me know if their sales didn’t increase.

He reported that not only did his people close more deals, but they had more fun doing it, and the customers always got a laugh out of it. It added to their expense accounts, but he said the new sales and new business was worth every penny.

What did the card say?