To Get Email Results, Know What You Want

The Rolling Stones sang, "You can't always get what you want." It's true in email. You cannot make people reply, approve, agree, buy, or call you through a simple email.

But you are more likely to get what you want if you know what you want. That means thinking about your specific goal for the message.

These are specific goals for three emails:

  • I want the client to email me this week to schedule a product demo.
  • I want my teammates to send me suggestions for a September speaker within a week.
  • I want my mother's contact at XYZ Company to agree to a 15-minute informational interview with me.

The goals above are specific and realistic. It's possible to achieve each one through email.

But sometimes people expect email to do too much. The goals below are not realistic for a single email to achieve:

  • I want the client to read my detailed email and four attachments, view a recorded webinar, and buy our product this week.
  • I want my teammates to send me topics, suggested speakers, and preferred meeting times for the fall-winter programs within a week.
  • I want my mother's contact at XYZ Company to hire me.

Making your goal specific and realistic will increase your chances of getting what you want. It will help you write an email that focuses on the goal and moves the reader to respond the way you intend.

I hope you get what you want–or at least what you need–from your emails.

Do you have strategies that help you get results with email? Please share them.

Would you like more ideas about getting good results with email? Consider purchasing my "110 Tips for Sending Email That Gets Read–and Gets Results, Second Edition" as a printed booklet or PDF.

Note: I excerpted the content above from the latest Better Writing at Work, my free monthly e-newsletter.

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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. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.


  1. This tip is one I’ve shared with writer friends. One of the most frustrating “no response” situation is to your email with a requested quote or proposal.

    Is no news good news? Should you move on? Keep following up?

    I send a follow-up that typically ends with a line something like this ~ Should I check back with you in a few weeks or have you decided to go another route?

    It lets the prospect off the hook easily. Some simply have a hard time saying, no thanks. I’d rather know something and with the way I framed the question, I always get a response – sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised to hear they are still interested, but life has taken over.

  2. Hi, Cathy. Thank you for your excellent suggestion. I like the feel of your closing line “Should I check back . . . .” It gives the reader very comfortable options.

    Another approach to getting a response to a proposal is to schedule a phone meeting to discuss the proposal–before writing it. For example, I might say, “I will have the proposal for you by the end of the day on Monday. Can we schedule a brief meeting on Wednesday to discuss your reaction to it?”

    Thanks for sharing, Cathy.


  3. The Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want.” It’s true in email. You cannot make people reply, approve, agree, buy, or call you through a simple email.

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