Email Etiquette and the Proposal Process

When it comes to building relationships with potential clients, the proposal writing process often comes on the back end of a long drawn out process. It’s only after developing relationships and staying in constant communication that many businesses will accept a proposal from a potential partner. With that being said, companies need to focus on how they build relationships in a business world that often values email over face-to-face communication.

The Trouble with Email

Email is fantastic. It’s quick, easy, and convenient. If you want to tell someone something without investing a lot of time, you simply email them and avoid getting stuck in long conversations. Email is also widespread – meaning everyone has an email address. However, for all of the benefits associated with email, there are also some major disadvantages.

“On e-mail, people aren’t quite themselves,” Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, authors of the book Send, wrote in 2008. “They are angrier, less sympathetic, less aware, more easily wounded, even more gossipy and duplicitous.”

When you’re face-to-face with someone, conversation doesn’t just involve dialogue. There are non-verbal cues, tone, inflection, and rhythm to the conversation. In email, all of this is lost. Humor is easily misinterpreted, anger is exacerbated, and sarcasm is perceived much differently.

As such, it’s imperative that you’re as clear as possible. Email is certainly valuable – nobody is arguing this – but you must know the rules if you want to avoid confusion, gaffes, and misinterpretation.


5 Email Etiquette Rules to Follow

When it comes to proposal writing – or the process leading up to proposal writing – there are certain etiquette rules you need to follow in order to enjoy optimal results.


Use a Clear Subject Line

The subject line of an email is the first thing the recipient will see. You have a duty to yourself and the recipient to make sure this subject line is clear and appropriate for the content of the email. After reading the subject line alone, they should have a pretty good guess as to what the email is about.

For example, let’s say you’re emailing a colleague to confirm that your meeting about a certain proposal is still on. A poorly crafted subject would read something like, “Meeting to Discuss Proposal.” In this case, the recipient doesn’t know if you’re emailing to cancel, confirm, or change the meeting. Sure, they’ll know when they open up the email, but you’re setting the wrong tone from the start. A much more appropriate subject line would be, “Confirming 1:30 Meeting to Discuss Proposal.”


Go Easy on the “Reply All”

The “reply all” feature has its value, but is widely considered an annoying feature. People often reply to everyone when it’s only necessary to reply to the original sender. Not only can this get you in trouble (if the information is only intended for the original sender), but it’s inadvertently disrespectful to the other recipients. Unless there’s a clear instruction to reply to everyone – or you can gather that it’s necessary based on the context – it’s typically best to limit your response to the sender.


Never Use a Pre-canned Template

When reaching out to someone for the first time – particularly when requesting the opportunity to send a proposal – avoid using canned templates. While it’s easy to use a framework and paste in names, titles, and a few additional words for context, you’ll see extremely low response rates.

Business professionals in positions of leadership receive dozens of requests per day. They can easily spot genuine emails from those that are pre-canned. Take the time to write a few sentences that apply directly to the recipient and the situation. This doesn’t guarantee a response, but it does show respect for the individual’s time. If nothing else, the email will actually get read (as opposed to immediately being designated to the trash folder).


Avoid Humor

Nobody wants to be viewed as cold and impersonal, but email is not the best place to let your humorous side show. Sure, there are times when humor is okay in email – such as when you’re emailing friends – but resist the urge to inject humor into business emails.

The trouble with humor is that it’s often mistranslated. If someone has never met you in person, it can be very easy for them to misconstrue what you meant. If you ever feel like you should include a “JK” or “just kidding” after something you write, go ahead and hold down the delete button. Only stick to the necessary information. Let your humor shine through in face-to-face meetings.


Always Proofread

When you have 10 or 15 emails to send out, it’s tempting to quickly whip one up, send it, and move on to the next one. Resist this temptation. You should always proofread prior to hitting the send button. Nothing is more unprofessional (especially in a proposal situation) than sending an email filled with errors.

A good way to ensure you proofread all of your emails is to require confirmation before sending. Configure your email inbox in a way that forces you to confirm that you really want to send an email before sending it. This extra step will remind you to go back and check for issues.


Use iQuoteXpress to Enhance Your Proposals

At iQuoteXpress, we believe our customers need and deserve access to proposal tools that enhance sales team productivity and streamline the quotation process. When this aspect of the proposal process is handled, it becomes exponentially easier to confidently take action and enjoy a healthy return on your investment.

If you’re interested in learning more about our proprietary quoting software, which automates up to 75 percent of proposals and generates accurate quotes, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We would be happy to set you up with a free no-obligation online demo.

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