Sales Prospecting Perspectives

8 Tips for Improving Open Rates for B2B Sales and Marketing Emails

Posted by Megan Tonzi on Wed, Jul 9, 2023 @ 09:35 AM

AG Salesworks is pleased to bring you a guest post from Janelle Johnson, Director of Demand Generation at Act-On Software. 

In B2B marketing, sales and marketing emails play different but equally important roles in a successful communication strategy. Marketing emails lure the leads, and sales reels them in. But if nobody ever opens your messages, they won’t do your organization much good. Getting a prospect to open an email can be extremely challenging in today’s crowded marketplace. Many of us get hundreds of emails every day. Which ones make you click? Which ones make you hit delete?

We already know what works on us. Putting this knowledge into practice for our customers can be difficult.

Sales Emails vs. Marketing Emails

Before we start optimizing open rates,first let’s look at the key differences between a sales email and a marketing email.

Marketing emails are designed to build relationships with prospects so that when the sales rep enters the picture, the lead is ready for action.

  • Newsletters deliver relevant content that can build your brand, set your organization up as a thought leader in your industry, introduce a new product, offer videos and whitepapers, and much more.

  • Drip campaigns are automated programs that send content to prospects at the right moment in the sales cycle; “lead nurturing” is a type of drip campaign that helps leads proceed through the funnel. This gives your prospects relevant information at the moment they’re most likely to appreciate it.

  • Triggered emails are fired off automatically based on the actions your prospects take, such as a “thank you” for a download.

Sales emails are direct communications between the sales team and prospects.

  • They get to the point faster, usually with a call-to-action right up front, and they’re focused on getting the recipient to do something specific.

  • They’re sent from a real person, ideally through a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, and they’re customized based on the prospect’s needs and past behaviors.

  • They offer a benefit, whether it’s a solution to a problem, an answer to a question, or an offer for something the prospect can use.

  • The templates should be created in partnership with marketing so they reflect the brand consistently while still delivering the personal touch.

Both of these types of messages will benefit when you apply some key best practices for improving open rates. Here are:

8 ways to make sure your email message actually gets read:

  1. Understand the objective: This seems obvious, but in order to make sure your reader knows what you want them to do, you need to be crystal clear about it. Do you want them to visit your website, or to schedule a one-on-one call? Are you inviting them to an online demo, or are you trying to get them to meet in person? It may be that the goal is to get more information from them, either through direct communication or a survey. If they’re not ready to take a certain step (like scheduling a meeting), do you have a secondary action they can take, like downloading a white paper? Outline your objective before you start crafting the email and you’ll have more chance of success.

  1. Consider where it comes from: For both marketing and sales emails, the From address is a key aspect of the equation. Both should come from your organization’s domain rather than a personal address like “” For marketing emails, it’s appropriate to use something generic like “” But a sales email should use a real name. And be sure it’s your full name. Even if your business is just you, you probably shouldn’t send an email from “” It’s a good way to make sure everyone knows how small your company really is.

  1. Grab their attention: A successful subject line is one that stands out in a crowded inbox. It’s one of the reasons why marketers are including symbols (like “Do you ♥ marketing?”) in subject lines. But simply getting someone to notice you isn’t enough. You need to communicate some sort of benefit to your reader, and the subject line is a great place to do it. That’s not easy, because your subject line should also be short and to the point as well as accurate about what’s inside. When sending marketing emails, you can always run an A/B test to find out which subject line is the top performer. For a sales email, you can try your own test with different leads in the same organization – or in similar industries – in order to find a proven winner.

  1. Get personal: Try adding your prospect’s name to the subject line; for many companies, this works very well. Test both first-name-only and first-and-last to see the full range of possibilities. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your sign-up forms ask for this information, so your automated programs can make use of it in the subject line or in the body of the email message. And stick with the name by itself. You never want to deliver something to Mr./ Ms. and risk getting it wrong.

  1. Prepare for the preview pane: The information that displays in the preview pane is a big part of the reason your message gets opened. Make sure you know how the message will show up in different email clients. Don’t put key messages or the call to action in images only. If the pictures don’t render, or they don’t display correctly (and a lot of preview panes suppress them), your primary message will be lost. Make sure to have your call to action in text as well as a button or banner. When you do use images, adding tailored alt text will encourage your reader to open the email and click to display them.

  1. Keep preheaders and subject lines short and specific: The preheader is a short line of text at the top of an email that many email clients display in the preview pane. When images are off, it can be a powerful call to action because it shows up even when images don’t. Be sure to include a link in your preheader, so your reader can act on the email without opening it. Ideally, you should limit the preheader text to no more than 85 characters. Subject lines should generally be about 50 characters or less. And since many email clients are different, be sure to “front load” your subject line by putting the critical information at the beginning. That way if it gets cut off (and it might, especially on a mobile device) your main message still comes through.

  1. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly: According to Forrester, 72% of US online adults send or receive personal emails on a smartphone at least weekly. That means your email, whether it’s a sales or marketing message, needs to be optimized for reading on small screen. It also means that you need to think about the preheader and how it works together with the subject line to entice someone to open, because they often display right next to each other.

  1. Turn down the volume: Are you over-messaging your audience? It’s surprising how often companies make this mistake. You probably know first-hand how annoying it is to receive emails from the same company every day. Set up a schedule that keeps your company on the forefront of your leads’ minds without spamming them. Make sure sales and marketing are in alignment and working from the same calendar. You don’t want your sales email arriving right on the heels of the company newsletter – that is, unless you sales rep is calling out something in the newsletter that you think this prospect should really see. If you over-message your audience, you’ll likely see open rates go down while opt-outs go up.

Making it Easier

The right marketing automation platform can help you increase email open rates by making it simpler to run A/B tests, automate scheduling and sending campaigns, and integrate messaging with a CRM tool. Integration is key for a number of reasons: You can track how often a prospect has been contacted and which emails have been opened and clicked on. You can swiftly identify the leads that are ready to buy, and you can automate the hand-off to sales. Plus, your marketing team can quickly create email templates for sales to use, and the sales team will be more likely to actually use them if they’re readily available through the CRM system.

Learn more about Act-On’s solutions for automating and optimizing your email marketing, and find out how to make sure every message you send clicks with your audience.

Email Guide for Sales Prospecting Success

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Tags: Sales Prospecting, Email Prospecting, B2B Marketing, B2B Lead Management

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