How To Use Emotion In Your Sales Emails And Become An Unstoppable Closer

how to use emotion sales emails
Sales Emails

On the surface, “using emotion to make your email copy more effective” obviously rings true.

But WHY does incorporating emotion make people more likely to take action? And how can you leverage this effect to make your sales emails as compelling as possible?

To answer the first question, we can look to a Harvard Business Review report by Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, titled The New Science of Customer Emotions.”

What Makes Emotion So Effective In Email?

In their research, the HBR team studied hundreds of different brands in multiple industries, ultimately concluding that connecting with consumers’ emotions can result in a huge payday.

According to the authors:

“We find that customers become more valuable at each step of a predictable “emotional connection pathway” as they transition from (1) being unconnected to (2) being highly satisfied to (3) perceiving brand differentiation to (4) being fully connected.”

In particular, the team found that:

“Fully connected customers are 52% more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied.”

Demonstrating this impact, their research cites the example of a national fashion retailer which, upon further analysis, found that:

“Although fully connected customers constituted just 22% of customers in the category, they accounted for 37% of revenue and they spent, on average, twice as much annually ($400) as highly satisfied customers.”

To leverage their newfound knowledge, the retailer applied category segmentation schemes to the 25 million customers in its database, driving direct marketing campaign performance that was 40-120% higher than historical averages using a rules engine that sent messages based on browsing, transacting and servicing interactions.

How to Integrate Emotion Into Email

You don’t have to have 25 million people in your database – or access to advanced sales technology – to take advantage of the impact of emotion. All you need is an understanding of core human emotions and how to integrate them into your sales emails.

Core Emotions

Do enough Googling and you’ll find several models of core human emotions. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll stick with the one developed by sales expert Geoffrey James, which ties all purchase decisions to six core emotions: greed, fear, altruism, envy, pride and shame.

In a sales context:

  • Greed ties potential purchases to a hypothetical reward that will be received.
  • Fear drives purchases from those afraid of missing out.
  • Feelings of altruism suggest that making a purchase decision will help others in some way.
  • Envy causes us to make decisions to keep up with those we view as our competitors.
  • Pride makes us believe our purchases will help us look smarter or better in some way.
  • Shame leads us to avoid looking stupid through a potential purchase.

Thinking back to any sales pitches you’ve been on the receiving end of will make the role of these six emotions clear. If you’ve ever been persuaded by a scarcity-based pitch, that was fear at work. If you purchased in order to take advantage of a two-way referral marketing benefit, altruism may have been the driving factor.

Emotions Aren’t a One Man Show 

That said, it’s important to recognize that core emotions rarely work on their own.

If I said to you, “Buy now, because you’ll look stupid if you don’t,” you’d probably shake your head and walk away.

Leveraging core emotions in sales emails requires an understanding of the many supporting elements that inform how we interpret emotional messaging – a few of which I’ve profiled below:

Emotional State

When do you imagine you’d be more susceptible to pitches grounded in fear and envy? The times when you’re feeling 100% confident about yourself, or those days when your self esteem is wavering?

Your prospects’ emotional state influences the way they’ll interpret emotion-based appeals. While you may not know what these are when you’re emailing, it’s worth remembering that no message is received in a vacuum.

Word Choice

According to Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is determined by the level of emotional identification that word prompts. In other words, the right emotional trigger words take the same basic message to all new heights.”

While many words can instigate an emotional response, certain trigger words can amplify their effect. Understand what they are and how to wield them wisely.


The colors used in your email messages can influence their emotional impact. Imagine you’re an environmental charity, soliciting donations for an upcoming tree planting initiative. Will your appeal be more effective if your CTA button is red, blue or green?

While you can’t be absolutely certain without testing, it’s obvious that different colors evoke different emotional responses in recipients. Familiarize yourself with the principles of color psychology and test different combinations to enhance the emotional impact of your message.


All I have to say are the words “Comic Sans,” and you’ll understand how the font you choose can impact the way your message is received.

Use CrazyEgg’s infographic below as a starting point, but test your selections for maximum impact:

Selling with Emotion 1


The ability of imagery to influence our emotions is, again, intuitive. Laundry Service proved the effect by replacing its stock imagery-driven ads with envy-inducing Instagram-style snaps:

Selling with Emotion 2

  • Using regular photos, the company saw a 2.35% click-through rate.
  • With Instagram-style shots, that increased to as high as 8%.
  • When tying ad performance to sales, Laundry Service saw conversion rates increase by 25%.


Throughout history, we’ve communicated in stories. It should come as no surprise, then, that story remains an important vehicle for stimulating emotion and driving action.

According to TechCrunch’s Kobie Fuller:

“Humans are intrinsically wired to connect with stories. They connect us to people, ideas, places, products and brands; they help us justify how we spend our money and which brands we champion by substituting promotion with engagement.”

Learn how to build story into your sales emails. Adam Kreitman’s CrazyEgg article, “Why Storytelling is the Key to Selling With Email,” is a great place to start.

How to Leverage Emotion in Sales Emails

It’s one thing to read about the different elements that go into encouraging an emotional response in sales emails. It’s another thing to tie them all together; to determine when to leverage one element of emotion and when prospects might be more responsive to something else.

My advice? Don’t overcomplicate things (at least, not at first).

Start by looking at your subject lines, opening lines, email designs, body copy and CTAs and asking the following questions:

  • Does my content engage an emotional response?
  • Am I using highly-emotional trigger words?
  • Am I telling a story or provoking emotional engagement in another way?
  • Are all of my message’s elements contributing to the same emotional appeal?
  • Have I personalized my messages to the emotional needs of different recipients?

Set thresholds that’ll tell you which messages aren’t hitting home – for instance, low opens, low clicks and/or high unsubscribes (if applicable). Wherever you see weaknesses, design an A/B split test that pits your current message against one that leverages even more of the factors described above.

You might also find it helpful to see good examples of emails that tap into emotion to close deals faster.

GetResponse taps into fear with a scarcity-based subject line:

Selling with Emotion 3

WallMonkeys used color psychology to increase revenue by 550%:

Selling with Emotion 4

Rip Curl encourages pride by enticing email subscribers to join their revolution:

Selling with Emotion 5

These are great examples of the impact emotion can have on driving behavior and engagement.

Test the strategies they demonstrate yourself. Leverage the elements described above to appeal to your prospects’ emotions. They’ll tell you – both verbally and with their dollars – when your results are successful.

What other strategies do you use to incorporate emotion into your sales emails? Share your best tips with me in the comments below!

Sujan is the co-founder of Mailshake. He is a marketer and entrepreneur with over 14 years of marketing experience. Sujan has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.