Improving Bad Emails

A reader writes, "One of my better sales reps often sends out emails loaded with misspelled words, grammatical errors and too many attachments. Whenever I see one he's sent out I'm embarrassed. Short of short of editing every email, how can I fix this problem?"

Sloppy emails reflect badly on your company. Salespeople need to view using any means of communication that identifies your organization (from electronic to old fashioned letterhead) as a privilege not a right. They must send out business appropriate correspondence always.

Carelessness vs. Lack of Skills

You know this employee. Presumably you've seen other written work of his. Has too much texting or tweeting caused him to become careless or does he have weak writing skills in general?


Select one or two of his particularly egregious emails and read them together. Hear his thoughts on them. If he makes excuses, remind him these two don't represent the only badly written emails of his that you've come across.

Ask him a question like, "If a salesperson was asking you to spend $63,000 of your company's money, what would you think if you received an email like this from them?"

Get a dialogue going. Discuss the importance of accurate business correspondence. Underscore the need to be much more careful when writing and sending emails - and that you'll be monitoring the situation.

Lack of Skills

If his shoddy emails represent generally poor writing skills, say something like, "I've been noticing a problem with any written work that's required of you." See what he says. Be patient. The conversation might be awkward.

When the rep in question performs well otherwise, it might be time to invest in some training. Sign him up for a course in business writing or ask him to read a book such as:

  • "Email A Write it Well Guide" by Janis Fisher Chan
  • "Strategic Business Letters and Email" by Sheryl Lindsell Roberts
  • "The Encyclopedia of Business Letters, Faxes, and Emails" by Robert W. Bly and Regina Anne Kelly

Discuss his progress periodically and keep an eye on any correspondence with customers.  


Savvy sales organizations create templates to fit all different kinds of letter writing occasions like introductory and follow-up emails. Talk to those at your company with strong writing skills. Put some of their better correspondence into files for all to use.

Insist, at least for a period of time, that new sales reps as well as those reps with problematic writing issues stick verbatim to the templates as written.


Eager to get prospects excited about their product or service, sales representatives sometimes attach multiple files neither asked for by the customer nor necessary to move the sale forward. Ironically, this overzealousness may annoy or push the prospect away.

For introductory emails especially, if reps attach a file at all, it should be very general, with no mention of pricing. It's too premature in the sales process for that discussion.

Going forward, any attachments should be requested by the customer or mutually agreed to by the rep and the customer.

Email and other electronic means of communication have increased the speed and efficiency of correspondence between sales reps and their customers to a degree not thought possible, even 20 years ago. With this advantage comes a responsibility for sales managers and salespeople alike to safeguard against mistakes, abuse and over use of technology.