…is unfortunately all too evident in today’s world, and this annoys many business people who respect courtesy, tactfulness, and simply being professional.

This week’s Seeds of SUCCESS weekly newsletter from Success Magazine points at how writing letters can make a difference and have long-lasting effects on relationships between people.

“The difference between a new contact and lasting connection might rest on the written word. A simple “Hello, I enjoyed meeting you” or “I was thinking about something you said earlier…” could make an indelible impression. Keeping in touch this way with people you’ve met throughout your life and career can build your network and create opportunities beyond your reach.” – Seeds of SUCCESS (2010: vol. 3, issue 40)

Although the article is mainly focusing on letters, this reminded me of what some purchasers that we have worked with have complained about. Some of them have pointed out how annoying it sometimes is to receive e-mails from salespeople who obviously do not know how to write proper e-mails that would start with e.g. “Dear….”, then making their point clear, and ending the message with “Best regards” followed by their name and contact details, or something along these lines. Funny thing, but I have also reflected on this…

Why is this so, and how did we get here? Perhaps because people are not taught the art of writing anymore. Today people can graduate from college and university without having to learn how to write letters. End of the 80’s when I attended business college, this was still mandatory. However, times have changed and hardly anyone sends real letters anymore. Hence, what’s the point of knowing how to write letters? In business, letters and faxes have to a great extent been replaced by e-mails. There is nothing bad about that, to the contrary – this speeds up things and increases productivity, which (hopefully) increases profitability, drives GDP, and so forth. There is one catch however, due to increasing quantity of messages being sent, less attention is spent on the quality of writing.

Getting back to the purchasers who were (or probably still are) dissatisfied with this development, when I discussed this more in depth with them to find out what exactly annoyed them, they all stated that when receiving poorly written e-mails from salespersons they felt that the salesperson was not showing them the respect that they deserve. Actually, they even felt offended. I asked to see some of the actual e-mails that they were referring to and yes, I completely understand… Some of the e-mails seemed “like someone would have vomited”, as nicely put by one purchaser. Indeed, many of them were extremely poorly written – no salutation, spelling errors, poor (or no) structure, not making their point, using capital letters as if they were SHOUTING, and so on. Oh boy, say no more…

What does this mean? Well, guess if the ones who submit poorly written e-mails tend to become the preferred suppliers to the buyers? That’s right, the answer is often “no”. In fact, one purchasing manager told me that he had requested one particular selling firm to replace the salesperson or he would refuse to even consider buying the solution from that company. Although extremely dissatisfied with the salesperson, this purchasing manager at least gave the selling firm a second chance, which is more than many purchasing managers would have done. One can only guess how much business and sales revenue is lost due to poorly written e-mails. In fact, poorly written e-mails hardly transmit relationship orientation and the aim to build a long-term relationship with the recipient, does it. So, unless you are in a business where relationships don’t matter – not that I can think of many such businesses – you might like to continue reading 😉

Where should we go from here? In my view, in order to improve things we do not have to enter a time capsule and go back in time. Instead, in order to improve our messages and communication we could follow a few simple guidelines such as e.g.:

  1. Allocate a bit more time when writing to recipients that are important to you (such as the purchasing manager).
  2. Plan what you want to say. (I know, this sounds cheesy, but as crazy as it may sound many people jump this step.)
  3. Start with salutation; refer to previous meeting, discussion, who provided you the contact or similar; make your point; end with “Looking forward to…” and “Best regards,” or similar.
  4. Be polite, to the point, sincere, and…be  yourself.
  5. Read the message as if you were the recipient. Does it all makes sense, and is your message worth reading? If not, modify.
  6. Re-read the message before submitting it, just to make sure that it is good to go.

Following these simple steps is likely to make a difference. Perhaps this will even make the difference between being chosen or rejected as supplier. However, I do not propose to use this only as selling tactics in order to improve your “hit rate”, as reasons for improving your writing should go deeper than that. Good luck!

Thank you Success Magazine for providing inspiration to write this.

Looking forward to seeing and receiving more of those well written e-mails in future 😉

Kind regards,


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One Response to Lost Art of Writing Letters

  1. Ulf Stendahl says:

    Very nice blog article! Too few business people think about these matters. Maybe some even want their customers to see how “busy” they are. Although this matter should be as clear to everyone as that you should not smell bad and look trashy when you attend a business meeting. The good thing about this issue is that your competition might not pay attention to it and thus you can have a small but important comparable advantage and a pretty easy one.

    For me this is crucial since I communicate a lot via e-mail with our customers and prospects – with some customers I have almost only e-mail contact.
    I am quite sure that well thought through and structured e-mails help me to a higher success quote per prospect than most of my competitors.

    In my new company, 3D EduWorks, selling 3D CAD/simulation software to schools and research institutes we are trying to implement certain “style standards” not only in customer e-mails but in all communication like invoices, delivery notes, product information. This is for sure one reason for significant better sales result and fewer problems in sales, logistics and accounting than in the company I used to work for.
    Our CAD offering is extensive and quite complex. Therefore well structured texts in e-mails and other writings are necessary if we want our prospects to understand how good our offering really is and our customers to make use of it to full extent.

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