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What's the Best Email Length for Sales Outreach?

Vincenzo Ruggiero author on Overloop the sales engagement, cold email, and LinkedIn automation software blog
Vincenzo Ruggiero Jul 27, 20205 min read

A number of factors affect whether prospects respond to your outreach emails. Data shows that email length is one of those factors.

So how long should your email be?

We know it should be short, given today’s overload of information, reduced attention spans, and tiny screens. But is there such a thing as too short? When is a longer email the right choice?

Sales consulting company Brevit reports that only 13% of customers believe a sales person can understand their needs. So, you’ve got a big job to do in your cold email outreach. Let’s take a look at how long you should be making your emails.

The best email length is not what everyone thinks

Several studies have looked at the optimal email length. An often-quoted study by Boomerang plots the ideal email length at 50-125 words. Contrasting that, a report from Constant Contact says that emails with 20 lines of text have the highest click-through rates.

But neither of these studies tell a particularly compelling story for sales outreach.

For starters, many Boomerang users fall outside the sales and prospecting arena. Examples in the original article included friends planning to get together for pizza and someone complaining about poor service to a retailer.

Likewise, Constant Contact is best known for sending email newsletters—a much longer format than the typical sales outreach email.

What our data says about length of sales outreach emails

Unlike some of the other companies that have studied email length, we are entirely focused on sales emails. So we dug into our own data on cold emails to find a correlation between email length and response rates.

The data tells us that shorter isn’t always better.

Response rate by length of email

Number of charactersResponse rate

Source: Overloop

You can see that emails with 1400-1500 characters (about 300 words) significantly outperformed those with only 200-400 (less than 100 words).

We can conclude, then, that there are times when you may need to use a few more lines to get your message across.

The case for shorter emails

Why, then, does HubSpot keep their outbound sales emails to just two sentences?

This emulates how busy executives communicate, they say. By keeping your email to just a couple sentences, you’re respecting your prospects’ time and increasing the likelihood that they’ll read—and respond to—your email. They also point out that a two-sentence email will look a lot less like a template.

But not everyone has the brand recognition of HubSpot.

When a longer email makes more sense

A report by Xant, which looked at sales cadences across 8,000+ companies, found that the average email length sales reps used was 362 words.

It seems that the best email length for sales outreach depends on a couple factors.

Where the email fits in your automation sequence

If an email is part of a sequence, then you will probably have some very short emails mixed in with longer emails that give more detail. If you’re following up with someone who hasn’t responded to your previous email, it makes sense to keep it short. On the other hand, if you’re introducing yourself and talking about a common interest or acquaintance, more detail will help you appear more authentic.

Who you’re writing to

While executives may respond to two-sentence emails, other decision makers may prefer to receive more information.

A/B testing your emails is the surest way to find out what works best for your customer base.

Two formulas for winning sales outreach emails

The typical formula for writing a good (and brief) sales outreach email goes like this:

Start with one sentence about why you are contacting them. Follow up with one or two sentences underlining their issue, not your solution. Then, write a sentence about why they need to fix their issue and how you can help them. Finish your email with your call to action.

See how this formula plays out in this email template:

Source: HubSpot Length: 89 words

But for high-ticket B2B purchases, where it’s vital to build a relationship with your prospect, a longer email can pay off. This gives you space to personalize your message based on research on each target.

See how ZoomInfo’s top sales development rep writes longer, more personalized emails to each prospect. He spends time researching the person’s backgrounds and interests, to build rapport with even the first cold email:

Source: Zoominfo Length: 186 words

Let’s reframe the question of email length

The question is not how long your email should be, but rather what information you should include.

Once you’ve answered that question, you can always go back and cut out words, liven things up. Make sure there’s a hook, social proof, and other factors that catch your prospect’s attention.

There is no best email length for sales outreach. Instead, there is a fundamental rule: say what the prospect needs to hear, in the clearest way possible.

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