Email is still the top business communications tool. 58% of us check our email first thing in the morning, and – according to market research firm Radicati Group – 100+ business emails were sent and received per day per user last year – and that number is set to reach 140 by 2018.

Email is easy to use, virtually everyone has an email address, and email can be instantly accessed from wherever you are via your mobile device.

However, too often sales leaders don’t spend enough time developing an email strategy. If you think of email simply as a tactic for your sales people and don’t invest in the appropriate planning, you lose a tremendous opportunity for differentiation and competitive advantage.

It all starts with the subject

If you can’t get your prospective customer to open your email, what is the point in coming up with compelling content?

The subject matter is the only thing that affects the open ratio and how many people you get to convey your message to.

The subject matter has to provoke or intrigue your prospect enough to motivate them to move to the next stage. It must be unique, timely, and relevant.

You must have the right messaging

If you can’t effectively and consistently communicate the value of your service or solution, you won’t get anywhere. Organizations should have a process in place to make sure that their sales people are using the right language and messaging for the right audience.

Using email templates is one way to do this. By creating quality email templates for a particular audience, you save your sales reps time and gain the confidence that reps are using the messaging that best addresses your prospects’ needs and problems. 

Sales templates give your team a powerful foundation for outreach that gives reps more time in the day and improves internal alignment within the organization. Further, with today’s technology, your reps don’t have to sacrifice personalization or control. Dynamic fields allow for immediate personalization, and reps also have the ability to customize as needed for particular accounts.

In addition to reducing the time your team spends writing emails, email templates have the added bonus of ensuring that emails are clear and concise and without grammatical errors. 

Make sure delivery is as efficient as possible

In sales, time is your most valuable commodity. You don’t want your team manually sending out large numbers of emails. With advanced automation, you can instantly deliver emails to a much larger group of prospects. If you aren’t automating email delivery, you’re wasting a huge amount of your reps’ daily selling time.

Consider when you come back from a huge event such as Dreamforce. If your reps are writing or even just sending individual emails to the entire list of prospects, it will take days – or even weeks. By then, your competitors will have gotten to them first.

Follow-up based on buyer interest levels

As you create an email strategy, pay attention to how you will execute follow up. You need to have a system in place to prioritize your team’s follow-up activities.

Everyone knows that you should focus on the best opportunities to maximize sales efforts. But, how can you do this? Email engagement analytics make it easy and fast to identify the best opportunities. These analytics provide real-time insight into how prospects are interacting with emails and content – providing the guidance your reps need to determine which prospects they should call or email first. 

Refine email processes for greater success

Continuously monitor your email programs and campaigns. See which ones have the most success. What was done differently? By understanding which approach works best, you can repeat it and use it across the team at scale.

Analytics have the power to provide you with this knowledge. With engagement analytics, you can see which email templates get the highest response rates – so that you reuse the templates that work the best and toss out the ones that don’t work well.

Marketing has long employed subject line A/B testing to improve and refine its messaging. Now, sales organizations have the same capability. If you have a group of 50 prospects, split it into two. Send 25 prospects an email with one subject line, and 25 prospects the same email with another subject line – and see which one performs best. Learn what type of approach resonates best with your target audience, so you can copy the same style for future emails. 

Make your sales emails more effective

To get the most from sales emails, leaders need to be sure that their email programs and campaigns are well thought out, personalized, and executed in the most efficient way possible.

With an optimized email strategy, organizations save time – speeding conversion rates. Which is why today’s top performing sales organizations are incorporating sales engagement analytics and automation as part of their sales email strategy.

Graham Curme is CEO of LiveHive, Inc., provider of an open and extensible sales acceleration platform that powers businesses to drive higher sales growth and deliver greater customer value. Curme is a senior business executive with 25 years of experience in technology sales, including senior management roles at both multinational public and private startup companies.