9 Better Ways of Saying "To Whom It May Concern" – The Motley Fool

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by DP Taylor | Published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
One of the best sales tips you can get is to watch how you speak to your customers. That’s because in sales, there are no “little” things. In every interaction you have with a prospect, they’re judging you based on what you say and how you come across.
This applies to the professional world as well. If you want to build respect among colleagues and increase your chances of a higher-up promoting you, the way you come across will have an impact on your chances.
As a result, you should be careful with your letter and email greetings. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but an opening line in a message can have a big impact on a person who isn’t quite sure what to think about you and doesn’t have much to go on besides your communication style.
Here are nine alternatives to “to whom it may concern” that you can alternate either as a sales tactic or to more effectively communicate in professional environments.
Sometimes, the simplest option is the best. “Greetings” has a touch of formality to it without being overly long and distant like “to whom it may concern.” It’s also short, so you get the niceties out of the way while moving straight to the point. It does come across as a little distant, so it’s best for individuals you know only slightly.
Example:
Greetings,
I really enjoyed meeting you for a coffee the other day. I really think there’s a lot we could gain by partnering up on this project, so I’d like to propose…
Many times when you’re using “to whom it may concern,” you’re not sure who the right individual is. However, you may know what job title that person holds, so you can address your message to that title. It’s not the most personable way to contact someone, but it’s fine for a formal message to someone you’ve never met before, like as a cover letter intro.
Example:
Dear Vice President of Mid-Atlantic Regional Sales,
I have produced a series of advertising spots in your industry that has led to a significant increase in prospects for my clients and I think I can do the same for you…
If you don’t know the individual’s job title, addressing a message to the department as a whole is a fine strategy. Again, it doesn’t have that personal touch, but it works as an opening method of establishing a relationship with a potential future client or partner. Do some research beforehand to ensure you have the right department, however.
Example:
Dear ACME Inc. Sales and Marketing Department,
I’m an up-and-coming marketing professional who has been a fan of your company ever since I moved into this area. I wanted to inquire about any openings or opportunities to develop a sales strategy that would…
This is a good starter or salutation for a cover letter, particularly when you have an unknown recipient — even the department in which they work. It’s straight to the point and clearly identifies who the intended contact is, even if you don’t know exactly who that is — the recipient will know, and route your letter to the right place.
Example:
Dear Recruiting Manager,
I’m a self-starting, hard-working HR professional who would be the perfect fit for the opening you recently posted…
This opening aims to strike a familiar and friendly tone. These kinds of greetings communicate to the contact that you are approachable and in an agreeable mood. It’s meant for less formal correspondence and makes more sense on an email than, say, a letter. If you’re just trying to communicate some general information to people you have a familiar relationship with, this is a good option.
Example:
Good afternoon!
Just as a reminder to all employees, there is a fire drill taking place at 1 p.m. EST today, so please…
For straightforward requests, this greeting gets straight to the point. It is another more informal greeting style; however, it has a slightly more professional air to it than the previously discussed opening. It’s generally best for quick correspondence between individuals who already know each other.
Example:
Hello,
Could you send me the PDF of that sales presentation that was mentioned at the meeting when you get a chance? I’m planning on…
Using a greeting like this indicates plenty of familiarity and friendliness to the contact, so it should be used sparingly in professional settings — in other words, don’t use it on your boss, but feel free to use it with your colleagues for the most part. Using it only on people you know fairly well also prevents mistakes like calling someone “Jennifer” when everyone calls her “Jen.”
Example:
Hi Jeff,
Are you going to be around later this afternoon? I was thinking of scheduling a meeting on the project but…
By switching to the last name and substituting “hi” for “dear,” you immediately give the message a much more formal feel. This is a common way to address a client, or any other situation where you want to convey plenty of respect to the contact. Avoid using “Mrs.,” which suggests a woman who is married — go with “Ms.” in all situations unless you know the person prefers Mrs.
Example:
Dear Mr. Johnson,
Thank you for being a faithful subscriber to our service. We’ve noticed that your subscription will be ending in 25 days, and would like to offer…
This is a similar greeting to the one above, but it applies to situations where you don’t know anything about the individual’s identity. It’s similar to “to whom it may concern” but attempts to be a little more direct.
Example:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I have been a faithful customer of ACME Inc. for the last three years, and I am concerned about a recent development…
If you’re looking to improve your relationships with sales leads, try CRM software. These platforms offer powerful tools for organizing contacts, moving prospects through the sales cycle, and breaking down your performance with analytics. The software will keep you more organized and therefore help you connect with clients more effectively.
For those who want to understand greetings to better connect with customers on their email marketing list, test out different kinds of salutations to see which work best. Many email marketing applications have the option for A/B testing.
What is A/B testing? It’s where you send some customers one batch of emails with one version of the email, and then a second version to a different group on your email list. The two versions have differences in terms of the content, subject line, or offerings, so this is a great way to test how customers respond to different salutations.
For example, Mailchimp uses advanced A/B testing functionality that allows you to test up to three different variations of an email. The software also produces detailed analytics on click or open rate so you can see in real time how customers are responding to the changes you make.
DP Taylor is a business software expert writing for The Ascent and The Motley Fool.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
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