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How to Make People Read Your Emails (and Letters) and Reply Every Time

How to Make People Read Your Emails (and Letters) and Reply Every Time

Writing business letters is something we all have to do from time to time, but we don’t usually get any training in school about how to actually do it. Getting your letter format wrong can make you look sloppy and unprofessional, but once you get the basics down and have some examples to work from, it makes business letter writing that much easier.

What’s the biggest “no-no” when writing a letter?

Probably the most common problem people have when writing business letters is using improper letter format.[1] Within this format there are a few options, but for the most part this is how it is done.

At the very top of your letter should be your contact information: name, company (if applicable), address and phone number. Some people also put their email address here.

Next comes the date and the person you are writing’s contact information: name, company and address.

Then there will be a greeting — usually something along the lines of “Dear Mr./Mrs. Jones.” The body of the letter follows, then a closing (Sincerely, Best, whatever you like) and a few blank lines followed by your typed signature. When you print the letter out you can sign it with ink.

Once you have the format down, it’s the content that can still be a little tricky. Whether you’re writing a letter of resignation or a recommendation letter, there are some basic rules you can follow. Here’s a look at 10 different kinds of business letters you might need to write,[2] the letter format for each and an example you can use as a template.

Complaint Letter: Express Disappointment

A way to formally express your disappointment in an experience, report bad customer service or let a company know their products didn’t meet the expectations.

Some tips:

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  • Don’t get emotional or angry; just state the facts.
  • Be cordial, professional and brief. Let them know what happened and what you’d like them to do to make it right.
  • Close by giving them a deadline to respond before getting a third-party mediator or lawyer involved.

Sample complaint letter | Federal Trade Commission

    Adjustment Letter: Explain and Apologize

    If you find yourself on the business side of a complaint letter, you will need to respond with a letter of your own. A good adjustment letter can help you keep a loyal customer; a bad one might spread like wildfire on the Internet.

    Some tips:

    • In most cases you’ll want to actually apologize that your company didn’t meet expectations.
    • Let them know what you are doing to make it right, or explain why you’re not doing what the customer asked if needed.
    • Be professional, concise, friendly and apologetic.

    Sample adjustment letters | OfficeWriting.com

      Sales Letters: Raise Awareness and Promote Products

      Letters writing to solicit business are still important for raising awareness of your company or products/services among potential clients.

      Some tips:

      • Keep it brief.
      • Make it about them, but not about you or your company.
      • Call to action, tell them what to do and how to do it.
      • If desired, you can also include your next steps or follow-up actions.

      Sales letter templates | Letters.org

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        Letter of Inquiry: Seek Information

        Write this kind of letter when seeking information, such as an interview request, a request for a catalog or a request for a public document.

        Some tips:

        • Be specific and brief; make it easier for the person who can track whatever you need down for you.
        • Providing some context and background can be helpful, but not the whole story of why you need a document.
        • Be courteous and show your gratitude.
        • If you are asking about the possibility of work, use the cover letter format.

        Inquiry letter templates | Sample Templates

          Acknowledgement Letter: Indicate Message Received

          Acknowledgment letters indicate that you received something (like a job or scholarship application, or sales materials) but have not necessarily taken action yet.

          Some tips:

          • Be short.
          • If there is information every person who sent information needs to know, such as when a decision will be made about hiring for a position, include that as well.
          • It might be used to thank someone for donating to cause, so include in the letter with any attachments.

          Acknowledgement letters for every occasion | Template.net

            Follow-Up Letter: Nudge and Remind

            A follow-up letter is sort of a nudge for people to make sure they received an initial letter and to remind them what you want them to do. They are often sent after a sales letter, letter of introduction or letter requesting information.

            Some tips:

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            • Be short to remind the recipient who you are, what and when you requested.
            • Include deadline if the initial note didn’t.
            • Include a call to action as a reminder.

            Follow-up templates of all sorts | Write Express

              Order Letter: Place an Order

              A formal way to place an order.

              Some tips:

              • Be concise and precise.
              • Make sure you include all the information a person would need to place an order for you.
              • Include all your shipping information and payment method.
              • Show your gratitude.
              • Provide contact information for follow-up.

              Order letter samples | How to Write a Letter

                Cover Letter: Introduce Yourself for a Job

                A cover letter is a way to introduce yourself, especially when applying for a job.

                Some tips:

                • Mention the job you are applying for right up front. You don’t have to be fancy.
                • Only cover a few relevant points on your resume, especially any related experiences.
                • Remember to mention your soft skills (e.g. communication skills, leadership skills) too.
                • Include contact information and make yourself available for answering any questions the hiring manager might have.

                Cover letter format | Monster

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                  Letter of Recommendation: Help or Reference Someone for Their Applications

                  This type of letter is often written by a teacher to help a student applying for a scholarship or internship or for admittance into a school or program. You might also write one to recommend someone for a job, fellowship or other opportunity.

                  Some tips:

                  • Be honest about the person you are writing about.
                  • Don’t gush or agree to write a letter for someone you wouldn’t support or don’t know very well.
                  • Use specific examples to highlight the person’s skills and abilities.
                  • Write something about why you would give this opportunity to the person you are writing about.
                  • Thank the reader for their time and include contact information should they have questions.

                  Sample recommendation letter | the Muse

                    Letter of Resignation: Resign From a Position

                    Don’t give in to any urges you might have to send an incendiary letter of resignation; you never know when you might cross paths with these people again.

                    • Keep it short and to the point: “This letter serves as notice that I am resigning my position as x effective x. Thank you for the opportunity” says enough.
                    • Consider your words very carefully if you are in a high-profile position and your letter is likely to be released publicly.
                    • You can include a reason if you like, but it isn’t necessary.
                    • Thank your boss and/or the company for the opportunities you’ve had there.

                    Resignation letters for many purposes/reasons | the Balance

                      For many other possible letters you could need in your business career, check this exhaustive list from the Balance.

                      Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

                      Reference

                      [1] English Sherpa: 7 Common Mistakes of Writing Business Letters). Writing a cover letter for a job application or a sales letter to gain clients is not like writing an email to a friend; certain rules need to be followed.

                      You also need to make sure that you use proper grammar and spelling, are not too casual in your writing and that you remove all of the parts of any template you may be using that should have been filled in (like a dummy mailing address at the top or the wrong date).

                      Know the basics of business letters, they are more useful than you think.

                      If you’re writing a business letter that’s going to be mailed, there are some common letter format rules that will help you get started.((The Balance: Format for Writing a Business Letter

                      [2] Houston Chronicle: 10 Types of Business Letters

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                      Sarah White

                      Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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                      Last Updated on February 18, 2019

                      How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

                      How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

                      These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

                      58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

                      Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

                      “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

                      So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

                      Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

                      1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

                      The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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                      Encourage Your Employees

                      When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

                      Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

                      Offer Rewards

                      Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

                      The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

                      Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

                      Give Autonomy

                      Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

                      Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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                      Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

                      2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

                      I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

                      Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

                      For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

                      We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

                      Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

                      A To Do Scheduling System

                      Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

                      The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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                      I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

                      With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

                      Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

                      3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

                      The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

                      “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

                      An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

                      What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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                      Ask If They like What They’re Doing

                      If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

                      There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

                      “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

                      The Bottom Line

                      Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

                      Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

                      For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

                      Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

                      More Resources About Team Management

                      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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