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A Case Study on How to Sell in Email

In our business writing courses, people often ask how to write persuasive sales messages, and the topic is popular among the emailed questions I receive. In response to the interest, the current issue of our free e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, includes a case study analyzing a sales email that arrived in my inbox.

The message appears below with its identifying details changed. Do you think it is persuasive? Why or why not?

Subject: Diversify – 3 Ways

Dear Lynn,

My name is Suzie Barr and I am a colleague of David Gross. During the past year I have been in charge of the development of our Diversify series of financial learning games. We have spent countless hours with our authors, developers and financial experts, updating and expanding the range of games, as well as working with our technical partners, the Mag Group, making the games available online and as mobile phone apps in addition to our popular classroom and training room game format.

We would be delighted if you would have a look at the results summarized at [link].Please feel free to address any questions, ideas, suggestions to me. I hope that you will find these tools beneficial to your work.

Yours sincerely,

Suzie Barr
Diversify [link]
Telephone Number

Does the email sell well?

For my analysis of the message, read the current Better Writing at Work.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

9 comments on “A Case Study on How to Sell in Email”

  • I’ve read the email twice. Tell me again, what’s in it for me?

    This email absolutely does not sell well at all. The author does not offer any hint at what benefit her product or service can provide to you.

    Maybe her intent isn’t to sell the products to you? Perhaps she’s just seeking your professional advice, but in which areas? She asks for your questions, ideas or suggestions, but fails to provide you with any guidance on what type of feedback she wants. Is she looking for grammatical corrections? Or maybe she wants your advice on whether the content is appropriate for a certain audience?

    There is definitely ample room for improvement.


  • It’s too much about “us”, I think. And “what’s in it for me?” – no clear benefits for me and no call to action.

  • Thank you for commenting, Jason, Arseny, and Pepe.

    Jason, it’s interesting that you wonder whether she wanted my advice. Your comment makes clear how unfocused the message is.

    Arseny, you are right. It is all about her company. I believe she uses nine first person pronouns (“I,” “we,” and “our”) and only three “you” and “your.”

    Pepe, thanks for the reminder about a well-planned campaign.


  • The phrase “We have spent countless hours…” turned me off. It almost sounds like whining. And the message is boring – the most exciting word is “delighted.”

    Instead she could have said something about the depth of experience and attention to detail that have gone into creating a cutting edge product that will energize my team and make our company fabulously profitable. Or words to that effect.

  • I think the message needs to be more direct at the beginning. While I might want to know who this person is, I also don’t want to read about her and her company before I know why I might be interested. The first or second sentence should clearly state what the product is. Later, more detail could explain who the company is and how long they’ve worked on developing these things.

Comments are closed.